If Atari started to sell a whole range of PONG systems in 1975, Magnavox (the originator of home video game systems) also started a new range of systems in 1975, the first of which was a much simpler version of the 1972 Odyssey: the Odyssey 100.

Back in 1973, Ralph Baer tried to add new features to his Odyssey (sound, extra components on the cartridges to add more visual effects, etc), and wondered if the new technologies would allow integrating a whole Odyssey in one or more simple integrated circuits. He tracked several semiconductor houses (General Instruments (GI), Texas Instruments (TI), MOSTechnology (MOSTek) and others) to study the feasibility of his new idea. He kept worrying about his idea until may 1974 when Magnavox signed an agreement with Texas Instruments for the design of the chips.

Although TI promised a delivery for January 1975, Magnavox went ahead and made a same design using discrete components, should TI fail to deliver the chips. In the meantime, National Semiconductor proposed a single-chip project which would be ready for January / February 1975. The chip was ready in August 1975, but Magnavox already decided that TI would make the multi-chip design. Thus the Odyssey 100 was released the same year.

The Odyssey 100 used discrete components and four Texas Instruments chips. It did not use cartridges and played two games: TENNIS and HOCKEY. A simple switch selected the games, and the system was either powered by six batteries, or by an AC adaptor (such power supplies were widely used by other systems).

The TENNIS game was very basic. It was formed of two paddles, a vertical line and a ball. Two knobs were used to adjust the game: one to center the vertical line and one to set the ball speed. A little piezzo beeper was used for the few beeps of the games, and each player controlled the game using three knobs (one for moving vertically, one for moving horizontally, and one for the “english” effect which modified the trajectory of the ball to ‘fake’ the opponent).untitledqqqq

The Odyssey 100 was very basic and didn’t have the common features of the million-seller PONG systems of the next years. The knobs were fixed: there were no detachable controllers yet. There was no digital on-screen scoring: the players marked their score using two little plastic cursors on the system. The serve couldn’t be changed: it was automatic.

This could seem strange compared to the first Atari PONG systems which already had digital on-screen scoring. In fact, this was just a question of technology. On-screen scoring would have required additional components, which would have increased the cost of the system. Nevertheless, on-screen scoring was added in later systems although the first attempts used archaic graphics. The first Magnavox system to offer digital on-screen was the Odyssey 300 in 1976.

The main features of the Odyssey 100 were very basic:

– Action sounds
– Mechanical Scoring
– Top and Bottom Ball Rebound
– Vertical/Horizontal Player Action
– Ball Control
– Speed Control
– Game Select Switch
– On/Off Power Switch

NAME   Odyssey 100
YEAR   1975
BUILT IN GAMES   tennis, hockey
CONTROLLERS   3 knobs for each player (vertical movements, horizontal movements, english effect)
CPU   discrete components + Texas Instruments chips
BUTTONS   none
SWITCHES   game selection (A or B), power ON/OFF, video channel (3 or 4), sound (on/off)
SCORE   on system case (numbered slider)
COLORS   Black & white
SOUND   Built-in speaker
I/O PORTS   RF TV video output
BATTERIES   6 x C cell batteries
GUN   no
PRICE   Unknown

[sources: pong-stroy.com, old-computers.com] 

“Research” by Christos Doukakis