We’re kicking off four days of cartridge-based nostalgia with our guide to the consoles of the '70s. Before you roll your eyes - hey, we saw that - keep in mind these were the first consoles ever created. And without our decrepit forefathers, we wouldn’t be enjoying digital ambrosia with the likes of Mario or the Master Chief on our fancy HDTV. If you wanna know how your parents kept it real, behold - the consoles of yore.
Consoles of the '70s | Consoles of the '80s
Consoles of the '90s | Consoles of the 2000s
As the first home console ever, the Odyssey ran on batteries and games came on removable circuit cards, not cartridges. The Odyssey tragically lacked sound capability, but that was later rectified. Also looks uncannily like a defibrillator.
While the Odyssey used separate electronic components for its chip system, the Atari Pong used in integrated circuit on one chip - or in simple speak: it was the most complex chip for home use at the time. Pong’s differences went above and beyond the Odyssey - beeps and boops for sound, digital onscreen scoring and eight levels of spin on the ball. Technology!
Sears Tele-Games Pong
Videogames hadn’t yet caught on with major retailers, but after the Consumer Electronics Show in ’75, Atari got a hold of the sporting goods buyer for Sears. Thinking they could turn a mighty profit that Christmas, Sears offered to help produce enough units to meet a healthy demand. Thusly, they became the exclusive retailer of Pong.
Magnavox Odyssey 100
Ralph Baer - the creator of the Odyssey - wanted to improve on his original design and signed a contract with Texas Instruments (they make killer graphing calculators). The O100 didn’t use cartridges, but it did have action sounds and a switch to go between two games - Tennis and Hockey.
Magnavox Odyssey 200
But wait! That’s not all. Magnavox released a slightly improved version - this time adding a third game, Smash - complete with onscreen scoring. Also, this baby enabled 2-4 players to join in on the ruckus. Eat your heart out, N64.
Fairchild Channel F
Using a chip invented by the man who founded Intel, the F was the world’s first cartridge-based console. Even with simple color graphics, they were leagues better than any of the Pong systems at the time. Only 26 cartridges were released and the console looked like a glorified answering machine.
Atari Super Pong
Super Pong was essentially the same damn thing as regular Pong, only with slight modifications. It played four games. One of them was Pong. There you go.
Keeping with the theme of including wood paneling on home consoles, Coleco released the Telstar, which only played Tennis. However, because it went for $50, it was attractive to families. Coleco sold over a million Telstars that year - mainly because the company placed the first orders from microchip maker, General Instruments. Their competitors only received a fraction of their orders that year.