Single Project

1966 Odyssey

2010.1.70 1966 Odyssey


In 1951, a year after Magnavox began producing televisions in Greeneville, a young Loral Electronics engineer named Ralph E. Baer was exploring the potential of television technology. Why not make televisions interactive? Why not produce televisions you can actually play games on? Given the little encouragement, he put his ideas aside …. until 1966. Now working for Sanders Associates, a military electronics contractor, Baer and Bill Harrison, a radar specialist, took up the challenge once again. With the support of Sanders Associates, Baer and Harrison created the “Brown Box”, the prototype for the first generation of electronic gaming systems for the home. Magnavox – along with GE, RCA, Philco, Sears, and Sylvania – considered the possibilities.

Taking the lead, Magnavox licensed t he technology, patented by Baer, from Sanders Associates. Renamed “Skill-O-Vision”, Magnavox ran yearlong field tests that would result in the introduction of “Odyssey” in the early 1970’s. A major marketing push helped Magnavox sell 100,000 games in the first year. After that, however, sales declined. Magnavox tried to revitalize interest in “Odyssey” by releasing “Odyssey2” in 1978. By this time, however, Atari had captured the home market with its 2600 Video Computer System.