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I purchased a used 1979 Odyssey 2 videogame/computer system for the first time. Some positives and negatives about the system


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My very first brand new videogame system, was the ColecoVision back around August of 1982. Then in October of 1983 I purchased the expansion module #3 ADAM computer that turned my ColecoVision into not only a high-end computer but a more advanced videogame system that played Supergames. Every videogame and computer system has its plusses and minuses. The ColecoVision/ADAM ended up going out of production in January of 1985. It was not until October 1985 in North America that a more powerful videogame system called the Nintendo Entertainment System was able to beat graphics and sound performance of the out of production ColecoVision/ADAM.  


Back in February of 1979 the Magnavox Odyssey 2 was released in North America. The Odyssey 2 was both a videogame system and a computer. The Odyssey 2 had a Computer Intro cartridge that allowed one to write programs on the computer and run those programs, however many people do not consider the Odyssey 2 to be a computer since there is no input and output jacks to store and retrieve homemade programs like what is found on the ATARI 400 and 800 computers that were released later that year in November of 1979. There were 4 million ATARI computers sold, 2 million ColecoVision’s, 500,000 Coleco ADAM’s, and the Odyssey 2 was popular enough to sell 2 million systems.


I purchased a used 1979 Odyssey 2 videogame/computer system for the first time just fairly recently in October of 2020. My first encounter with the Odyssey 2 was in a retail store back in 1979, it had a fancy keyboard when compared to 1979 keyboards, however almost every retail store I visited where I lived, the Odyssey 2 system was not on display and also not hooked up to a TV. I remember back in or around 1980 that the ATARI 2600 and Intellivision were the two main videogame systems that were hooked up to TV’s in retail stores and getting most of the attention. The 1977 Atari 2600 had better graphics then the Odyssey 2 (2 million Odyssey 2 systems sold) and the Atari 2600 sold around 30 million videogame consoles. The 1979 Intellivision which was more powerful then both the Odyssey 2 and Atari 2600 sold over 3 million videogame consoles. While most people are disappointed in the videogame graphics quality of the Odyssey 2, it does have some videogames that are better than the May 1982 Arcadia 2001 videogame system. While some of the videogames are lacking in detail when it comes to graphics quality on the Odyssey 2, the two big advantages of the Odyssey 2 over most videogame systems including the ATARI 2600 and Arcadia 2001, is that the Odyssey 2 has a computer keyboard and a voice add on module (However the computer keyboard on the Odyssey 2 is not as good of quality as the state of the art Coleco ADAM keyboard, and also the Odyssey 2 has no expansion interface so the cartridge slot is used to attach hardware upgrades like the Odyssey 2 voice module). One big advantage of the Intellivision Voice Synthesis module is that the voices generated from the Intellivoice are all mixed in with the main audio coming out of the TV speaker. The big negative of the Odyssey 2 is that most likely because of some technical issues, the audio from the Odyssey 2 voice module is not automatically mixed in with the audio that is generated from the main videogame console. Therefore 100% of the time when using a special game cartridge that is voice enhanced one has to manually adjust the volume on the voice module so that the dedicated speaker on the voice module is at the correct level.  Therefore, every time one adjusts the voice on the TV speaker they also need to turn up or down the voice that is generated from the built-in speaker from the voice module. It is too bad that the Odyssey 2 system was not able to make a voice module that internally mixed the audio just like the Intellivoice was able to do for the Intellivision videogame system. While most the programs that are voice enhanced for the Odyssey 2  sound like a computer generated voice, there are some game cartridges like K.C.’s Krazy Chase that has a excellent natural human voice quality that is really amazing for that period of time. The Odyssey 2 voice module was known as a major enhancement that people with an ATARI 2600 and many other videogame systems at that period of time could not hear voices.


