No matter how many quarters we have or how close we live to an arcade, no matter how supped up our PCs are so we can play the latest and greatest games, some of us still prefer to play our video games on a console unit. Whether it be a game of Sea Battle on an old Intellivision for old times sake, or Amped on your Xbox, sometimes playing a game on a console is just more fun.
Christmas this year was quite reminiscent. I had bought myself the present of three ColecoVision cartridges (Time Pilot, Venture and Donkey Kong Jr.) for my mint condition ColecoVision, and I had bought a good friend of mine a 10 in 1 game console to plug into his bedroom television.
The 10 in 1 game console really blew me away. For one, it was somewhat of a blast from the past because it featured 10 old Activision games, including River Raid and Pitfall, just like you would have played on your Atari 2600 nearly 20 years ago. The other thing that blew me away was its size. You see; the 10 in 1 game is just a joystick with a wire coming out of it that plugs into the RF inputs of your TV. All 10 games were housed within the joystick. If you were a kid like me, you took things apart. If you took your Atari 2600 apart, you'd see how big the circuit board was; yet this was just the size of your typical game pad, yet it housed 10 games.
Not that I'm not fully aware of how long we've come in 20 years. I'm typing this on a laptop for God's sake. But it's just interesting to see the progression… the evolution, per se. It's almost entertaining to step back and actually reflect on the history of the home video console as a whole. So here we are. Here's the history of the home video game console… or at least as I remember it (save the "dude, you're showing your age" comments).
Keep in mind that the photos are not necessarily accurate for the time frame in question. The Intellivision shown is an Intellivision II and the Atari VCS shown is actually a "2600" model and not one of the original wood grain VCSs. Consider this a disclaimer. ;)
It pretty much all started in 1971 when the world saw its first home videogame console. The Magnavox Odyssey. Ralph Baer was the creator of the Odyssey and his version of Ping Pong was actually the inspiration behind Atari's Pong. The Odyssey had a black and white picture, but came with overlays to place over the TV screen. One of the most favorite controllers for the Odyssey was the Light Rifle, which would allow gamers to "shoot" items on the TV screen.
In 1972, Atari was formed and the Pong arcade machine was first released. In 1975, Atari decided to get into the home videogame console business and released Home Pong. Home Pong was available only through the Sears catalog and quickly became the best-selling item of the catalog.
The Fairchild Video Entertainment System (or VES) was the first console to use actual ROM cartridges and was introduced in 1975. The name was later changed to Channel-F and was feared to become quite successful because of being so advanced. Because of this, the industry was completely saturated with dirt-cheap Pong and Pong clones. Basically, Pong was going the way of the POG. Sorry. Bad pun. I'll move on. The VES was the wave of the future.
It should also be noted that the Fairchild VES was the first console with a CPU. I had been under the impression, as many others that I had used as a reference for this article, that the Atari VCS was the first with a CPU where all other before it were analog.
In 1976 Atari was sold to Warner Communications for $28 million. In 1977, the whole home videogame console market changed when Atari released the Video Computer System, or VCS for short. Because Atari used the name "VCS", Fairchild changed their name to Channel-F.
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