Game Console History (Part I) - The Happy Android

Today the video game industry is considered one of the most important platforms (if not the most important) in the leisure and entertainment sector. Video games have blockbusters comparable to those of their most direct competitor, the cinema. Your ad campaigns are everywhere. They move millions, both economically speaking and in followers and followers. Players who, driven by online gambling, have begun to organize themselves into teams, competitions and, as a consequence, the appearance of tournaments e-sports .

But like everything, this world also has a beginning and a culprit. Ralph Baer, ​​who is considered the "father of video game consoles", was not the one who created the first video game, but he was the culprit that we have a video game console connected to a television.

Game consoles: First generation (1972 - 1977)

Magnavox Odyssey (1972)

Rudolph Heinrich Baer , commonly known as Ralph Baer. Son of a Jewish family who, fleeing the Nazi regime (just two months before the night of the broken glass), sought to rebuild his life in the United States.

After graduating from the National Radio Institute What radio service technician , on 1943 was recruited by the army to participate in the Second World War. He was assigned to the military intelligence department in London, far from the battlefield. Thanks to that, Baer returned safe and sound from the war and graduated from Television Engineering at American Television Institute of Technology from Chicago.

He began working for the defense department in a small company, where he gained a reputation and in 1955 was hired by Sanders Associates , putting him in charge of a team of 200 people. In just five years he had 500 people in his charge.

Thanks to Baer's healthy habit of document everything, we know that in 1955 the idea began to be hatched of using televisions for more than just watching cable channels. The idea was to interact with televisions, play games and thus gain an advantage over the competition in the industry. After a first failed attempt in which he tried to get the necessary financial support to carry out his project (he even proposed that the console be integrated into the TV itself), in 1966, together with Sanders engineers, he began to manufacture the prototype of what would become the first game console in history. I call her "Brown box".

In 1971 Magnavox (Philips subsidiary in America) acquired the license of the machine and a year later, in 1972, it commercialized what is known as thefirst video game console under the name of Magnavox Odyssey. Thus, 1972 can be considered the starting point of the video game industry, also the starting date of what is known as the first generation of game consoles.

Even though Magnavox made the decision to distribute the machine exclusively from its own warehouses, Even implying with the commercial that the game console only worked on televisions of its own brand (he never denied it), this came to reap good sales.

When talking about the technical characteristics of Magnavox Odyssey What is remarkable is that the machine consisted solely of a plate composed of transistors, capacitors and resistors. That is to say, it did not have any microprocessor and this was summed up in great limitations at the hardware level. For example, it was unable to play audio .

The Odyssey used interchangeable cartridges to play their different games. A total of twelve, of which six were acquired when buying the console. As a curiosity, comment that along with the machine some semi-transparent plastic sheets were distributed, which when adhering to the television screen acted as a background image and they helped create the context for the game. The first light rifle.

Atari / Sears Telegames Pong (1975)

Nolan bushnell , while studying Electrical Engineering at the University of Utah, he was one of those who tried the game Spacewar !. This game was born as a result of a university research project and was hosted on a computer that occupied a plant.

After testing the game, Nolan , together with another partner, Ted dabney , they created a clone of it, they called it Computer Space. The prototype was in a cabin, but despite getting it manufactured and distributed, it was a commercial disaster. The main reason is that it was a very advanced product for the times and they did not manage to reach a wide enough audience. Despite that first frustrated attempt, they were able to achieve the distribution of games and that these could be played by everyone, with which in 1972Nolan bushnell together with his partner Ted dabney they founded Atari Inc.

1972 is a controversial year, Bushnell He was in California visiting a fair where he could see for the first time the Magnavox Odyssey. When testing the game of ping-pong, he quickly realized that by making a few minor adjustments to the game system, he had before him a product with a lot of potential. It was then that he commissioned Allan Alcorn, a newly licensed Atari engineer, creating what would become the classic arcade machine Pong. Nolan spent years denying everything.

Atari, which at that time was only dedicated to arcade machines or coin-ups, reaped tremendous success with PONG . Thanks to that, they did not take long to consider moving the game to a home system, and that is how they created the game console Atari PONG.

The foray into the world of home consoles was not easy for Atari. Finding investors who wanted to bet on the product in such a new industry was not easy, in addition, we must bear in mind that there was already competition at that time, Magnavox and its Odyssey.

Despite everything, the negotiations with Sears (American chain of shopping centers) came to fruition. Well ... it depends how you look at it: for a year Sears would have the exclusive sale and rights to the product.

Despite all these setbacks, at Christmas 1975, it went on sale Atari Pong under the name Sears Tele-Games. It was a total sales success, people were queuing to reserve the machine, which was to be expected considering the previous success they had obtained with the arcade machine. Pong.

Coleco Telstar (1976)

All the credit Nolan had in creating Atari and realizing the commercial potential of pong is in stark contrast to the nefarious licensing of his products. As a consequence, the market began to fill with machines based (not to say copies) on pong.

Of the different options that appeared on the market, the one developed by Coleco. Coleco Telstar It is the first of a whole series of consoles of the brand Coleco that appeared between 1976 and 1978, all based on Atari Pong . The success of this manufacturer was due to the price at which it was marketed: Telstar went on sale for about $ 50, half the price of its competitors, Magnavox Odyssey and Atari Pong ( Sears telegames in his first year of life). Thanks to this, Coleco was able to sell close to 1,000,000 units in the first year.

Another factor that led to the success of Telstar is that it was the first machine to integrate the chip AY-3-8500 from General Instruments , commonly known as Pong-on-a-chip. General Instruments It couldn't meet the demand from all the manufacturers who, seeing Atari's success with Pong, wanted their share of the pie. Being Coleco one of the first to request the chip, They were the first and the only ones who received the entire chip order so it is easy to understand that they were leading the market with their machine.

Coleco Telstar It brought the controls (potentiometers) integrated into the machine itself, something common at that time. It came with 3 games recorded in memory, Tennis, Hockey and Handball and even with a difficulty selector that increased or decreased the speed of the ball, or modified the size of the "paddles".

As you can see, the takeoff of the console and video game industry was not easy. In those days it was not easy to find support (especially financially) to carry out this type of project, but it was thanks to people like Ralph baer (creator of MagnavoxOdyssey) or Nolan bushnell and Ted dabney (founders of Atari and his Pong) ,   which never gave up in the face of adversity, that today we can all enjoy this great digital entertainment machine that consoles and video games have become.

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