The Odyssey2 is the sequel system to the very first home video game console. The original Odyssey was developed by the great Ralph Baer (who also created Simon) and was sold to Magnavox, who released it in 1972. At that time, Computer Space, the very first arcade game, wasn’t even a year old. The Odyssey was quite the aptly-named trail blazer.
The Odyssey played several basic games, including some that were very similar to Pong. The controversy between Ralph Baer and Atari, or more specifically its founder Nolan Bushnell, is a subject for another day. Though it’s worth noting that even Baer himself admitted that the Odyssey1’s modest success was most likely thanks to the enormous cultural impact of Atari’s Pong, which was released less than a year later. It certainly wasn’t thanks to the legendarily lousy job Magnavox did in marketing the system. Promotional material and salesmen at the time of it’s initial release made it seem as though the Magnavox Odyssey would only work on Magnavox TV sets. Or so the legend goes.
So Magnavox, this time without any input from Baer, began work on a sequel.
Some seem to believe that the Odyssey2 was released in retaliation to the Atari Video Computer System (2600). However, the Odyssey2 was in development at about the same time, and actually beat the VCS to market by a month in September of 1977.
It was a tight race at first. Magnavox and Atari were neck and neck, while other contemporary systems, like the RCA Studio II and the Fairchild Channel F, were choking on their dust. Then Atari licensed and released Space Invaders in 1978, and the VCS exploded in popularity. The Odyssey2 tried to compete, even in the face of Intellivision and ColecoVision. But it just couldn’t keep up, and Magnavox set up camp in 4th place all the way until the Great Crash of 1984. The Odyssey2 was soundly and thoroughly defeated, and is now just a footnote in the video game history book.
And here’s that footnote now!
This particular Odyssey2 is a relic of my old video game collection that I referred to in my previous article. My Atari collection was once substantial, and I’m very familiar with the company’s history. Which is why I gasped and tried to hide my giddiness when I spotted this baby at a second-hand store sometime in the late nineties. It worked, had all the parts, and came with several games. Fifteen bucks later, it was mine.
I remember enjoying myself when I played it back then, but I also remember thinking that it wasn’t something I would want to play often. So I put it in a box, left it at my parents’ house, and forgot all about it.
I just found it again last weekend. Let’s hook it up and see if it still works!
Here’s something cool. Whoever previously owned this particular system modified the RF cord into a straight coax plug. No need for one of those TV/GAME switch boxes. Thank you, previous owner!
I even have the original power cord. That’s pretty neat!
Uh oh. Here’s something shitty about the system; hard wired controllers. I hate that. This phenomena has never made sense to me. I mean, why do this? Not only does the company lose out on potential profit from the sales of additional controllers, but what are you supposed to do when one of them breaks? Send the entire system in for repair?! This would have given me a rash even back when that was an option. What am I supposed to do now? I mean, look at this.
This is the player 1 controller. Look how fucked up it is! It sticks in every direction, and the joystick falls through the bottom! Meanwhile player 2’s controller is in great shape. I’m learning a lot about this system’s previous owner. They were tech-savy enough to modify the RF plug, but apparently didn’t have any friends to play with. Gee. It’s kinda sad if you think about it. Poor, lonely nerd.
I wish I could just swap the controllers out. Instead, I might have to try to take it apart myself and see if I can fix it so at least the stick doesn’t poke all the way through the bottom like that.
It works! Sweet! Be sure to come back for Part 2 when I take a quick, first-impression look at several sports titles, an educational “computer” cart, and a couple of action games. Will they be any good? Or will they all be archaic and shitty? Eh… I’d put my money on the latter.