Magnavox Odyssey

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Magnavox Odyssey
Manufacturer Magnavox
Generation First generation
Release date 1972 (NA)
1973 (UK)
1974 (EU/JP)
Media type ROM cartridges
Input controller 2 paddles
Successor Magnavox Odyssey²

Magnavox released the first video game console, the Odyssey, in 1972, predating the Pong machines by three years. However, the games were all included on the circuitry; the cartridges were nothing more than a series of jumpers to select the game. When the Fairchild Channel F and the Atari 2600 released in 1976 and 1977 respectively, which both featured programmable ROM cartridges, Magnavox responded with the Odyssey2 (also known as the Philips Videopac G7000 or the Philips Odyssey). While inferior graphically and with a smaller library than it’s competitors, the Odyssey2 managed to last until the crash of 1983.

Sales of the console were hurt by poor marketing by Magnavox retail stores, in addition to many consumers being led to believe that the Odyssey would work only on Magnavox televisions. For that reason, most later "Pong" games had an explanation on their box saying "Works on any television set, black and white or color".

The Odyssey brought the arcade experience into the home and helped pave the way for the next generation of home video games such as the 1970s icon Pong. It demonstrated that the home console system would work and that there was a viable market.

Technical specifications[edit]

Ralph Baer, often considered the "father of video games" designed the Odyssey. Magnavox released it in the fall of 1972, but Baer had already created a functional prototype a few years earlier. The game console looks similar to today's games, but its functions were not. To play a game, one inserted a circuit card (similar to a game cartridge) into the console. The card did not contain the actual game program, though. Rather, it altered the signal path in the machine to change the light output coming through the television screen. Depending on the game, the light, which showed through the overlay, could be a race car, a baseball, a hockey puck, etc.

Different games could be played on the same circuit card by simply changing the acetate television screen overlay, which simulated background color graphics, and by using a different set of accompanying accessories: game boards and pieces, scorecards, chips, maps, etc. In reality, games were mostly played with the accessories instead of the simple graphics on the screen. In that way the Odyssey was very similar to traditional board games. The Odyssey and its later versions did not have sound capability.

The Odyssey originally included twelve games, with eleven more games and a shooting gun attachment marketed shortly thereafter. Sales were solid but the Odyssey was not a major hit. A major reason was that some consumers believed that the Odyssey only worked with Magnavox televisions, which was not the case. Production ceased in 1975 after 350,000 systems were sold.

Power: The system uses 6 batteries (original batteries were branded Eveready) or AC.


The model, serial and RUN numbers are written on the under side of the unit. The RUN number stands for the production run, the US model is either 1TL200BLAK, 1TL200BK12 or 1TL200BL99. Only specimens sent back to Magnavox to have the warranty renewed had their model updated to 1TL200BL99 (the original BLAK serial, if sticked inside the unit, was left, and the new serial was sticked over the original under the unit). Serial numbers start from 06xxxxxx to 11xxxxxx although the 0 was not printed. All of these models differ by small electronic changes, and sometimes with minor variations of game accessories

Magnavox Odyssey 1TL200 production beetween 1972 and 1975
Model RUN Differenciation
1TL200BLAK 1 Original model made in 1972 only.
1TL200BLAK 2 Second run of original model made in 1973 and 1974.
1TL200BK12 2 Second model made between mid-1974 and fall 1975.
Late specimens have a Magnavox logo on front side.
ODYSSEE 5887 05 01 NONE Original German Export Model made in 1973.
Comes with only 10 games, translated in German.
YE7100BK11/13 ANY Export Model made in 1974.
Comes with only 10 games, trilingual playing cards.

To identify the exact date of production follow this guide here.

Dedicated Odysseys[edit]

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. More models followed shortly.

Dedicated Odysseys differences
Model Particularities
Odyssey 100
Odyssey 100.jpg

The Odyssey 100 dedicated console was released in 1975. It uses a multi-chip discrete component design, which makes it much simpler than all later dedicated consoles Magnavox would eventually release. Magnavox already had a single-chip design in mind that year, but wanted to have a product they could release immediately if Texas Instruments, the supplier of their single video game chips, was unable to deliver in a timely manner.

The Odyssey 100 was designed around four Texas Instruments chips. It has two games (Tennis and Hockey); the tennis game was the inspiration for Pong. Neither game had on-screen scoring and the system used a crude buzzer for sound. The Odyssey 100 is powered by either six "C" batteries or a 9 volt AC adapter. Each player had three knobs for horizontal movement, vertical movement and ball trajectory adjustment ("English").

