Blast from the Past: Experience playing on a very first game console

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Playing video games is one of the most common types of pastimes in today’s day and age. While there are many setups which allow you to experience the joys of the virtual world, the most popular has to be Home Video Game Consoles. They are your game consoles that plug into your TV and be played by multiple people. Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox are the best-known examples of these.

Image: NextGenBase

With the popularity of console gaming rising by the day, most new gamers are unfamiliar with how it actually started. In fact, most of you, who’ve been gaming for a long time now might not even know of the first console to ever exist. However, there’s no shame in not knowing since it wasn’t really popular. And, besides, it was the later generations that caught on.

The first gaming console to start it all was called Magnavox Odyssey. Designed by Ralph Baer, it hit the consumer market in 1972. Predictably, the sales weren’t that great since, well, not a lot of people knew about it.

Albeit, you have to admit, the concept was revolutionary as it paved the way for modern consoles that succeeded it. However, unlike modern consoles, the only games available were “Ball and Paddle”, “Table Tennis” and “Volleyball”.

Image: Video Game Console Library

The graphics weren’t great either as the “ball” was basically a pixelated square. No one complained though, as the displays were the beefy curved-screen CRTs. If you wanted to enhance your gaming experience, there were screen filters available. Say if you were playing table tennis, the filter you’d get would replicate the lines on a table-tennis table.

Now I know some enthusiasts among you would love to get your hands on one to add to your collection. I don’t want to burst your bubble, but it won’t be easy getting your hands on an original piece in working condition.

Image : Video Game Console Library

However, hope isn’t all lost! On 15th January 2019, a team from the University of Pittsburg called Pitt Project announced that they have rebuilt this iconic console.

They named the project OdysseyNow and Professor Zachary Horton led it. He said, “People don’t actually play it anymore, which is unlike almost every other video game system,” while explaining how every other console system had a modern-day counterpart.

Students have recreated this piece of gaming history using their knowledge of circuit boards and 3D printing. The project took a total of 2 years. Other than the original, students are also developing their own games and controllers for the reincarnated Odyssey. The new games and elements that the Pitt Project has accumulated have been scanned at a high resolution.

Image: Wesa.fm

According to Horton, they will soon put up a website that has all the open-source materials for anyone to build the Odyssey themselves. he says, “One of our main missions is to give people around the world an opportunity to actually play this system that is otherwise very rare and very difficult to both find and get working. We want to make it accessible again”.

You can try out the Odyssey in April at OdysseyExpo held in Pittsburg. For those who won’t be able to make it, Pitt Project will make Let’s Play videos for all 28 original Odyssey games for everyone to see how the icon was like back in the day.

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