First Generation Consolesthe History Of Video Games


The seventh generation of consoles brought about some significant developments. We had high-definition video in games for the first time, and wireless controllers were introduced. New technology also meant that physical motion could be used as an input for games. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo all introduced new models during this era. The second generation of video game consoles started in 1976 during the “golden age of arcade video games”. During this generation, video games had new features like the microprocessor game logic, AI simulation, single-player gaming, basic colored graphics, external game storage through ROM cartridges, and had a three channel audio. The history of video game consoles, both home and handheld, had their origins in the 1970s. The concept of home consoles used to play games on a television set was founded by the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey, first conceived by Ralph H. Oct 30, 2018 In 1995, the Sony PlayStation took the video game market by storm, selling out 100k units in presale and over 7 million by 1996. The CD ROM capabilities of the console allowed games to have 3D graphics and more complex games, leading to popular a surge in new games like Gran Turismo, Metal Gear Solid, and Resident Evil.

Part of a series on the
history of video games
  • 1st generation (1972–1980)
First Generation Consolesthe History Of Video Games

The first generation of video game consoles began in 1972 with the Magnavox Odyssey (which began development in 1968 by Ralph Baer under the code name 'The Brown Box'), until 1977, when 'pong'-style console manufacturers left the market en masse due to the video game crash of 1977 and when microprocessor-based consoles were introduced.[1] In Japan, the generation continued until 1980 with the Color TV-Game series.

Some defining characteristics of first generation consoles include:

  • Discrete transistor-based digital game logic.
  • Games were native components of consoles rather than based on external or removable media.
  • Entire game playfield occupies only one screen.
  • Players and objects consist of very basic lines, dots or blocks.
  • Colour graphics are basic (mostly black and white or other dichromatic combination; later games may display three or more colours).
  • Either single-channel or no audio.
  • Lacked features of second generation consoles, such as microprocessor logic, ROM cartridges, flip-screen playfields, sprite-based graphics, and multi-color graphics.
  • 1History
  • 2Home Systems


Interactive television

Television engineer Ralph Baer created 'The Brown Box' in 1966. Baer conceived the idea of an interactive television while building a television set from scratch for Loral in 1951 in the Bronx, New York. He explored these ideas further in 1966 when he was the Chief Engineer and manager of the Equipment Design Division at Sanders Associates. Baer created a simple two-player video game that could be displayed on a standard television set called Chase, where two dots chased each other around the screen. After a demonstration to the company's director of R&D Herbert Campman, some funding was allotted and the project was made official. In 1967 Bill Harrison was brought on board, and a light gun[2] was constructed from a toy rifle that was aimed at a target moved by another player.

Bill Rusch joined the project to speed up development and soon a third machine-controlled dot was used to create a ping-pong game. With more funding additional games were created, and Baer had the idea of selling the product to cable TV companies, who could transmit static images as game backgrounds. A prototype was demonstrated in February 1968 to TelePrompTer Vice President Hubert Schlafly, who signed an agreement with Sanders. The Cable TV industry was in a slump during the late '60s and early '70s and a lack of funding meant other avenues had to be pursued. Development continued on the hardware and games resulting in the final 'Brown Box' prototype,[2] which had two controllers, a light gun and sixteen switches on the console that selected the game to be played. Baer approached various U.S. Television manufacturers and an agreement was eventually signed with Magnavox in late 1969. Magnavox's main alterations to the Brown Box were to use plug-in circuits to change the games, and to remove the color graphics capabilities in favor of color overlays in order to reduce manufacturing costs. It was released in May 1972 as the Magnavox Odyssey.[2]

Digital electronics

The Magnavox Odyssey is a digital console, the same as all other game consoles. However, like all video game consoles up until the sixth generation, it uses analog circuitry for the output to match the televisions of its era, which were analog; also, like all later consoles from the Nintendo 64 onwards, it features analog game controllers. Due to these two facts, many collectors have mistakenly considered the Odyssey to be an analog console, with the misunderstanding becoming so widespread that Baer was eventually led to clarify that the Odyssey is indeed a digital console: all of the electronic signals exchanged between the various parts responsible for gameplay (ball and players generators, sync generators, diode matrix, etc.) are binary.[3] The type of digital components used feature DTL, a common pre-TTL digital design component using discrete transistors and diodes.

This was also the first involvement of Nintendo in video games. According to Martin Picard in the International Journal of Computer Game Research: 'in 1971, Nintendo had -- even before the marketing of the first home console in the United States -- an alliance with the American pioneer Magnavox to develop and produce optoelectronic guns for the Odyssey (released in 1972), since it was similar to what Nintendo was able to offer in the Japanese toy market in 1970s'.[4]

The Odyssey was not a large success due to restrictive marketing, although other companies with similar products (including Atari) had to pay a licensing fee for some time. For a time it was Sanders' most profitable line, even though many in the company had been unsupportive of game development.