Odyssey 200

The Odyssey 200 dedicated console was released in 1975. Using the TI single-chip design, the console improved on the Odyssey 100 in several areas. In addition to Tennis and Hockey, the Odyssey 200 featured a third game variation called "Smash". The Odyssey 200 was also the first video game console to feature either two-player or four-player options.[1] The Odyssey 200 added non-digital on-screen scoring (a white rectangle moved one space to the right each time a player scored a point). Like the Odyssey 100, the Odyssey 200 is powered by either six "C" batteries or a 9 volt AC adapter and uses the same game control knobs as its predecessor.

Odyssey 300

The Odyssey 300 dedicated console was released in 1976. Unlike Magnavox's previous two dedicated console products, the Odyssey 300 was meant to compete directly with the Coleco Telstar. Like the Telstar, the Odyssey 300 uses the AY-3-8500 chip as its logic and was among the first dedicated consoles to use a single IC chip as the focus of its design rather than multiple computer chips or transistor-transistor logic. The 300 has the same three games as the Odyssey 200; unlike the 200, the Odyssey 300 console has three difficulty levels: Novice, Intermediate and Expert.

Odyssey 400

The Odyssey 400 dedicated console was released in 1976. The 400 is essentially the same as the Odyssey 200 with automatic serve and on-screen digital scoring features added. The console plays the same three games as the 200 and has the same three game control knobs. An additional Texas Instruments chip was used to implement on-screen scoring.

Odyssey 500

The Odyssey 500 dedicated console was released in 1976. The console is essentially the same as the Odyssey 400 with one unique addition: instead of using vertical line "paddles", the console has special graphics that actually resemble simplified versions of human players. Three different graphics were used for the three different game variations; Magnavox marketed the 500 as having a fourth game (Soccer) by using the squash player graphics with the hockey playing field.

Odyssey 2000

The Odyssey 2000 dedicated console was released in 1977. The 2000 was basically an updated version of the Odyssey 300. Like the 300, the Odyssey 2000 uses the AY-3-8500 single-chip design (which is also used in the Odyssey 3000). The Odyssey 2000 uses a single rotating knob for game control instead of the three knobs used by earlier Magnavox dedicated video game consoles. In addition to the Tennis, Hockey and Squash ("Smash") game variations, the 2000 adds the Practice variation of one-player squash.

Odyssey 3000

The Odyssey 3000 dedicated console was released in 1977. The 3000 features the same four game variations as the Odyssey 2000. With the Odyssey 3000, Magnavox abandoned its old case design with one with a more contemporary style. The console itself is more angular and less rounded; two flat buttons are used for the serve and reset functions and the console settings knobs were reduced in size. The Odyssey 3000 uses a flat circular knob for selecting different games and unlike all previous Odyssey dedicated video game consoles, the 3000 features detachable game paddles (without any fire buttons).

Odyssey 4000

Magnavox concluded their line of dedicated video game consoles with the Odyssey 4000. The Odyssey 4000 dedicated console was released in 1977. Based around the AY-3-8600 single-chip design, the 4000 features a total of eight game variations based on Tennis, Hockey, Squash and Practice. Unlike the Odyssey 3000, the 4000 featured detachable joysticks. The AY-3-8615 chip enabled the Odyssey 4000 to display color instead of black and white graphics.

Odyssey 5000 (prototype)

This console should contain two chips, National Semiconductor's MM57106 with 7 games (same as Odyssey 2100) and Signetics' CR861 (aka MUGS) with a helicopter and a tank game.


The released cartridges and their games. All games came with two overlays.

  1. Table Tennis
  2. Ski ,Simon Says, Fun Zoo, Percepts
  3. Tennis, Analogic, Baseball, Hockey, Football (Passing and Kicking), Soccer (1)
  4. Cat and Mouse, Football (running), Haunted House, Invasion (1)
  5. Submarine, Invasion (2), Soccer (2), Wipeout
  6. Roulette, States, Invasion (3)
  7. Volleyball
  8. Basketball, Handball
  9. Shootout, Dogfight, Prehistoric Safari
  10. Shooting Gallery
  11. It was originally planned for the Basketball game. For unknown reasons, Magnavox dropped the cartridge and used cartridge #8 instead.
  12. Interplanetary Voyage
  • In addition to the 12 games provided with the Odyssey, customers could purchase extra games, although only ten extra games were released. Each game box has a reference starting with 982329 and followed by a number between 1 and 15. Because each box has a unique number, it is believed that 15 boxes were planned. Boxes referenced 982329-8 to 982329-12 are still unknown, and could have been reserved for games planned but never released.
  • The export version of the Odyssey contained a SOCCER game, which replaced the FOOTBALL game provided with US Odyssey consoles. It is not known whether this game was sold separately in the USA, though no specimens were found outside of export Odyssey consoles.