Note: The historical data contained in this
section were extracted by permission from Ralph
Baer's book about his long experience of father of the video game.
After more than two years of work on TV gaming systems at Sanders Associates,
Ralph Baer and his two coworkers Bill Harrison and Bill Rush ended up with a prototype unit which played 12
games using mylar overlays, some of which used a light gun. They had also developed the so-called
dynamic ball action "de/dt" chassis to offer more advanced game features.
Called the Brown Box because of its simulated woodgrain self-adhesive
covering, the Brown Box was used to take the project to the next and most
important step: finding a licensee.
Demonstrations were made to Cable TV system operators Teleprompter in
1968. When that failed to jumpstart the industry, TV manufacturers (Zenith,
Sylvania, GE, Motorola and RCA) were contacted in order to find a licensee. None
of the demonstrations to these firms ended up with a license agreement. Fortunately,
Bill Enders, a member of the RCA team, had left that company and moved on
to become a marketing VP at Magnavox in their New York sales offices. He had
been thoroughly impressed with the demonstrations of the Brown Box. During the
month of July of 1968, Enders came up to get another, personal demonstration; he
got even more enthusiastic and urged Magnavox management, headquartered in Fort
Wayne, Indiana, to take a second look at the game concepts. Here was another guy
In July, Ralph Baer and Lou Etlinger, Sanders Associates’ Corporate
Director of Patents, received an official invitation to come and demonstrate the
game in Fort Wayne. Lou and Ralph got on an airplane on the 17th of July and
flew to Indiana for that all-important demonstration. Magnavox gave them the use
of their boardroom and one of their 19-inch TV sets; Ralph set up the TV, along
with the Brown Box, the light gun, and the golf putting device. One by one, a
large number of people filed into the room. After their boss, Gerry Martin,
arrived, the demonstration started. Ralph's recollection is that of a room full
of guys sitting around a long, dark conference table, looking generally glum and
non-committal. No one showed any visible degree of enthusiasm except for one man
in the room: The VP for Marketing of the television set division, Gerry Martin.
He immediately saw a novel product category for Magnavox… and he was the boss! He
made a decision right then and there to try and push ahead with a Home TV Game
It was remarkable how the atmosphere in the room changed after Gerry Martin
We’re going with this!
Gerry Martin still had to convince Magnavox corporate management to support his
decision to build games in their Morrison, Tennessee TV set manufacturing plant.
It took until March of 1971—nine months later—for that to happen.
A preliminary agreement was signed between the two companies, Sanders Associates
and Magnavox. Once that was in place, the Brown Box and all the design data
turned over to Magnavox engineers in Fort Wayne; they got started on a prototype
for what was to become their first Odyssey (Model 1TL200) TV Game in 1972.
Bill Harrison and Ralph made trips to Fort Wayne in March and June of
1971 to help with technical and marketing decisions. Bill spent much of his time
with George Kent and other Magnavox engineers assigned to the project.
Meanwhile, Ralph worked mostly with Bob Fritsche, who had become Magnavox’
Odyssey program manager.
The major concern was to define all the games that the machine should play; what
the colored overlays should be like, Magnavox having decided in their corporate
wisdom to leave out the color circuitry, so they could save some money. There
were extensive debates about which games were to be included with the basic
Odyssey product and which were to be set aside for after-market sale...and so
on. Ralph and Bob Fritsche worked well together.
The circuitry designed into the Brown Box at Sanders was essentially copied with
a few exceptions: Components for colored backgrounds were thrown out in favor of
the plastic screen overlays. The sixteen game-selection switches on the Brown
Box were replaced with plug-in programming cards—an excellent decision! Some new
games were added. Unlike the design of the Brown Box, the 1TL200 unit had one
large printed circuit board (the mother board) into which several small "baby"
boards were plugged. The small, modular boards contained the various sub-circuits, such as
the ball spot and player spot generators, the H&V sync signal generators, and so
forth. This method of construction simplified the motherboard design and lowered
Prototype development at Magnavox was completed by George Kent’s group in the
summer of 1971. Two market surveys were made in July and in October 1971 in
order to determine what potential customers thought of the concept. Amazingly, a
large number of them disliked the cartridge concept: they thought they could
get lost or broken by kids. But Magnavox kept the concept. Once George Kent had taken the final design of the game unit and
antenna switch-box to the FCC labs in Washington and passed their tests (another
thing that millions of video game units would be subjected to in the incoming
years), Odyssey went into production at the Tennessee plant in August 1972. A number of
hand-assembled units were sent to Magnavox’ captive dealers shortly before. The response was phenomenal: The best thing to come down the pike
in years! was the general consensus. The consumer-electronics press carried
articles about an up-coming "mystery product" from Magnavox. There was much
speculation in the trade press just what that "mystery product" might be.
