The Magnavox Odyssey ITL200- The Holy Grail

Well, what can i say, this is the big one.  I  believe the Odyssey to be the Holy Grail of retro gaming systems as I hope many of you will agree and has got to be a must for any serious collector.   The Magnavox Odyssey or Magnavox Odyssey ITL200 to use its proper title was the world’s first home video game console.  This console has to be the cream of my collection or should I say consoles due to me being lucky enough to source a run 1 and a run 2 model.  I will explain these differences further into the post.

The Magnavox Odyssey was the brainchild of  Ralph Baer who had started designing the system around 1966.  It was over the next two years due to Ralphs commitment, perceveirance and determination, he eventually had a working prototype that was finally finished in 1968.

The system was then first demonstrated on May 24, 1972 and later released in August of that year, predating the Atari Pong home consoles by some three years.

The magnavox was a pretty basic machine with simple components, it was so simple that it even run batteries.  As for the game play that was also quite basic as well.

A standard system came boxed with six diferent game cartridges and a wide range of accessories that was used with different games. Dice, screen overlays, game money and a assortment of casino type chips could be used depending on the game you wanted to play.  A game cartridge would be inserted into the front of the console and a plastic screen overlay would also be placed upon the tv screen.  A role play character i.e. the dot on the screen could be move around to simulate the character moving through a house or through a maze etc depending what was on the plastic screen overlay.

Getting a bit deeper, basically the electronic signals that are exchanged between the various parts (ball and players generators, sync generators, diodematrix, etc.) are binary.  The games and logic itself are implemented in DTL (Diode Transistor Logic), cartridge)) a common pre-TTL (Transistor Transistor Logic), digital design component using discrete transistors and diodes.

Unfortunately the odyssey lacked colour and soundcapability,  although the sound capability was corrected with the “Pong systems” of several years later.  This  including Magnavox’s own Odyssey-labeled Pong consoles.  Ralph did  proposed a sound extension for the  Magnavox in 1973, but the idea was unfortunately rejected.

The first prototype created by Ralph was most commonly referred to as the Brown Box and this unit is currently on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of AmericanHistory in Washington, D.C.


During the life span of the Magnavox Odyssey ITL200. Although there was only two models manufactured, there was five different variations of the magnavox odyssey produced.  They were known as RUN 1 & RUN 2 respectivly and were produced between 1972 and 1975 with only subtle differences.  Prices for these systems are rapidly on the up with a graded system by VGA ( Video Game Association) on ebay (03/01/2015) for the sum of £14,686.74.

 

MAGNAVOX ODYSSEY 1TL200 PRODUCTION BETWEEN 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.

Here are a fewMilestones by Ralph Baer:

1922 Ralph Baer was born in Pirmasens, Gremany on March 8.

1958 At the Brookhaven National Laboratories, William Higinbottom invented a computer type of

‘Tennis’

1968 Ralph Baer had completed a working prototype of the ‘Brown Box’.

1971 Ralph Baer files a patent application for his TV gaming technology on March 22.

1972 Magnavox finally licences the brown box under the name of Magnavox Odyssey.

1973 The Patent (# 3,728,480) is issued to Ralph Baer on April 17.

1977 Ralph Baer & Howard Morrison file patent application for microcomputer controlled game.

1977 The  name SIMON is registered, November 7 (Reg No 1211692).

1987 The handheld game SIMON is now manufactured & distributed by Milton Bradley.

1980 Patent # 4,207,087 (US) is issued on June 10.

2004 Ralph Baer is finally awarded ‘The National Medal of Technology’ for his achievements.

Some other historical facts  are that magnavox settled a court case against Atari, Inc. for patent infringement in Atari’s design of Pong, as it resembled the tennis game for the Odyssey.  Over the next decade, Magnavox sued other big companies such as Coleco, Mattel, Seeburg, Activision and either won or settled every suit outside court.

Ralph Baer also designed a golf type putting game, which used a golf ball fixed to the top of a joystick which the player would hit using a putter.  This idea interested Magnavox, and fortunately took the prototype for further testing.  The game was initially planned to be released as an add-on but ultimately it was never released.

Recently, Baer replicated his active cards and putting game this can be seen in the Museum of the Moving Images in New York.

The Odyssey was also designed to support an add-on peripheral, the first-ever commercial video ‘Light Gun’ called the Shooting Gallery.  This detected light from the TV screen, though pointing the gun at a nearby light bulb also registered as a “hit”.

What I find quite fascinating is a television commercial that was made featuring old “Blue Eyes”, Frank Sinatra, helped spark up sales in the fall.  Not surprisingly, close to one hundred thousand Odyssey’s were sold that season.  But by early 1973, Odyssey games were already being discounted.. Foreign sales took up some of the slack.

The Clones

For you retro gamers out here, this is where I think things get a little bit interesting (trying not to sound to geeky).  Considering the history behind this system, namely that it was the first ever games machine produced, similar versions or what is more commonly known as clones of the Magnavox ITL220 were produced.

One version was released in Spain just one year after the ITL200 was called the Overkal.  After a lot of research I am lead to believe that only 200 of these clones were produced making them extremely rare.  Like buses what happens, two turned up at once on E-bay, one was for sale on the 23-11-2012 for $1900.00 (£1174.22) that did not sell but the one that I wanted to buy but sadly missed sold on the 03-12-2012 for $560.00, Gutted!