Pong arcade version
First Generation Consolesthe History Of Video Games

Many of the earliest games utilizing digital electronics ran on universitymainframe computers in the United States, developed by individual users who programmed them in their spare time. In 1962, a group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology programmed a game called Spacewar! on a DECPDP-1. In 1970 Nolan Bushnell saw Spacewar! for the first time at the University of Utah. Deciding there was commercial potential in an arcade version, he hand-wired a custom computer capable of playing it on a black and white television. The resulting game, Computer Space, did not fare well commercially and Bushnell started looking for new ideas. In early 1972 he saw a demonstration of the Magnavox Odyssey, and hired Al Alcorn to produce an arcade version of the Odyssey's ping-pong game (using Transistor-transistor logic), called Pong.

On September 12, 1975, Epoch released Japan's first console, the TV Tennis Electrotennis, a home version of Pong, several months before the release of Home Pong in North America. A unique feature of the TV Tennis Electrotennis is that the console is wireless, functioning through a UHF antenna.[4]

Home video games achieved widespread popularity with the release of a home version of Pong in the Christmas of 1975. Its success sparked hundreds of clones, including the Coleco Telstar, which went on to be a success in its own right, with over a dozen models and the Binatone TV Master by British company Binatone.

Japan's most successful console of the first generation was Nintendo's Color TV Game, released in 1977.[4] The Color TV Game sold 3 million units,[5] the highest for a first generation console.

The first generation of video games did not feature a microprocessor, and were based on custom codeless state machine computers consisting of discrete logic circuits comprising each element of the game itself. Later consoles of this generation moved the bulk of the circuitry to custom 'pong on a chip' IC's such as Atari's custom Pong chips and General Instruments' AY-3-8500 series.[6]

Home Systems


NameMagnavox OdysseyMagnavox Odyssey series*
(11 consoles)
TV Tennis ElectrotennisHome Pong
ManufacturerMagnavoxMagnavox, PhilipsEpoch Co.Atari, Sears Tele-Games
Odyssey 300
Launch priceUS$100 (equivalent to $566 in 2021)US$100–230 (equivalent to $440–1011 in 2021)¥20,000[4] (equivalent to $346 in 2021)US$98.95 (equivalent to $435 in 2021)
Release date
MediaPrinted circuit boardVariousInbuilt chipInbuilt chip[7]
Accessories (retail)Shooting Galleryn/aWirelesscontroller[4]n/a

* = Does not include the separatedly-listed Magnavox Odyssey and the second-generation Magnavox Odyssey 2.

NameBinatone TV MasterTelstar series
(14 models)
Color TV-Game series
(5 consoles)
Telstar Colortron

Color TV-Game Block Breaker
Launch price£35 (equivalent to £262, or $422, in 2021)US$50 (equivalent to $208 in 2021)¥8300–48,000 (equivalent to $122–703 in 2021)
Release date
MediaInbuilt chipInbuilt chip (most models)
Cartridge (Telstar Arcade, 1977)
Inbuilt chip
Accessories (retail)Paddles and light gunController stylesn/a
Salesn/a1 million[11]3 million[5]
First Generation Consolesthe History Of Video Games

Pong on a chip

[6] The table lists only the most known consoles and relative used chip.

Chip code/nameYearManufacturerColorsGamesConsoles
AY-3-85001976General InstrumentNo (1)Tennis, soccer, squash, practice, 2 rifle gamesTelstar (Telstar, Classic, Deluxe, Ranger, Alpha, Colormatic, Regent, Sportsman)
Odyssey (300,2000,3000)
Radio Shack TV Scoreboard
Unisonic Sportsman/Tournament
Philips Tele-Spiel ES2203 and ES2204
Zanussi/Seleco Play-O-Tronic
Videomaster (Strika, Strika 2,ColourScore 2, SuperScore)
APF TV Fun (Model 401)
BSS 01
AY-3-85101978?General InstrumentYesTennis, hockey, squash, jai alaiTelstar Colortron
AY-3-85121978?General InstrumentYesTennis, hockey, squash, jai alai, skeet, targetTelstar Marksman
AY-3-86001977General InstrumentNo(2)8 games with balls and paddlesTelstar Galaxy
Odyssey 4000
Philips Tele-Spiel ES2218
AY-3-86101977General InstrumentNo(2)[12]8 games with balls and paddles + 2 rifle gamesVideomaster Sportsworld
Philco/Ford Telejogo II
AY-3-85501976?General InstrumentNo(1)The same of 8500 but with the addition of horizontal movement of playerPhilips Tele-Spiel ES2208
AY-3-87001978?General Instrument4 games with tanksTelstar Combat!
MPS-7600-001,002,003,004 (3)(4)1977MOS TechnologyThe four versions of chip usually support 4 games.Telstar Gemini(only version 004).
Telstar Arcade(all 4 versions).
Commodore TV Game 2000K/3000H and Colorsport VIII(only version 001).
MM-57100/MM-57105 (PAL)1976National SemiconductorYesTennis, Hockey, SquashNational Adversary
Philips Odyssey 2001
Videomaster (ColourScore, VisionScore, ColourShot)
Philco/Ford Telejogo
MM-57106/MM-57186 (PAL)1977National SemiconductorYesTennis, Hockey, Squash, Breakout, Flipper e Football.Philips N30
Philips Odyssey 2100
F43011976Universal Research LabsN/ATwo games with balls and paddles and two games of car racingIndy 500 system (Video Action 4)
Sears/Atari Speedway e Speedway IV
Interton Video 2800
MBO Tele-Ball VIII
SN76410N1977Texas InstrumentsN/ASix games of balls and paddlesTele-Match 3300R
Ricochet Super Pro (modello MT-4A)
Venture Electronics Video Sports VS-5
3659-1C/C25661975AtariNoPongAtari PONG
3659-31975AtariNoPongAtari PONG Doubles
C010073-31976AtariNo4 Pong gamesAtari/Sears Super PONG
C010073-01/C26071976AtariN/A10 Pong gamesAtari Super PONG Ten
C0107651977AtariN/AAtari Ultra PONG
Atari Ultra PONG Doubles
C011500-11/C011512-05 (4)1977AtariN/A7 games (example: Pinball, Basketball and Breakout)Atari Video Pinball
M58815P and M58816P1977NintendoYes15 Pong gamesColor TV Game 6
Color TV Game 15