During the month of April, Magnavox put on simultaneous shows for their dealers
and for the press in many parts of the country, touting their 1972 product line.
Ralph Baer was pleased to be invited to one of these product line introductions
on the 22nd of the month. The affair took place at the
Bowling Greene Restaurant in the middle of New York’s Central Park. As he
sat in the audience on a folding chair among dealers and reporters, he watched
their reactions; it was obvious that the Odyssey game was the undisputed hit of
the show! As he said: I got pretty excited and was hard-pressed to keep my
mouth shut and restrain myself from jumping up on the stage and yelling: ‘That’s
At about the same time that this New York product line presentation took place,
other Magnavox dealerships in major cities throughout the country laid on
similar shows for the press and for their captive dealers. Over the following
months, Magnavox began supplying these dealers with production units. They also
started shipping a very nice-looking, pump-action plastic rifle, for which
they provided a separate, large, in-store easel display. Magnavox also shipped
their dealers ten additional games available separately, or in a pack of six (as
six games were originally planned and another four were released later in 1973).
A handsome flier was widely distributed. It introduced the idea of Home TV Game
Playing. It showed the basic and optional Odyssey games and the shooting gallery
games. The Home TV Game industry was launched for real!
Unexpected problems soon began to haunt the program: First off, Magnavox
featured Odyssey in their fall TV advertising in such a way that everyone got
the impression that Odyssey would only work with Magnavox TV sets; then they set
the price at a steep $100 for the game unit plus six program cards that could
play twelve different games using overlays; and finally, they decided to charge
another whopping $25 for the rifle, which, of course, made it all a hard sell.
Secondly, sales were restricted to Magnavox’ franchised dealer stores. In the
1960s and 1970s, Magnavox did not sell their TV sets, radios and phonographs
through independent stores or mass merchandisers such as Sears or
Montgomery-Ward. Naturally, that narrowed the potential sales base considerably.
On the positive side,
and in spite of all of these marketing and sales gaffes, Magnavox' TV ad
campaign (including a television commercial featuring old "Blue Eyes",
Frank Sinatra) helped spark up sales in the fall. Over 130,000 Odyssey’s and
20,000 Shooting Gallery rifle packs were manufactured by Christmas 1972. Who
knows how many more would have moved off the shelves that holiday season, or the
next, if Magnavox had enjoyed broader distribution. Restricting Odyssey sales to
"authorized” Magnavox dealerships was a huge handicap. Magnavox would be forced
to eliminate this marketing and sales scheme a year later when they
were sued by the Government for restraint of trade. But by early 1973, Odyssey games were
already being discounted (see advertisements below). Foreign sales took up some
of the slack, starting with a Mexican export in October 1972 (Magnavox Odisea). Another export in
Germany took place in late 1973 (see the ITT Schaub-Lorenz Odyssee). The 1974 French ad for Odyssey shown
here is typical of the advertising in Europe.
Magnavox also mismanaged the sale of the additional plug-in game packs. These
featured some of the best games, such as Volleyball, Handball, Baseball,
Wipe-Out, Invasion, and Fun Zoo. All those packs wound up under the store
counters for after-market sale, but since Magnavox neglected to train sales
personnel to "push” the packs, not many of them were sold.
While the Odyssey game was being demonstrated at Bowling Greene in New York
in April 1972,
another new-product show was open to dealers and the invited public in
Burlingame, California at the Airport Marina. On the 24th of May,
Nolan Bushnell, later the President of Atari, signed the visitors’ guest
book and attended that product line demonstration. There he played an Odyssey
unit hands-on, including, of course, its Ping-Pong game.