The Odyssey 2  videogame system started off correctly by offering on its first generation Odyssey 2 consoles DB9 detachable hand controllers that were painted silver. These were 8 direction joysticks with a fire button. So far I have never seen a defective Odyssey 2 joystick (even though they most likely exist). I have purchased many used videogame consoles and controllers like the ColecoVision, Intellivision, and others, which usually have controllers that wear out and are not as reliable as some systems. There is something special about the Odyssey 2 controllers, they seem to have a very good build quality and the several that I have used that are around 40 years old work perfectly fine with no flaws at all. However, what is really disappointing is that the second generation hand controllers (painted black) that shipped with the second generation of the Odyssey 2, are hardwired to the Odyssey 2 motherboard which makes it very difficult to replace the controller if the controller or cable becomes damaged. The Odyssey 2 hardware engineers should have stayed with the first generation detachable DB9 style of controllers (one has to detach or connect the DB9 controllers when the system is off, since while the system was on a lock up would occur when messing with the two DB9 ports).  Another negative is that the Odyssey 2 first generation systems that do have the silver controllers with DB9 ports, use a proprietary wiring method so that only Odyssey 2  controllers work on an Odyssey 2 videogame system. The Odyssey 2  system would have been a more popular system if all the Odyssey 2  consoles had DB9 jacks that were 100% compatible with the ATARI 2600 controllers. However maybe Atari would not have liked Magnavox making the Odyssey 2 to be compatible with standard Atari joysticks. There were a massive amount of third party Atari 2600 controllers being made, it is disappointing that the Odyssey 2 was not designed to be compatible with standard Atari 2600 controllers. Then they made the Odyssey 2  system worse by getting rid of the DB9 controller ports and making all second generation Odyssey 2 systems controllers hardwired to the motherboard.   


Another bad decision by the Odyssey 2 engineers was to make some of the consoles using a 2.1mm power plug and other consoles using a 3.5mm power plug. All other brands of videogame and computer systems that I know of always used the same exact style of power plug if it was the same exact model number, and would never change plug size for the same exact model number of videogame or computer system. For some reason some Odyssey 2 videogame systems ship with a 3.5mm power plug and others ship with a 2.1mm size power plug. The AC voltage and current draw was exactly the same and the only difference was the power plug size. However, when consumers lost their power supply or needed a replacement for some reason, the consumer had to determine if they need to purchase the 3.5mm version of the power supply or the 2.1mm version of the power supply. The latest versions of the Odyssey 2 videogame system power supply has both a 2.1mm and 3.5mm plug at the end of the power cord so that only one power supply needed to be made instead of two separate power supplies. My point is that in the ideal world all Odyssey 2 systems should have been made with the exact same power plug size.


The first generation of Odyssey 2 consoles uses a custom size RF plug that only works with the special first generation of Odyssey 2 TV game switches. One positive feature of the second generation Odyssey 2  systems, is that they used a standard male RCA plug at the end of the RF cable that almost all other systems in the 70’s and 80’s used. The advantage of systems like the Intellivision and ColecoVision is that there is a female RF jack on back of the consoles, which allows one to easily replace the RF cable with a standard RCA to RCA jack with the length of cable that a person wants to use. However on 100% of all Odyssey 2 consoles the RF cable is hardwired to the console, and one has to take apart the console to replace the RF cable. One big negative of 100% of the Odyssey 2 consoles is that the RF channel 3 and 4 selector switch is located inside the console, therefore one needs to take the console apart to flip the RF switch to either channel 3 or 4. This is unheard of and even the old 1977 Atari 2600 system along with all other systems that I know of have the RF switch on the outside of the console.


There are people that complain that the Odyssey 2 has a bad RF picture and sound quality. However I found that the 1979 Odyssey 2 console has a excellent quality RF modulator. The problem people normally are having is with the old RG-59 22 gauge unshielded cable causing the problem. I opened up one of the Odyssey 2 consoles and replaced the RF cable with a short shielded cable connected to a gold plated female RCA jack (see attached pictures). This allows me to connect any RCA to RCA shielded RG6 18 gauge cable between 3 to 100 feet in length with good picture and sound quality results. As far as I am aware at the time of this post their exists no third party native HDMI, component video, or S-Video upgrade kits for the Odyssey 2 . However their exists native RGB and composite video upgrade kits for the Odyssey 2.  Overall I found that the Odyssey 2  has a excellent build quality and is very easy to open up and work on when compared to other systems. There are very few Odyssey 2 systems that are actually defective since the Magnavox build quality of the controllers, motherboard, keyboard, and other components after around 41 years was very reliable. Compared to opening up the CoelcoVision/ADAM, the Odyssey 2 is super easy for the average person to get open and to close back up.