First Generation Consoles The History Of Video Games Timeline

(1) Colors could be obtained adding the AY-3-8515 chip
(2) Colors could be obtained adding the AY-3-8615 chip
(3) PAL version code is 7601
(4) Advanced chip compared to classic Pong-in-a-chip: include a microcontroller and a little RAM.

First Generation Consolesthe History Of Video Games

See also


  1. Wolf, Mark J.P. (2008). The Video Game Explosion. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. Page xviii. ISBN0-313-33868-X. ISBN 9780313338687.<templatestyles src='Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css'></templatestyles>
  2., Michael E.; Novak, Jeannie (2010). Game Industry Career Guide. Delmar: Cengage Learning. p. 7. ISBN1-4283-7647-X. In 1966, Ralph H. Baer .. pitched an idea .. to create interactive games to be played on the television. Over the next two years, his team developed the first video game system—and in 1968, they demonstrated the 'Brown Box,' a device on which several games could be played and that used a light gun to shoot targets on the screen. After several more years of development, the system was licensed by Magnavox in 1970 and the first game console system, the Odyssey, was released in 1972 at the then high price of $100.<templatestyles src='Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css'></templatestyles>
  3. Bub, Andrew (2005-06-07). 'The Original GamerDad: Ralph Baer'. GamerDad. Archived from the original on 2006-02-13. Retrieved 2006-11-10.<templatestyles src='Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css'></templatestyles>
  4. Picard, The Foundation of Geemu: A Brief History of Early Japanese video games, International Journal of Computer Game Research, 2013
  5. 5.05.1Sheff, David; Eddy, Andy (1999), Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World, GamePress, p. 27, ISBN978-0-9669617-0-6, Nintendo entered the home market in Japan with the dramatic unveiling of Color TV Game 6, which played six versions of light tennis. It was followed by a more powerful sequel, Color TV Game 15. A million units of each were sold. The engineering team also came up with systems that played a more complex game, called 'Blockbuster,' as well as a racing game. Half a million units of these were sold.<templatestyles src='Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css'></templatestyles>
  6. 6.06.1'PONG in a Chip'. Pong-Story. Retrieved 2010-09-13.<templatestyles src='Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css'></templatestyles>
  7. 'Atari home PONG systems'. Pong-Story. Retrieved 2010-09-13.<templatestyles src='Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css'></templatestyles>
  8. 'Magnavox Odyssey, the first video game system'. Pong-Story. 1972-06-27. Retrieved 2012-11-17.<templatestyles src='Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css'></templatestyles>
  9. Ellis, David (2004). 'Dedicated Consoles'. Official Price Guide to Classic Video Games. Random House. pp. 33–36. ISBN0-375-72038-3.<templatestyles src='Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css'></templatestyles>
  10. Kent, Steven (2001). 'Strange Bedfellows'. Ultimate History of Video Games. Three Rivers Press. pp. 94–95. ISBN0-7615-3643-4.<templatestyles src='Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css'></templatestyles>
  11. Herman, Leonard (1997). Phoenix: the fall & rise of videogames (2nd ed.). Union, NJ: Rolenta Press. p. 20. ISBN0-9643848-2-5. Retrieved 16 February 2012. Like Pong, Telstar could only play video tennis but it retailed at an inexpensive $50 that made it attractive to most families that were on a budget. Coleco managed to sell over a million units that year.<templatestyles src='Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css'></templatestyles>
  12. '??'(PDF). Pong-story.com. Retrieved 2012-11-17.<templatestyles src='Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css'></templatestyles>[dead link]

First Generation Consolesthe History Of Video Games To Play

Further reading

  • How Video Games Invaded the Home TV Set by Ralph Baer
  • 'A History of Home Video Game Consoles'. Archived from the original on 2007-12-26.<templatestyles src='Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css'></templatestyles> by Michael Miller

First Generation Consoles The History Of Video Games For Kids

External links

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