The overkals main unit looked similar as did the controllers, the system was also battery powered.  Some of the main differences however were that instead of having a cartridge slot and cartridges to play various games, the overkal had a set of six buttons on the front of the unit to select the games, although there were 6 buttons it was possible to play seven games but that was all.  These games were Tennis, Football, Ski, Submarine, Cat & Mouse, Analogic, Roulette and Table Tennis.

overkal

Similar to the ITL200, seven different screen overlays in two different sizes were provided to enhance the game play although any text on them was written in Spanish.  The rifle that was later released for the ITL200 was not a feature on the overkal.  I think that the rifle was only released just before the overkal was released making it a little late to include.

The two controllers on the overkal were hardwired as appose to being able to plug them in or remove them on the ITL200.  Many say this this is a better feature due to inferior soldered joints but I have to disagree as I have never had a problem with either of my two systems.

My personal dislike is that after going to the trouble of cloning the ITL200 and removing the cartridge feature it would have been relatively easy and more cost effective to rework the internal motherboard.  On the ITL200 daughter boards and jumpers were initially used.  In the overkal the motherboard was slightly reworked using improved circuit board drawings, better connectors and fewer jumpers. It would have been easier to just use one main board with no jumpers.

The other version that i am aware of was released in Argentina called the Telematch de Panoramic.  This version looked quite different with the main unit being built into a carry case.  This version was powered by a mains supply only and featured just five simple games, these were Submarine, Squash, Volleyball, Tennis and Football with goalies.  Unlike the other two this systems this version did not use any of the accessories such as the screen overlays, cards, chips or the dice.

In 2009, video game website IGN named the Odyssey in the Top 25 video game consoles of all time.

For those of you like myself who enjoy the Retro Video gaming i’m probably just over half way through my journey of writing and displaying my gaming consoles i have collated over a long period of time, although there are still some classic and favorites i have held back.  I might be tempted also to give you an insight and write about some of the legendary programmers such as Jeff Minter from Llamasoft,  Ian Grey from Interceptor software and Rob Hubbard the legendary musical wizard whom wrote classic tracks like Monty on the run for the Commodore 64 along with many others if i get a good response. . .  Please feel free to let me know.


Written by: Tony Lyon

13 Comments Added

Join Discussion
  1. Tony Lyon May 18, 2011 |

    Hi, RUN 1 systems are quite hard to find in this country but they do tend to spring up on ebay from time to time. In the US they can range from £500.00 to £1000.00 and the postage would cost a small fortune. Over here a nice boxed complete system with the outer delivery box i recon would range for £300.00 to £700.00 depending on how low the serial number is. Hope this helps, Regards Tony

  2. Tony Lyon May 20, 2011 |

    Hi, RUN 1 systems are very hard to find in this country but if cost is no problem then the US, the place of its origin is definately the place to source a good on including the add-ons. Sometimes they do appear on E-bay as an uncomplete package and if your lucky it has been known for complete systems to appear on ebay once in a while. In the US they can range from £500.00 to £1000.00 but to ship the item over here costs a small fortune. I would definately say over here a nice boxed complete system with the outer delivery box would most cetainly range between £300.00 & £700.00 but the cost does really depend on the condition and how low the serial number is. I hope this answers your question and please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have, Regards Tony

  3. Harold Sis September 20, 2011 |

    Many thanks for today’s post, I can’t say I agree completely with it but I agree with it on the most part and I wholeheartedly applaud your effort in putting it so ably.

  4. “The Magnavox Odyssey ITL200- The Holy Grail”
    ended up being truly engaging and beneficial!
    Within modern society honestly, that is tough to deliver.
    I am grateful, Milford

  5. J Reed April 12, 2013 |

    Ihave a 1TL200 with acc. would like to sell if anyone want one.

  6. Leslie Wilson May 4, 2014 |

    I have a Run 1 in mint condition this unit was modified to work on the PAL system with a view to marketing it in the UK by the company I then worked for however it never materialized and I was sold the unit, it is in the original packaging shipped from JFK back in 1972 serial number 7710828, anyone interested in purchase can contact me by email.

  7. rori frazer April 12, 2016 |

    i have a run 1 oddyssey, mines is a 1tl200 and has everthing origeonal, i picked it up for an astonishing £30, a bargin holy grail, car boot sales rock. it has the box and everthing elese but… the wire has been hacked up and converted to display pal, does this effect the value?

  8. Suzy December 21, 2016 |

    Found the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey ITL200 I received as a birthday gift. Now that I am an old woman, it’s fun to read about it. I have fond memories of playing games with my family. That was many years ago. Can someone tell me how to find out about possibly selling it or what it may be worth?

  9. Tony Lyon January 6, 2017 |

    Hi Suzy, I’m glad that you enjoyed my post and that it brought back some great memories for you. These seem to be hard to price, it really does depend on a few issues. Which run do you have, 1 or 2 and the lower the serial number the better, this information can be found on the bottom of the console. Condition is also paramount! does it come with its outer shipping box? is the console complete? I’ve seen these in mint condition pass hands for as much as £8.000 with a VGA certificate. A reasonable condition unit between £300 – 500. I hope this helps. Regards Tony

  10. Tony Lyon January 6, 2017 |

    Hi Rori, Unfortunately it will have an effect on the value depending on who buys it. Everyone have different views on modding consoles, the die hard collectors like un-touched systems with sealed games that have never been played. Others don’t mind mild mods as they play the systems and would quite happily open a sealed game to play. It really does count on whom buys it.

  11. Anna February 28, 2017 |

    Hi Tony. Enjoyed your article. Do you have info to site on the Odyssey 2 console? I have one and a few games and am interested in their value. Thank you

  12. Tony Lyon March 2, 2017 |

    I don’t as of yet but I’ll be starting work in it soon. Regards Tony

  13. James Moody March 10, 2017 |

    I loved your article. It was very informative. I also have an Itl200 Bk12 serial#10836566 run 2 for sale. If interested email me

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