My 1982 ColecoVision videogame system and my 1983 Coleco ADAM outperforms the Odyssey 2 in both graphics and sound quality. The ColecoVision had a few third party voice games without any voice module, and the ADAM had a third party Eve Speech module that improved voice capabilities. The 1979 Intellivision had better video and sound when compared to the Odyssey 2, and the Intellivision could also speak with a add on voice unit. Even the Atari 2600 videogame system had better graphics quality when compared to the Odyssey 2. When I played Football, Baseball and many other sports and action games, the ColecoVision sports games and action games are much better. Some of the videogames for the Odyssey 2 system grew on me after using them for a while this month, like Invaders from Hyperspace was nice and K.C. Munchkin was unique. In fact, Philips and Magnavox ended up being sued by ATARI and Midway for K.C. Munchkin and was ordered by the court to pull the videogame from store shelfs and to stop manufacturing K.C. Munchkin because the maze game was too similar to the Pacman videogame. I never felt like I was playing Pacman, since the K.C. Munchkin is very different then Pacman. If one does not eat all the dots on the screen before being killed, the maze starts over. K.C, Munchkin does have better graphics and sound when compared to the original ATARI 2600 version of Pacman. However, the Atari 2600 version of MS. Pacman and Junior Pacman is much better then K.C. Munchkin. To be fair one has to compare the exact same videogame title that was released on the Atari 2600 to the exact same title released on the Odyssey 2 to say for sure which system is better. The problem is in North America there was no third-party support for the Odyssey 2 system, which made it impossible to compare exact same videogame titles. The Odyssey 2 has more limited color palette when compared to the Atari 2600. The big advantage of the Odyssey 2 was its keyboard (but no arrow keys or backspace as far as I can tell), and the voice module was a nice feature over most videogame systems at the time. With the keyboard it allowed Odyssey 2 users to use unique education games, etc. However even though the Odyssey 2 system was not as popular as some other systems, it was popular enough to sell as many systems as the ColecoVision (2 million sold). Also I liked the build quality of the 41 year old Odyssey 2  system with perfect operating controllers after 41 years old.


As I spent more time with the Odyssey 2 system, the voice module enhanced cartridges started to grow on me. I have not tried every videogame for the Odyssey 2, just over a dozen so far. However, the 1982 “You Type It Talks” cartridge was very unique”. You place the cartridge into the Odyssey 2 voice module cartridge slot and just about any paragraph you type, the Odyssey 2 system will read back in a computerized voice. Back in 1982 this would have been really unique for a kid or adult to play with. This is a unique program that would require both a computer keyboard and voice module on any other computer system of that day in order to duplicate the performance of the “You Type It Talks” cartridge. Then I inserted the sequel to K.C. Munchkin called K.C. Krazy Chase, and was amazed at the graphics and sound, especially the sound. For the first time while using the Odyssey 2 I was hearing actual human quality speech from the K.C. Krazy Chase videogame and not some computerized voice. The Odyssey 2 does have some amazing voice quality, just try K.C. Krazy Chase with the voice module attached. But I have to say that the talking in K.C. Krazy Chase can sometimes be too much, and at times too much voice activity in my opinion. What ended up being one of my most favorite videogames for the Odyssey 2 system that I have tried so far is called “Attack of the Timelord”, which is also voice enhanced. Attack of the Timelord has a nice balance and does not over use the voice speaking technology. Attack of the Timelord is unique and its different then Space Invaders and different then Galaxian or Gorf. Attack of the Timelord while the graphics are lacking, the speed and game play is very fast like a modern videogame. Attack of the TimeLord is one of my favorite videogames on the Odyssey 2, amazing speed, and quality that I have not seen on the Atari 2600 and Intellivision systems (Maybe such a game could be done for other systems, but that is the problem when one does not have the exact same titles to play on each videogame system, it makes it harder to determine the quality of the system). The 1979 Odyssey 2  computer/videogame system was a unique experience, and while the graphics and sound quality are lacking when compared to the ColecoVision/ADAM, the ability to have a keyboard and voice module was two of the Odyssey 2  systems major strengths. This is why they were at least able to sell around 2 million consoles. For the Odyssey 2 system to be more popular they needed to have some third party support which they never received in North America, and they needed to have some arcade classics. It is my understanding that Turtles was the only official arcade game released for the Odyssey 2 in North America, however at the time of this writing I have never played or seen it. I heard that in Europe that Parker Brothers released many arcade ports for the Odyssey 2 like Qbert, Popeye, Super Cobra, and Frogger. Also there was a completed Tutankham videogame for the Odyssey 2 in Europe but it was never officially released.  However looking online the Atari 2600 version of Popeye and Frogger has better graphics and sound quality when compared to the Odyssey 2.  The Odyssey 2 system in the ideal world should have been designed to have just as good of graphics and sound as the Atari 2600 or better yet should have been designed to be better than the Intellivision. They had the advantage of a full size keyboard and voice module, but they needed to standardize their controller ports, power ports, and RF ports instead of offering two different versions. While there are some unique videogames for the Odyssey 2, I still prefer the quality of both the Intellivision and Atari 2600. Even the Atari 2600 had better overall videogames. The 1979 Odyssey 2 could have been a more popular system if it would had had more support and one of the reasons it did not have more support is because overall many of the videogames made for that system did not have graphics and sound quality as good as other systems like the Atari 2600. While I have not played the Parker Brothers Odyssey 2 arcade ports from Europe, one can clearly see from online videos that the Atari 2600 Parker Brother titles are better quality for graphics and sound. The Odyssey 2 like the Atari 2600 and Intellivision system is lacking an expansion module interface to add more memory, sound capabilities, unless the cartridge port is used to expand the system. The 1982 ColecoVision was unique in its ability to be able to expand the system by using the front expansion module interface, where as most all other videogame systems of its time required the use of the cartridge slot to add new improved hardware to the videogame console.  


