History of the Video Game Console : 1970s
                    Prologue by Marriott_Guy
The 1970s marked the beginning of home video gaming as we know it today.  Ralph Baer, uniformly known as the father of the video game console, created and developed the infamous Brown Box, which would later become the revolutionary Magnavox Odyssey.  Few could honestly admit that this humble beginning would result in the multi-billion dollar market of today.  The advent of the microprocessor proved to be the key.

While some focused on mastering their dance moves to impress at the local Disco, others devoted their time in developing the first microprocessor and the C programming language.  Their efforts resulted in the birth of modern computing.  For once, the electronic components that once occupied more than 15,000 square feet of warehouse space was made available to the general public at a reasonably affordable rate in the form of the home computer.  This technological jump enabled the creation of the home video game console.
1970s Video Game Console History and Timeline
Many companies entered into this fledging market hoping to capitalize on this newly developed technology - some with greater success than others.  The decade spawned myriads of PONG systems and also introduced us to a new world - programmable cartridge based systems.  Gone were the days of the dedicated console and ushered in were the true parents of today's hardware.  Fairchild Semiconductors was the first to introduce us to this advancement in the form of their Video Entertainment Center (Channel F), but Atari ended up being the king of this era with the release of the Video Computer System (2600).

The decade marked another significant feat - the beginnings of globalization within the gaming community.  Not only were systems released in various countries, but the first BBS (bulletin board system) enabled gamers from around the world to share their video game experiences via text forums.

The 1970s ended up being one of the most influential decades in the history of video gaming hardware.  Technological breakthroughs abounded and successes (and at times failures) of companies that participated during this time helped inspire behemoths like Nintendo and Sega to develop into the gaming force they would become in the following decade.  The following takes a quick snapshot of each main console (or technology) released during this decade.
1972 - Magnavox Odyssey North AmericaEuropeJapanSouth AmericaGermany
The granddaddy of the home video game console.  There were no processors in this system - just a series of transistors, resistors and capacitors.  Pin-outs were contained on the individual game cards and graphical output was produced with white blocks against a black background.  Plastic colored overlays were provided to put over your television screen to enhance the graphics a bit.

1975 - PC-50X Family EuropeJapanGermanyAustraliaUnited KingdomFrance
Improvements to the initial General Instruments AY-3-8500 (PONG) chip resulted in more game variations on this classic format.  Manufacturers wised up made a breakthrough - include the new chip(s) on cartridges.  This eliminated the need to develop a new system for every chip and significantly drove down cost.  There were a total of eight (8) chip variations that were produced and the pin-out cartridges contained up to 10 games.

1976 - Fairchild Channel F North AmericaGermanyUnited KingdomSweden
The Fairchild Video Entertainment System (later changed to Channel F) was the first console to feature programmable cartridges.  Featuring built-in games, 8' controller cords and being the first to utilize microprocessor technology, the Channel F was quite innovative at the time of its release.  The following year the Atari Video Computer System (specifically named this way to directly compete against Fairchild's similarly entitled system) put the stake through this fledgling console's heart.

1976 - RCA Studio II North AmericaUnited KingdomJapan
RCA lost the race to Fairchild Semiconductors to produce the first programmable console available to the public.  The Studio II lacked controllers and relied upon the built-in numeric keypad to control the action.  Another glaring fault of this system is the black and white video output.  Though it has been proven that a few games were designed for color, RCA's rush to get this product to market resulted in the absence of this basic feature.

1976 - 1292 Advanced Programmable Video System (APVS) United KingdomEuropeGermanyAustralia
The 1292 Advanced Programmable Video System (APVS) family of consoles was basically Europe's answer to the Fairchild Channel F.  The initial developer, a German company called Radofin, was one of the first companies to license programmable hardware technology to many other companies (much like The 3DO Company did with Panasonic and Goldstar).  This strategy produces extremely positive results as nearly 25 different models were produced by various manufacturers.

1977 - Coleco Telstar Arcade North AmericaCanada
During the 1970s, Pong systems began to flood the market due to the success of the Atari PONG system.  Looking to capitalize on this emerging market, Coleco produced their own line of these dedicated systems called the Telstar.  Many variations were released, with the final itineration being the Telstar Arcade - a combination PONG system that also incorporated interchangeable cartridges.

1977 - Atari Video Computer System (2600) North AmericaEuropeJapanCanada
Atari's mother ship set the standard for programmable based video game systems in the 1970s.  Code named 'Stella' (after one of the designer's bicycle), the 2600 was the first system to come close to delivering an arcade experience in the comforts of one's living room.  This would not have been possible if it wasn't for Warner Communication.  Atari Inc., experiencing significant cash flow problems, approached the media giant who eventually purchased the company.

1977 - Bally Home Library Computer (Astrocade) North America
The Home Library Computer was designed by Bally's video game division Midway (creators of the infamous Mortal Kombat series).  The technology was quite impressive for the time and rivaled the popular Atari 2600 in terms of graphical output.  The most innovative facet of this system is its multi-functional 'pistol' controller, featuring a trigger action button and a multi-directional joystick know that could also serve as a paddle controller.

1978 - Magnavox Odyssey 2 \ Philips VideoPac North AmericaEuropeJapanSouth AmericaCanada
The Odyssey 2 was the first console to incorporate a full alpha-numeric keyboard along with its initial hardwired joystick controllers.  Though technically inferior to the rival Atari 2600, the Odyssey 2 did feature flicker-free graphics, a point its competitor could not make.  This console was very successful and was manufactured throughout the world by notable companies including Philips, Radiola and Schneider.

Magnavox Odyssey 2 Screenshot
1978 - Interton VC-4000 GermanyEuropeAustraliaAustriaArgentina
It is undetermined if the German based company Interton developed this system on its own, or if they licensed the 1292 APVS technology from Radofin.  There are minor differences in the cart size and programming, but few would argue that it is anything but a sibling of the 1292 APVS.  The VC-4000 was mildly successful, with models released in Europe, Australia and Argentina among others.

1978 - APF Imagination Machine (M1000 \ MP1000) North America
APF Electronics jumped into the video game craze with their release of the APF-M1000 console in 1978.  This 8-bit system was designed to compete against the heavyweight Atari 2600.  It did not even come close.  But what makes this system unique is the addition of the APF MP-10 computer add-on that was released in 1979.  The base console could be docked into this module to create a hybrid computer, one of the first of its kind.

1979 - Bandai Super Vision 8000 Japan
The Bandai Super Vision 8000 debuted in 1979 and was the very first programmable game cartridge system released in Japan.  This timeline (1979) and notoriety (initial entry and the developer, Bandai) may be a surprise to some simply due to the fact that Japan has been a leader in video game technology for some time, with big hitters Nintendo and Sega in the fold.  Though technically superior to the competition, the high price tag quickly doomed this console.

Bandai Super Vision 8000 Screenshot
1979 - Mattel Intellivision North AmericaCanadaJapanSouth America
The chief challenger to the Atari 2600, the Intellivision sported new disc controllers (either loved or hated by gamers) and superior graphical and auditorial capabilities.  With few attractive arcade or movie licenses available to them due to Atari's aggressive nature in this field, Mattel had to rely upon lesser known titles but did produce an innovative add-on - the Atari 2600 Adaptor.  The library of compatible games now more than tripled for this system and the Intellivision would thrive.

     Visitor insights and feedback
Please be respectful and abide by our Terms of Use & Policies prior to posting.  Basically be nice, keep it clean and don't spam or be a troll.  Thanks!

comments powered by Disqus