Television Gaming Consoles

TV Set

While stand-alone computerized arcade games began to appear by 1971, behind the scenes computerized game consoles which could be attached to home television sets were under development. Building upon the technology developed for stand-alone arcade games and yet to come computers for the home, a number of companies had their eyes on the possible market for electronic game machines which could be attached to the growing number of television sets in private homes.

Although television viewing habits were established by this time, some people found that sitting and passively watching what was on the screen was not enough. Television viewing was different than listening to the radio. One could work on a craft hobby while listening to the radio, knit, weave, cook, read, and do a myriad of other things - but with television, one's eyes had to be on the screen. Young people especially were bored with hours of television viewing and were an easy target for equipment which would enable them to physically interact with a television set.

Magnavox, a major United States producer and marketer of television sets for the home introduced some of the first color television sets in 1972. Along with these sets, Magnavox introduced what it called "The Odyssey Home Entertainment System". This was the first commercial television gaming console sold to the public for home use.

In 1977, Atari, a well known name in stand-alone arcade game machines, introduced "The Atari Video Computer System" which was its first gaming console sold to the public for home use. Drawing upon it's success with its arcade games, Atari modified the home system a number of times over the years and introduced a large number of arcade games for home console use.

Building upon Atari's success, a number of other companies such as RCA and Coleco began to develop and market gaming consoles to attach to a home television set for interactive gaming. None of these seem to have become as successful as Atari, and most of these did not have a long life in the market place.

Eventually, the distinction between television gaming consoles and home microcomputers began to blur, since home microcomputers at a very early stage enabled users to play a range of games without the need to connect the system to a television set. This trend eventually led to the production of the range of dedicated microcomputer home gaming machines such as Nintendo and the like.

The Museum collection includes a number of television gaming consoles and related equipment. To view these devices and read about the games they enabled people to play, click on one of the names in the list below:

Last update March 17, 2010