People will always remember the classic exclusive videogames like Attack of the Timelord and others that are only offered on the Odyssey 2. The Odyssey 2 build quality and the fairly easy ways to open and close the console for repairs is nice. I do prefer the Odyssey 2 system over the Arcadia 2001, since there are some nice videogames that make use of the keyboard and voice module. Every system has its pluses and minus, and the Odyssey 2 system was as popular as the ColecoVision in terms of overall sells, but unlike the ColecoVision, the Odyssey 2 ended up being a less popular videogame systems with no third party support in North America. However in the 21st Century one of the reasons why the ColecoVision/ADAM still has a lot of third party support, is because people are starting to understand that the ColecoVision/ADAM was the best quality videogame system that was similar in some ways to its more powerful replacement called the Nintendo Entertainment System (Both the NES and Amiga computer were more powerful in late 1985 when compared to the CoelcoVision/ADAM which went out of production in January of 1985).  



Gold plated RF jack view 1.JPG

Gold plated RF jack view 2.JPG

Edited by HDTV1080P
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  • 3 weeks later...

Another advantage of the ColecoVision system, is that if one turns the videogame console on without a cartridge, they get a nice ColecoVision logo screen that says “ColecoVision: Turn Game Off Before Inserting Cartridge or Expansion Module”. For some reason almost all 70’s and 80’s videogame systems including the Odyssey 2 require a cartridge to be inserted to get a image on the screen. 

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One negative feature with the Odyssey 2 is that all or most game cartridges have a “select game” screen that always is on the screen until one makes a selection. Therefore, if someone were to turn on the Odyssey 2 and leave the cartridge “select game” screen on the screen for 2 hours or more on a CRT or other type of screen that has burn in issues, one could damage the display with the “select game” words burned on the screen. Magnavox should have made the “select game”  screen to disappear after a few minutes or go through some other type of screen saver mode where the image shifts or fades. As long as one makes a selection at the “select game”  menu, then after that the screen saver mode will work for all the game cartridges, however one does not want to get busy with a phone call or other activity for several hours and leave that “select game” screen up or they could risk burn in issues on certain displays. The ColecoVision/ADAM, Atari 2600 and almost all other systems have some type of burn in protection for displays by using screen saver techniques for all games.

Edited by HDTV1080P
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