The Magnavox Odyssey
was the first home video game console
, predating the Atari Pong
home consoles by three years. The Odyssey was designed by Ralph Baer
, who had a working prototype
finished by 1968
. This prototype is affectionately known as the "Brown Box" to classic video game
hobbyists. Unlike all later video game consoles, the Odyssey is analog
rather than digital, which makes its invention all the more amazing in spite of its rather crude graphics
and controller responsiveness. The Odyssey and its successor are the only consoles that lack sound capability
. Therefore, they are silent consoles.
The Odyssey used a type of removable circuit card that inserted into a slot similar to a cartridge slot. The system also came with plastic overlays that gamers could put on their TV screen to simulate the playing of different "games," but only two TV sizes were supported. It also came with plastic game tokens and score sheets to help keep score, much like more traditional board games.
The Odyssey was released in 1972 but was a commercial failure. Magnavox did win a court case against Nolan Bushnell for patent infringement in Bushnell's design of Computer Space, as it somewhat resembled the games for the Odyssey.
The Odyssey was successful enough to support an add-on peripheral, a "light gun". This detected light from the TV screen, however pointing the gun at a nearby light bulb also registered as a "hit".
Ralph Baer went on to invent the classic electronic game Simon for Mattel in 1979, which became the most popular electronic handheld of all time. Magnavox would later try releasing another video game console, the Odyssey 2, in 1978.
Nintendo's first venture into the console world was selling the Magnavox Odyssey in Japan, before they made their own consoles.