Magnavox Odyssey Video Game Unit, 1972

Description
When most people think about the first video game, they think of Pong, the ping-pong arcade game released by Atari in 1972. However, months earlier, Magnavox had released its Magnavox Odyssey, a home video game system based on the “Brown Box,”[hyperlink] a prototype invented by Ralph Baer. Additional games and accessories, like a lightgun, were sold in separate packages.
Since Odyssey had no graphic capabilities other than the ability to change the color of the background, Magnavox included translucent color overlays to provide settings and game boards. Perhaps most surprising to modern gamers, Odyssey also came with nonelectronic game accessories such as dice, decks of cards, play money, and poker chips. These accessories were possibly included to make Odyssey more like games that currently existed. However, as the success of Pong later proved, video games, even in this early primitive state, could stand on their own without physical accessories.
With less that 200,000 units sold, Magnavox Odyssey was not considered a commercial success, especially in comparison with Pong’s runaway popularity. Among the contributing factors, poor marketing played a large role. Many potential consumers were under the impression—sometimes encouraged by Magnavox salesmen—that Odyssey would only work on Magnavox television sets. Despite these setbacks, Magnavox Odyssey and its inventor Ralph Baer paved the way for all video game systems to come.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
video game system
Date made
1972
inventor
Baer, Ralph H.
manufacturer
Magnavox Company
Physical Description
plastic (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 3 3/4 in x 16 1/2 in x 16 1/2 in; 9.525 cm x 41.91 cm x 41.91 cm
ID Number
2006.0102.08
catalog number
2006.0102.08
accession number
2006.0102
subject
Computers & Business Machines
Family & Social Life
Popular Entertainment
Baer
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Computers
Baer
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Ralph H. Baer
Related Publication
Baer, Ralph H.. Videogames: In The Beginning

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Approved comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about your own artifacts or tell you how much they are worth.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.