First Generation Game Console
1972 – 1977
Above: Coleco Telstar Console
The contrast between today’s video games and those that first started appearing in he 1960s is huge. Most early games were black and white and operated on a black and white TV. When we look at today’s Gears of War on a 1080p widescreen, the difference is stunning.
It’s stunning that a gentle by the name of Ralph Baer actually got the idea for building a video game console back in 1951 in the Bronx, New York. His vision for an interactive TV was ahead of its time.
However, the got nowhere until 1966. Baer was the Chief Engineer and Manager of the Equipment Design Division at Sanders Associates. He built a two-player video game using a standard television set where two dots chased each other around the screen.
This may not seem like much, but sots bouncing round the screen was the basis for most video games for the next seven years.
After Bear demonstrated the device to the company’s director of R&D Herbert Campman, funding was approved. In 1967, they brought Bill Harrison on board and added a light gun was constructed from a toy rifle.
Above: Ralph Baer Retro Game Console
Above: First Generation Magavox Odyssey
With Bill Rusch joining the project, development speed up with the end result being a third machine-controlled dot that was used to create a ping-pong game. With additional funding, even more games were built for the console.
Baer had the idea of selling the product to Cable TV companies that could transmit static images as game backgrounds. However, the Cable TV industry was slumping and the idea went nowhere.
Development continued on the unit for a few more years. The prototype had two controllers, a light gun and sixteen switches that selected the game to be played. These first generation games were actually built into the unit.
Baer eventually signed with Magnavox in 1969 with the prototype being released as the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972, some 21 years after the concept was imagined.