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Smart Computing Computing Encyclopedia

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Smart Computing magazine is releasing a Computing Encyclopedia in 4 volumes. A 5th volume is called Personalities In Computing. Volumes 1 & 2 are on newstands now. Volume 2 covers E-L and Volume 1 covers A-D. 1 1/2 pages are devoted to Atari, Atari VCS, and Atari computers.


This volume also has entries for Centipede and Commodore.

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Originally posted by Albert:

How in-depth is this Computing Encylopedia?


It's pretty comprehensive but it's written for ordinary folks who don't have a degree in computer science or know much about computers.


Oh, after reading through volume 1 last night, I also found listings for Activision and Amiga.

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  • 2 weeks later...


Originally posted by rolenta:

I received Volumes 2 & 3 today. Just thumbing through and I found entries for Electronic Arts, Magnavox Odyssey, Nintendo, and Playstation.


Ack! I forgot to pick up the first volume! I hope I can still find it! Thanks for the heads up, once again.



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I scanned in the Magnavox entry and sent it to Ralph Baer. Since I already had it on my computer, here is what it looks like to give you some kind of idea the level of detail in these entries.


Also Albert, all you have to do is buy any one of the Encyclopedias in the store. On the first page is a coupon that you could use to buy the remaining 4 volumes and a slipcase for $24 directly from the publisher.


Magnavox Odyssey


Most people would guess Atari introduced the first home video-game console, but that distinction really belongs to the Magnavox Odyssey, which was designed during the late 1960s and introduced in 1972-three years before Atari’s Home Pong console hit the market and five years before the even more successful Atari Video Computer System debuted.


Ralph Baer, who had been trying to convince companies to let him create a mass-produced home videogame console since 1951, designed the Odyssey. His original idea was to build a gaming system directly into a television set, but by the mid-1960s his design had changed to a self-contained system that could connect to any existing TV set. In 1966 Baer and his engineer friend Bob Tremblay assembled a prototype unit that could display two dots on a TV monitor that were controlled by players. One player tried to make their dot touch the other players dot to win, so Baer dubbed the game "Fox and Hounds" and showed it to the Director of Research and Design at Sanders Electronics, the company where he and Tremblay worked. The game showed promise, and the foundations for what would become the Odyssey were laid as Baer and the rest of his team received funding to improve the prototype.


By the end of 1966 Baer’s prototype contained several games, including the first home console version of Pong, and had several accessories such as a rifle that could shoot light pulses at the television for shooting games and a tape recorder for playing audio through the television’s speakers. Baer attempted to sell the device to many consumer electronics companies (Sanders dealt mainly in military contracts) but didn’t find a buyer until 1970, when Magnavox agreed to refine, manufacture, and market the console. Within two years the engineers at Magnavox had finalized the design, and the Odyssey went into production. The first Odyssey systems retailed for $100, and Magnavox actually did produce the light rifle, which sold for an additional $25.


Magnavox’s final design made many variations to Baer’s prototype. Instead of using a switch that let players select from one of the 21 built-in games, the unit came with circuit boards that were plugged into the console to activate the associated game. Separate cards also were available for an additional cost that would enable even more game variations. Baer had originally planned to include color graphics in the final version, but Magnavox instead opted for colored plastic sheets with game fields and other pictures printed on them. These sheets were laid on top of the television screen, and the dots produced by the console shined through the transparent and translucent portions of these overlays.


The Odyssey came with two controllers that were much different from the joysticks and paddles later consoles standardized. The Odyssey controllers had one knob on the left that controlled a dot’s horizontal movement and another knob on the right that controlled its vertical movement. Both knobs could be turned simultaneously to move the dot in curved or diagonal lines, and many games required that players move the on-screen dot along preprinted paths without deviating from the assigned course. The Odyssey also came with a number of accessories, including poker chips, fake money, dice, and other parts that were used to play some of the included games, such as Roulette. Additional games that appeared for the Odyssey came with their own television overlays and accessories, combining board game conventions with electronic video games.


More than 100,000 Odysseys were sold within the first year of its introduction, but the system eventually lost out to competing products from companies such as Atari, which were much more successful in marketing their wares. Production of the Odyssey was halted in 1973. Magnavox also sold a number of Odyssey-like systems that only included Pong and in 1978 attempted to break into the market again with the Odyssey2. This machine was much more powerful than the original Odyssey and could generate its own complete graphics aed sounds without having to rely on television overlays or audio accessories. It used standard joystick controllers, had game cartridges instead of built-in games, and came with a complete keyboard. Magnavor even released a speech synthesis accessory for the console that let games "talk." More than 1 million Odyssey2 systems were sold in the North America by 1983, and the console also was popular in Europe, but it didn't even come dose to matching the sales success of the Atari VCS (also known as the Atari 2600) or Intellivision consoles. An Odyssey3 was developed but very few were produced due to the video game crash in the early 1980.

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