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Original Odyssey players? (research project)


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Hi everyone,


I'm a sociologist of media doing a project on early game consoles, especially the Odyssey and VCS. If you played those consoles when they came out - or perhaps slightly later versions of them - I'd be really interested to talk to you! I want to understand how these systems impacted people's relationship to consumer technology in general, and television in particular.


Find my previous publications / information here: https://soc.ucla.edu/grads/gary-yeritsian


Thanks!

Gary

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Fascinating research topic, and I do hope that you'll find some actual back-in-the-day anecdotes and remembrances.

 

I do have one or two thoughts that might be of interest:

 

1) I can relate the story of the Odyssey that I found years ago at a local estate sale, one that was still boxed. It was from the original owners. None of them were around, but a neighbor of theirs who also happened to be by saw me purchasing it and took notice of it, saying that it had been great fun to play with back when but eventually just got old and was probably stored away after a year or two. I suspect that the same sort of situation happened for a lot of Odyssey owners, as a surprisingly high percentage of the systems still have their original boxes, if Ebay listings are anything to go by.

 

2) Over the course of researching the Studio II (see GOLD MINE thread here), I looked through the personal papers of system creator Joseph Weisbecker at the Hagley Museum and Library. He owned an Odyssey back in the day, and also the lightgun Rifle. There were two images of it in his workshop. He even developed a much better and cheaper lightgun, no doubt based on his experiences with the Odyssey one, in 1973. RCA rejected his pitch for it, though.

 

3) Don't forget that Magnavox actually made at least one console TV with an Odyssey and two hand controls built directly into it. There's a video on YouTube of one in action that apparently still works.

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I'm a sociologist of media doing a project on early game consoles, especially the Odyssey and VCS.

I assume you're most interested in the Odyssey 2? The original Odyssey came out a few years earlier and isn't as well known.

 

If you want more exposure there are more Odyssey 2 (aka Videopac) fans at http://videopac.nl/forum/index.php

 

If you don't want to join another forum I could cross post your info over there.

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Fascinating research topic, and I do hope that you'll find some actual back-in-the-day anecdotes and remembrances.

 

I do have one or two thoughts that might be of interest:

 

1) I can relate the story of the Odyssey that I found years ago at a local estate sale, one that was still boxed. It was from the original owners. None of them were around, but a neighbor of theirs who also happened to be by saw me purchasing it and took notice of it, saying that it had been great fun to play with back when but eventually just got old and was probably stored away after a year or two. I suspect that the same sort of situation happened for a lot of Odyssey owners, as a surprisingly high percentage of the systems still have their original boxes, if Ebay listings are anything to go by.

 

2) Over the course of researching the Studio II (see GOLD MINE thread here), I looked through the personal papers of system creator Joseph Weisbecker at the Hagley Museum and Library. He owned an Odyssey back in the day, and also the lightgun Rifle. There were two images of it in his workshop. He even developed a much better and cheaper lightgun, no doubt based on his experiences with the Odyssey one, in 1973. RCA rejected his pitch for it, though.

 

3) Don't forget that Magnavox actually made at least one console TV with an Odyssey and two hand controls built directly into it. There's a video on YouTube of one in action that apparently still works.

 

Thanks so much for this reply. Re 1) yes, that is interesting... suggests there was an initial novelty factor that wore off quite quickly

 

2) Hmm, I know that RCA is meant to have really botched its attempt to enter the video game market in the 70s.

 

3) This I'd heard of but had sort of forgotten about. I know one issue with initial sales was that many consumers were under the impression that the console only worked with Magnavox TVs. There's something interesting at play there about the relationship between branding and technological development, i.e., how market dynamics shape, help, and/or hinder technological development.

 

Thank you again!

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I assume you're most interested in the Odyssey 2? The original Odyssey came out a few years earlier and isn't as well known.

 

If you want more exposure there are more Odyssey 2 (aka Videopac) fans at http://videopac.nl/forum/index.php

 

If you don't want to join another forum I could cross post your info over there.

 

 

I'm pretty sure he meant the original Odyssey, which is interesting because it was the first home video game.
And it ultimately sold 200 000 units, which is as much as the Jaguar :P

 

Yep, Jim, I did mean the original Odyssey, but this is a really kind and generous offer on your part. I'm going to keep conducting interviews focusing on the Odyssey and VCS for now, but may take you up on this offer in the future. I'm really interested in the earliest consoles as a way into the moment of 'inception' and initial sociocultural impact of this new technology.

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I can relate the story of the Odyssey that I found years ago at a local estate sale, one that was still boxed. It was from the original owners. None of them were around, but a neighbor of theirs who also happened to be by saw me purchasing it and took notice of it, saying that it had been great fun to play with back when but eventually just got old and was probably stored away after a year or two. I suspect that the same sort of situation happened for a lot of Odyssey owners, as a surprisingly high percentage of the systems still have their original boxes, if Ebay listings are anything to go by.

 

yes, that is interesting... suggests there was an initial novelty factor that wore off quite quickly

 

 

Just like the Wii!

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Yep, Jim, I did mean the original Odyssey...

Despite you clearly stating in the thread title what you wanted, I still managed to confuse myself because the Odyssey 2 and VCS/2600 are more comparable systems. The original Odyssey is more of a direct comparison to Pong. I think their release dates were:

  • Odyssey 1972
  • Pong Arcade 1972
  • Pong Home 1975
  • Atari 2600 1977
  • Odyssey 2 1978

So if you want early video game players you may want to talk to Pong owners too. Regarding the original 1972 Odyssey I enjoyed the clip from "What's My Line" that's shown here. Having never seen a video game before they had to guess what the hosts were playing.

 

Is your project going to be released to the public when you're done?

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Despite you clearly stating in the thread title what you wanted, I still managed to confuse myself because the Odyssey 2 and VCS/2600 are more comparable systems. The original Odyssey is more of a direct comparison to Pong. I think their release dates were:

  • Odyssey 1972
  • Pong Arcade 1972
  • Pong Home 1975
  • Atari 2600 1977
  • Odyssey 2 1978

So if you want early video game players you may want to talk to Pong owners too. Regarding the original 1972 Odyssey I enjoyed the clip from "What's My Line" that's shown here. Having never seen a video game before they had to guess what the hosts were playing.

 

Is your project going to be released to the public when you're done?

 

Fair point about the Odyssey being basically a version of Pong - I suppose the overlays gave players a sense that they were actually playing different 'games'/sports (the marketing also emphasized this), but it was ultimately just pong.

Funny you posted that What's My Line clip - I was actually thinking of doing the same thing myself. I discuss that clip in my article, actually. It gets at the novelty of being able to manipulate the image on the screen.

 

It will be semi-public; it will end up in an academic journal, probably in about a year (academic writing / publishing are very slow).

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