The Brown Box, 1967–68

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Description
This machine paved the way for the video games of today.
In 1967, Ralph Baer and his colleagues at Sanders Associates, Inc. developed a prototype for the first multiplayer, multiprogram video game system. Since Sanders hoped to license the technology for a commercial venture, Baer understood that the games had to be fun or investors and consumers would not be interested. In an oral history interview (copies available in the Archives Center at the National Museum of American History), Ralph Baer recalled, “The minute we played ping-pong, we knew we had a product. Before that we weren’t too sure.”
Originally called TV Game Unit #7, much like the "Pump Unit" before it, it became far better known by its nickname, “The Brown Box.” The name comes from the brown wood-grain, self-adhesive vinyl used to make the prototype look more attractive to potential investors. The "Brown Box," though only a prototype, had basic features that most video games consoles still have today: two controls and a multigame program system.
The "Brown Box" could be programmed to play a variety of games by flipping the switches along the front of the unit, as can be seen in the picture. Program cards were used to show which switches needed to be set for specific games. "Brown Box" games included ping-pong, checkers, four different sports games, target shooting with the use of a lightgun and a golf putting game, which required the use of a special attachment. Sanders licensed the "Brown Box" to Magnavox, which released the system as the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972.
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1967-1968
patent holder
Baer, Ralph H.
inventor
Baer, Ralph H.
maker
Baer, Ralph H.
Physical Description
aluminum (overall material)
vinyl (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 4 1/4 in x 16 in x 12 1/2 in; 10.795 cm x 40.64 cm x 31.75 cm
ID Number
2006.0102.04
catalog number
2006.0102.04
accession number
2006.0102
Credit Line
Ralph H. Baer
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Medicine and Science: Computers
Popular Entertainment
Computers & Business Machines
Family & Social Life
Baer
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Comments

Were these units sold in the late 60's before 1972 as Magnavox Odyssey? I remember my family having one in the late 60's. Where could they have purchased this?
"There were no home video consoles before the Magnavox Odyssey was released in 1972 so I'm unsure what you might have had. At first, they were only sold in Magnavox's franchised dealer stores as opposed to stores such as Sears and Montgomery Ward. Sometime in the years to follow, other stores sold Odyssey products as well."

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