History page 4
The issue with discussing each of these games so far is that none of them are really proper video games as we understand that concept today. The EDSAC illustrated the graphics of Noughts and Crosses by use of a large dot matrix. William Higinbotham’s Tennis for Two was shown on an oscilloscope. And the PDP-1 had its own proprietary round cathode ray tube display. The first occasion of a genuine “video” game was not to come until 1966.
In that year, Ralph Baer began working for Sander Associates, a military contractor company. He revisited his idea of playing games on a TV set and jotted down four pages of notes on what kind of device could hold the games, how it would interact with the TV set, and how it would be a separate unit from the TV entirely. He designed what would become known as the "Brown Box" (named so for the dark faux wood adhesive paneling surrounding the case).
Baer's machine was able to place white squares on a black background. The initial game design he and his partner Bill Harrison come up with consisted of a simple "tag" idea with two spots chasing each other. If one spot was caught by the other, it was wiped out.
In 1967, another technician, Bill Rusch, joined the group. He came up with a similar idea to the chase game except this time the game was made of two large squares that bounced a smaller square back and forth, like a ball. If a player lined up the large square in time, he could catch the ball. Rusch and Harrison further altered the idea to change it from being a game of catching the ball, to bouncing it off each player, making it a game of tennis instead. Ralph Baer patented this ping-pong / tennis for two game in 1968. He took the Brown Box with all its games to a presentation for Sander Associates. Unfortunately, the electronics firm was designing equipment for the early space program at this point and they were simply not interested in manufacturing game systems.
However, Bill Benders saw the demonstration and took it to Magnavox. In 1972, Magnavox released the very first home gaming console to the public, the Odyssey Model 1TL200.
The Odyssey proved to be a huge success, despite its rather hefty price tag of around $100. For some of the more complicated games, colored Mylar sheets were provided for the user to tape to their TV screen (it was not yet possible to add colored elements into the system).
Unfortunately, there were some minor issues with sales for the Odyssey. Due to bad communication in the sales campaign, it was believed consumers required a Magnavox TV set in order for the Odyssey to work. Additionally, only Magnavox dealers sold the game system, thus further reducing the potential customer base. Add to that the fact that most television salesmen were not trained at pushing a game system, and in time the Odyssey's sales began to fall.
Go to this page for more information about Ralph Baer.