The first generation

So at the end of my last post on the potted history of gaming we had left the post war period of the 50’s and 60’s and their noughts and crosses playing oscillators and gone onto Spacewar, the first true video game.

This post see’s us landing firmly in the turbulent decades of the 70’s and 80’s, when the world was in the grips of the cold war, and nuclear annihilation always seemed right around the corner. In the midst of this madness came the first games console. The Magnavox Odyssey.


The magnificent Magnavox Odyssey, a vision in white and brown

This early console basically had the ability to display square dots and a line on the screen. The configuration of this could be changed by the players from a pong like layout, to a handball or skiing game by the use of screen overlays. Some of these were for popular boardgames and the set came with paper money and dice so these could be played. The Odyssey was also the first console to come with an external peripheral; a light gun that picked up the dots on the screen.

The Magnavox Odyssey and other consoles of this generation were influenced heavily bu the hugely successful arcade game, Pong and the need for a home version of it to capitalise on the success of the arcade machine itself.

Pong, the seminal arcade classic.

Developed in 1972 and following on from Computer Space, Pong was sold by the thousands the simplicity of a simple game of table tennis, as one of the best selling games of the period. The rush to create home versions of this lead to the market being flooded by several so-called “home pong” machines. One of these, and the one I had personal experience of was the Binatone TV Master.

This orange box contained 4 built in variations of pong (called Tennis, Squash Practice, Squash and Football) and two light gun games, Target and shooting. It contained two controllers and apart from the shooting games all were variations of pong with the centre line in a different place to simulate walls or goals. Yhe shooting games having a plus shaped cross hair to hit flying dots with the optional light gun, and although I was playing it in the early 90’s it would have been revolutionary at the time.

The very orange Binatone TV Master.

The sheer number of these so called home pong machines machines caused the video game crash of 1977 when most manufacturers left the market. Things didn’t pick up until the second generation, with the rise of Atari and the first CPU based consoles.


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