Shortly after that demo, Nolan Bushnell hired a young engineer, Alan Alcorn
from Ampex, where Bushnell had worked some years earlier. He put Alan to work on
a coin-operated arcade Ping-Pong game, which he named "PONG.”
Years later, during various depositions, and in Federal Court, Mr. Bushnell
would allow as how the Odyssey Ping-Pong game he had played in Burlingame wasn’t
very interesting. However, the fact that he had actually played the Odyssey
Ping-Pong game that May made his revisionist story unconvincing to the court.
In his design of an arcade game, Alan Alcorn had the freedom to use about 70
integrated logic circuits—so-called ‘7400 series TTL IC’s, to be precise. That
was a perfectly sensible way to go with a design for a coin-op machine that cost
many hundreds of dollars, but it was a totally inaccessible route at the time
for the Home TV Game designer.
As it turned out, Alan Alcorn did a great job, improving on the basic Ping-Pong
features of the Odyssey machine by providing a segmented paddle for vertical
ball control in place of Odyssey’s "English" control, and by adding wall bounce
and scoring; most effectively, he came up with that PONG sound, which gave the
game an unmistakable character. As just about everybody knows, PONG quickly
became a great hit in some of the bars and arcades of America; PONG can clearly
be credited with having starting the coin-operated arcade video game industry
with a bang! Video games, both of the Home TV Game variety and Coin-Op Arcade
Video Games, were launched.
There is also no doubt that PONG helped Odyssey sales late in 1972...after all,
an Odyssey game system was the only way you could have some of the PONG
experience at home. The rest, as they say, is (video game) history.
The Odyssey system (its design):
The Odyssey was packed in a large two-level styrofoam box.
The lower level contained the system, the two hand controls, the RF cable,
the switch-box in its own black Magnavox box, a pile of paper money and a
roll of scotch adhesive tape. The upper level contained the remaining accessories:
two sets of overlays (the two sizes accomodate most television screen sizes),
a 36-page user manual for installation and game rules, various instructions on paper,
six cartridges, several sets of game cards, two dice, the scoreboards, a sheet of
stickers, a set of plastic tokens (red/green/blue), six red
Eveready batteries*, etc.
Customers could also buy a special carrying case,
an AC adaptor, the Shooting Gallery pack (electronic rifle), and up to ten
additional games. When stored in the carrying case,
the overlays were rolled up and stored in the upper part. A special free game
called Percepts was also mailed to customers who
registered their Odyssey.
There are several variants of the Odyssey, the rarest being the export models.
At least two Odyssey clones existed as well.
The Odyssey pictured with the television set on the left is a permanent exhibit of the
Wisconsin Historical Society and is set up with the Wipeout add-on game.
This specimen was originally purchased for Christmas 1974. Other American
museums like the Museum of the
Moving Image in New-York have an Odyssey on permanent exhibition. Odyssey
has also found its place in many international museums (Germany, Japan, etc.).
*: The six Eveready batteries sold with the system were red with blue top.
Other models (Rayovac, Magnavox, etc.) are not originals. Remember that a lot
of people used batteries with their Odyssey and often changed them, so finding the
originals remains very rare.
The Odyssey variants between 1972 and 1975: models, production runs, serials, etc.:
The following table may be of interest: it shows the variants that have actually
been made. This exclusive information was compiled
using unique original
Magnavox documents from David Winter's collection. In case of further updates, please do not copy from this page but link
The model, serial and RUN numbers are written on the under side of the
Odyssey unit as well as on its punched Instrument Inspection Card.
RUN number stands for the production run, which is either 1 or 2.
three models of Odyssey sold in the
USA: 1TL200BLAK, 1TL200BK12 and 1TL200BL99.
They mainly differ by small eletronic changes and minor variations of game
accessories as listed below.
Model 1TL200BL99 concerns specimens sent back to Magnavox for warranty renewal.
Except for early renewals, renewed Odyssey units had their model updated to 1TL200BL99
and a new serial number sticked over the original
(serials originally sticked inside the unit were left).
Serial numbers start from 06xxxxxx to 11xxxxxx
(the first 0 was not printed) and are not
incremental: some starting with 70 can date early August 1972 although
some starting with 69 can date weeks later.
If you are curious about when your Magnavox Odyssey
console was completed, refer to David Winter's Odyssey Dating article.
