Magnavox released the first electronic game made use of a domestic television set in 1972, the Odyssey. One of the games included with this system, Tennis, became the inspiration behind Atari’s massively popular Pong coin-op. By 1975 both Magnavox and Atari were mass producing versions of Pong for the home market.
Magnavox was acquired by Dutch electronics giant Philips in 1974. In January 1977 they began working on a new electronic video game system based around re-programmable CPU technology. This followed the launch of the Fairchild Channel F television games system which was released in America in November 1976.
Following the release of Atari’s competing system in September 1977, Philips finally had their model ready for release in the European market for Christmas 1978. Unfortunately this initial batch had faulty power transistors and where recalled. By August 1979 the machine was finally ready for mass release. Called the Magnavox Odyssey-2 in America after the very first television game system, in Europe is was released under the Philips branding and called the Videopac G7000.
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Graphically both the Atari and Philips systems are an improvement on Fairchild’s 1976 system. The sprites on the Philips tend to be bigger and blockier than on the Atari system, on the other hand games on the Philips tend to be better animated and do not suffer from the flicker that effects many Atari games.
The joysticks are fairly similar to those supplied with the Atari. However where the sticks are detachable on the Atari and can be replaced with paddle controllers, on the Philips they are physically connected via a generous cable inside the machine itself.
The other noticeable difference, and certainly an interesting selling point for the Philips, is the inclusion of a touch membrane typewriter style keypad. Philips suggest this can allow their system to be used for more educational purposes rather than just a conduit for playing arcade like shooting and sports games at home (though it does this too).
Certainly the keyboard does help bridge the gap between a TV games system and a basic home computer. While limited in its application one of the first 10 cartridges released for the Videopac, number 9 in fact, allows users to experiment with programming their own games using the systems machine code language.