When most of the 1972 stock was sold, Magnavox decided to produce another large batch of units
(i.e production run), hence the second RUN. Minor changes were made to the hardware. The second RUN
includes not only 1TL200BLAK units, but also the second model (1TL200BK12) which had a few more
The first RUN is either printed on a small white square sticker right to the
serial sticker or stamped in red on the serial sticker. The second RUN is always stamped in red.
Specimens happen to have an additional A or B letter on the RUN number. The B letter means that
the batteries were replaced by Magnavox later in 1973 in the many unsold units
which have been kept in stock for one year (or almost). The A letter is obviously rarer than the B but is considered
a typo. It also does not involve earlier
serials than those with the B letter: the only units known to have the A letter
were all produced in October 1972.
|MAGNAVOX ODYSSEY PRODUCTION BETWEEN 1972 AND 1975
||Original model made in 1972 only.
||Odisea (above model modified for Mexican export).
||Second run of original model made in 1973 and 1974.
|ODYSSEE 5887 05 01
||Original German Export Model made in 1973.
Comes with only 10 games and all texts translated in
German (unit has
plastic text overlays over US text).
||Second model made between mid-1974 and fall 1975.
Late specimens have a Magnavox logo on front side.
||Export Model made in late 1974 with only 10 games
and trilingual playing cards.
Another batch made in 1975 was exported in
as the Magnavox Odissea (see advertisement below,
not to be
confused with the 1972 Mexican Odisea).
||Last model made in late 1975. One specimen found
in the USA, another
in Brazil (see the exports below).
Back in the 1990s, the few Odyssey web pages listed two types of consoles:
Type A (which came with 12 games) and Type B (which came with 10 games). Several
Odyssey units were also found with a red B letter added to their RUN 1 label (see above
picture). Later, David Winter found that the Type B corresponded to an export version.
To avoid confusion, he decided that the old Type A and Type B would be
renamed US Model and Export Model respectively, and that RUN-1
labels with a stamped letter would be called RUN-1A and RUN-1B depending on the
letter. The above pictures show the first
production run both in 1A and 1B variants as well as the last model, which
only exists in RUN 2. Although most of the Export units were indeed exported to Europe, a few
were found in the USA.
To learn more about the export versions of the Odyssey, scroll down below.
Known variants of Odyssey accessories:
The circuit boards of the cartridges can be made of beige epoxy or bakelite (brown
or dark brown). Both types were used since 1972 and are sometimes mixed.
The hand controls originally had glossy labels, but they
were later replaced by mat ones.
The screens on the user manual cover were originally pink.
Red ones replaced them in late 1972.
For this reason, late 1972 specimens may have either colors. Export units have a slightly darker red color.
The Receive a FREE bonus game paper is often pink but also exists in white color.
The stickers were originally provided on a single sheet.
They were later split in two sheets during the 1TL200BLAK RUN 2 production.
When present, the Magnavox logo on the front side indicates a 1975 specimen
(early 1975 specimens may not show it).
The red/green/blue chips exist in
Operation of the Odyssey:
The operation of the Odyssey is very basic. Most of the games used special
plastic overlays placed on the television screen to simulate the background graphics that
the system could not draw. Each of the twelve games had two identical overlays in order to
fit on a small or a large screen. Some games used a special scoreboard to mark the scores.
Some others used plastic chips, cards, or other accessories such as a pair of dice, small
chips and game decks. Several games used the same cartridge. The difference was made by
using accessories or by changing the game rules, since the games were mostly played with
the accessories rather than with the elementary graphics shown on the screen. Collectors
interested in the complete set of accessories can have a look at the
list of Odyssey accessories. Some games even used two or three cartridges: the game
started with a specific cartridge and continued with another one after specific events.
Since both players are located by the horizontal and vertical controls, turning the system
off by changing the cartridge did not alter their positions.
Some of the overlays provided with the system
Some notes were also used to play casino games like roulette.
Both hand controllers used rotary knobs to move a player.
Some games used chips and dice.
|Odyssey cartridges and games|
|2||Ski, Simon Says, Fun Zoo, Percepts|
|3||Tennis, Analogic, Baseball, Hockey, Football (Passing and Kicking), Soccer (1)|
|4||Cat and Mouse, Football (Running), Haunted House, Invasion (1)|
|5||Submarine, Invasion (2), Soccer (2), Wipeout|
|6||Roulette, States, Invasion (3)|
|9||Shootout, Dogfight, Prehistoric Safari|
|11||Originally planned for Basketball but cancelled|
In addition to the games provided with the console, customers could purchase
additional games from Magnavox retailers, or order them by mail.
Ten different games were released: six in 1972 and four in 1973. All were available
individually or in packs of six. Magnavox also promoted the Odyssey by offering PERCEPTS,
a free bonus game sent by mail to customers who
would fill and return the Receive A Free Bonus Game paper to register the purchase of their Odyssey.
Apex-Magnavox (Miami, FL) released a special 2-in-1 blue card
to play Handball and Volleyball (which were available individually from Magnavox dealers
or by mail order). It is possible that this blue card was a bootleg.
Shooting Gallery, the Odyssey add-on Rifle:
The original Brown Box prototype allowed playing some games with a light gun.
Thus, the Odyssey had a special connector to plug in a rifle which allowed playing four extra
games using two additional cartridges (#9 and #10). This rifle pack is called Shooting Gallery.
Because of its limitations, the system could not determine whether the rifle was pointed to the
television screen, so one could point it to a light bulb, thus simulating a true shot on the
screen. The picture below shows the four games included with the Shooting Gallery pack.
Shooting Gallery advertisement (Magnavox Annual Sales, 1973)
Shooting Gallery pack (the switch box wasn't part of it). Credit: unknown (2007
Misc Odyssey pictures and videos:
Various Odyssey pictures can be seen on another page by clicking the pictures below.
How the Odyssey sold in the USA:
Odyssey was first announced to the public in May 1972. Although a couple
pre-production units were distributed in May for demonstration purposes, the production
started in August. Nationwide advertising of this system on television and radio
resulted in a real success: over 130,000 Odyssey and over 20,000 rifle packs were
in 1972. More might have been sold if some of Magnavox’ advertsing had not confused TV
viewers into believeing that the Odyssey system would only work with a Magnavox TV set.
Perhaps this was done by Magnavox to increase the sales of their own name-brand TV sets,
but persistent rumors to this effect confused potential customers and did not help sales.
Another 200,000+ Odyssey and 50,000+ rifle packs sold between 1973 and 1975, bringing the
total to 330,000+ Odyssey and 80,000+ rifle packs sold. The system was removed from the
stores in late 1975 and replaced by two new, simpler models: the
Odyssey 100 and Odyssey 200.
As can be seen
in the advertisements below, Magnavox made significant discounts to sell more
Odyssey units. The original $99.95 price was rather high, and the console was
already discounted at $79 in late 1973. With the purchase of a Magnavox 17"
color or 19" black and white TV (or any larger screen size), one could get his
Odyssey for only $49.95 in late 1973.
The very first law suit in the history of video games:
As mentioned earlier, Mr. Nolan Bushnell, President of Atari, attended
a demonstration of the Odyssey game system laid on by Magnavox on May the 24th of 1972
at the Airport Marina in Burlingame, CA. After founding Atari on 27th June 1972, Bushnell
and Alan Alcorn (his first employee) designed the famous prototype of their PONG arcade
machine. Once finished a couple months later, it was placed on trial in a local bar
called Andy Capp's Cavern in Sunnyvale. Later in 1974, the arcade video game business
having flourished, Magnavox filed a lawsuit for patent infrigement against Seeburg,
Bally-Midway and Atari. Although Bushnell insisted that he didn't copy the Ping-Pong
(Tennis) game of the Odyssey, Federal District Court judge John F. Grady was not convinced
that Bushnell had designed PONG before attending the Odyssey demonstration. Mr. Bushnell
opted out of the lawsuit before it began and became Magnavox first sublicensee. Henceforth,
they paid royalties to Magnavox in order to legally manufacture and sell PONG systems.
The suit against Seeburg and Bally went forward and marked the very first law suit in the
history of the video game industry. The Sanders/Magnavox team won this suit as well as
later law suits in the Court of Appeals. Much money changed hands. Additional patent
infringement lawsuits vs. Mattel, Activision, Nintendo and several arcade game manufacturer
went to trial over the next decade. All of these lawsuits were won by the Sanders/Magnavox
team and, along with income from many patent licenses, brought in a total of close to a
hundred million dollars over that period of time. The lawyers at Sanders made everything
to avoid that Ralph Baer be aware of these amounts. Ralph only discovered this in 2002
with David Winter while visiting the former lawyer company in charge of the
As he said: "I had a great run and invented many other things", and didn't really care.
Odyssey exports and clones:
Odyssey originally sold in the USA only, but was later exported in small
amounts to several countries, and has even been cloned.
Several types of exports exist: the US Version, and the Export Version
released by Magnavox in 1974.
The very first export of the Magnavox Odyssey, the Magnavox Odisea, was made in Mexico around October 1972
following a very successfull market survey a few months before. It consisted of a US Odyssey with the top
of the box relabeled with a very nice Magnavox logo and large Odisea words. The States
game was replaced by the Volleyball add-on (a yellow sticker was even put on the side of
the box). All paperwork was made in Mexico and printed in spanish. Less than 4,000 Odisea
units were produced.
In England, modified US Odyssey units were exported around 1973 and sold by
who inserted additional papers explaining their local
guarantee as well as important operation instructions. Odyssey units
were modified to become compatible with local
In Egypt, a few US Odyssey units were reported, but it is unknown whether they were
a US or Export version, and whether they were adapted to local TV sets.
In Brazil, Magnavox exported the Odyssey in late 1975 under
exclusive licence with Planil (Rio de Janeiro). A US version with all text
translated in Portuguese, this particular Odyssey (model 1TL200BK13)
was probably the last batch before the end of the whole production. Click here
to download the Portuguese user manual (the Planil licence is shown on the
The 1974 Export Odyssey differs from the above variants, and was sold in several countries listed on a large Patents Label
sticked under the Odyssey unit. The two countries listed under Germany are Greece and Israel
respectively. The french advertisement can be seen here.
Odyssey was also exported to Singapore (export model
The Export Version (1974) differs from the US Version by several points. It came with
ten games instead of twelve: five games of the original version were removed (Cat and Mouse,
Football, Haunted House, Roulette, and States) and three others previously sold as add-ons
were added (Soccer, also called Football in the USA, Volleyball and Wipe Out). The user manual
was reduced from thirty-six to twenty-four pages. The Simon Says and Wipeout cards were
translated to three languages (see some pictuers in the Odyssey Pictures
page). Consequently, it had a couple overlays removed, a few accessories added (the Wipeout
cars for example) and used cartridges #1, #2, #3, #5 and #7 only. Although this version was
not supposed to be released in the USA, a few specimens were found there.
In Germany, Odyssey was exported in two versions. It was first announced in late 1973
as being sold by ITT Schaub-Lorenz. Very few ITT units were made. The
box was different, and the papers and game
cards were translated to German. The console was also renamed Odyssee and its shipping
box had two large ITT stickers covering the original Magnavox logos. These stickers are almost
never found on Odyssee shipping boxes as their glue dried, leaving two almost black sides on the shipping box, allowing to see the original
"Magnavox", "Odyssey", "1TL200" and "Made in USA"
The original user manual was replaced by two separate manuals written in German: one for the
system installation and operation, and one for the game rules. English words moulded on the
console unit were covered by transparent overlays showing their German equivalents printed in
black. This Odyssee version was released in limited amounts in early 1974 (a few thousands).
It was shortly replaced by the Export Version (named Odyssee, model YE7100BK11),
which still had the two manuals translated to German and German text on the controllers. It is
believed that ITT still sold this version in 1974 and that about 10,000 Magnavox units were
exported to Germany in 1974 and 1975. Click here to view both versions
of the German Odyssee manuals.
In Italy, Odyssey got a last attempt circa 1975-76 as Odissea
(not to be confused with the Mexican Odisea), distributed by G.B.C. Italia, the company which
also imported Sinclair computers in the 1980s. In the January 1976 issue of the Sperimentare magazine, the
Odissea advertisement (scan courtesy of Carlo Santagonisto) clearly shows twelve
games translated in Italian. However, the console itself is model YE7100BK14,
the Export version with ten games, which seems to be a very last marketing
attempt. The Shooting Gallery rifle seems to have been sold as well in Italy as
one specimen came with its cartridges #9 and #10.
The German Odyssee box released by ITT Schaub-Lorenz and the Italian Odissea advertisement.
Click the pictures to view them in larger size.
Although the Odyssey was legally imported to foreign countries, at least three clones are known to exist.
In Spain, Odyssey was modified (or cloned) and called Overkal.
In Argentina, Odyssey was also modified (if not cloned) and called
Telematch De Panoramic (model J-5,
which could stand for "5 Juegos" or "five games"), where Telematch is the name
of the game, and Panoramic the distributor.
Interestingly, both of these clones used a number of push-buttons to select the games instead
of cartridges. Although the Spanish Overkal was a cut-down Odyssey with eight games, the
Argentinian Telematch played only three Odyssey games (Tennis, Squash and
Volleyball) but also featured two additional games: Submarino (a boat shoots a
submarine with a torpedo) and Futbol (football with goals). This required additional
hardware in the unit. Telematch De Panoramic is the only game system known to play the
Torpedo game, also advertised for the German Interton Video 2000
and Spanish Tele-Tenis, but never released. For these reasons,
Telemach De Panoramic only came with a carton board explaining the general operation and
game rules. However, the Overkal was much more complete: it came with a detailed used
manual, as well as set of overlays and accessories.
In Sweden, an Odyssey clone called Kanal 34 was advertised in 1975 but
very few specimens were manufactured. The advertisement below shows a different unit
housed in a wood cabinet, using Magnavox Odyssey controllers, cartridges and overlays.
In fact, the main unit contains the Magnavox Odyssey hardware (Export version, either
from a Magnavox Export or ITT Odyssee unit), with the cartridge connector fixed to the
top board and wired to the circuit board. The original battery compartment was still
used and located left to the mother board, like in an Odyssey. Interestingly, the ITT
Odyssee was also sold in Sweden. It came with four manuals: the two original German
ITT manuals, and xerox copies with Swedish text in place of the german text. It is
believed that those ITT Odyssee were released around 1976/77, which is quite late for
that game, but not surprising for the video game market of that time.
Spanish Overkal, circa 1973.
Left: Kanal 34 (Sweden, 1975). Right: Telematch De Panoramic (Argentinia, circa 1975).
Technology of the Odyssey:
Because of its mid-1960’s type of technology, the Odyssey is
completely different from modern video game systems. It uses no microprocessor
and has no need for memory. It is based on a hybrid analog and digital circuit
design. Opening the physical game unit reveals only discrete components:
resistors, capacitors, etc. The only semiconductors are about 40 diodes and 40
Odyssey’s cartridges contain no components: they are basically
wirejumper sets. When plugging a cartridge into the console, internal
diode logic circuits are interconnected in different
ways to produce the desired result. As a matter of fact, the Odyssey contains
everything to make a game based around a ball, one or two paddles representing
the players, and a central or off-side vertical line which serves as a net or a
wall. The cartridges act to connect the machine’s diode logic circuitry to
set the aspect and the position of the vertical line (normally centered for ping
pong and tennis but located on the left or on the middle for handball and
volleyball respectively, or not displayed at all for Chase games and gun games),
and to determine the interaction between the ball and the other graphic objects:
bounce or erase either a player or a ball spot when there is a collision with a
player or the central line (a player could even be erased after a collision with
the ball). During the winter of ’72 – ’73 Ralph Baer designed several advanced
cartridges equipped with some additional active components so as to add some
more realistic features to the Odyssey. Unfortunately, Magnavox chose not to go
along with these new ideas. Recently, Ralph rebuilt two active cartridges. One
plays Tennis with sound effects, the other is a form of Squash with sound and an
active wall which moves from left to right, thus increasing the game difficulty.
Cartridge #7. The height of the contacts is due to the distance
between the slot and the connector on the circuit board.
Cartridges #1 to #10.
Click this picture to view the (very large) schematic of the Odyssey unit.
You can also download the full
Service Manual of the Odyssey.
From left to right: RF oscillator module, main board with all modules, and one of the two flip-flop modules.
Click those pictures for more information about the Odyssey modules.