In a child’s room these days there is a computing power – in the form of computers, games consoles, MP3 players and mobile phones – that forty years ago all the computers in the world even put together could not match.
Our childhood was more or less much “mechanical” back then. At the beginning of the seventies of the last century, I therefore only knew computers from science fiction films. There they were big cabinets that rattled, blinked and in front of which large magnetic tapes rotated. Nobody wanted to have something like that in the living room – what could you do with it?
But this changed abruptly during this decade. Even if the computing power, storage capacity and prices did not yet permit serious applications for private households, i.e., Word and Excel were a long way off, the key to technical development was once again to be found in people’s play instinct. The first tele-games conquered the market.
Preface: This is a revised and greatly expanded version of an article that was first published on this site, then on Spiegel online and finally in Retro magazine. I guess that someone who didn’t own a G7000 as a child can’t quite understand what drives me to keep „reaming“ this article. In my opinion, the G7000 is an fascinating gaming system that offered an ingenious concept but suffered from too little money being put into its development.
Who invented it?
Although Atari has become firmly established in people’s minds as the inventor of videogames, it was actually the US company Magnavox that launched the first game console under the name „Odyssey“ in 1972. These devices, like „Pong“, are referred to as „first-generation video games“, the forefather of which, the so-called „Brown Box“, saw the light of day as early as 1968. The further development of this console was simply called „Home TV Games“. These games were only prototypes, not devices for sale. It was not until 1970 that Mangnavox licensed these games and, as mentioned, brought the first console onto the market in 1972. Magnavox has belonged to the Dutch Philips N.V. since 1974.
Ralph Baer, my hero!
The Brown Box, this small wooden box filled with transistors and simple circuits, was developed by the German-born Ralph H. Baer (winner of the „National Medal of Technology“) in the USA. We summarise: Ralph H. Baer, not Nolan Bushnell, is the inventor of video games. Yes, well, that’s not really true either, because there was already „Tennis for Two“ by William Higinbotham in 1958. The game consisted of an analogue computer and a small oscilloscope. It had the handy size of five metres. On the other hand, „Tennis for Two“ showed the game from the side! You get an idea of the game from the simulator. Yes, that’s right, also in 1961 came Steve Russel’s „Spacewar!“. For this game, you needed a wickedly expensive PDP-1 and an air traffic control radar screen. You can play it here
! These games were indeed milestones. But unfortunately they only ran on hardware that no ordinary mortal could ever afford. The „Brown Box“ and the „Home TV Games“ may have been simpler, but they were absolutely affordable and practical in concept. So let’s credit Mr. Baer with the success for the commercial realisation of video games.
In the years following the release of the Odyssey consoles, Magnavox was awarded a total of $700,000 through numerous court cases. A nice dough, because they couldn’t do anything against the market leader Atari. Sales of the Odyssey and Odyssey2 fell far short of expectations, especially in the USA. In total, about 1.3 million consoles were sold.This is just a brief overview of the history of early video games. Things got interesting with the second generation consoles. For Magnavox threatened to kick the almost finished Odyssey2 into the dustbin. Had this happened, this article would not exist. And I probably would never have ended up in IT!
Ralph H. saves my G7000
In the mid-1970s, Ralp Baer pursued some ideas on how to make videogames more interactive. The „Telesketch“ system was supposed to allow the player to freely move elements in the game – thus corresponding to a kind of level editor or a primitive drawing programme.
But more serious applications also came to Baer’s mind. He was particularly taken with the idea of combining a video „game“ with a video recorder to make interactive educational films possible. He offered many of these ideas and prototypes to Magnavox unsuccessfully. One could almost speak of stealing ideas, but it is interesting that the concept of the planned new video game console „Odyssey2“ included some of these possibilities in the teaching area.
Ralph Baer, however, was particularly annoyed that Magnavox did not want to invest enough money to be able to stand up to the market-dominating Atari VCS. Disappointed, Baer stopped following the further development of the console for the time being.
On 2 August 1977, the engineer received a call from his old acquaintance at Magnavox, John Helms, informing him that Magnavox was planning to discontinue the Odyssey2 project because they feared major production problems. He asked Mr Baer to come to a meeting at the production site in Tennessee on the tenth of the month to meet him. There was no question that the father of the first Odyssey should not miss this appointment!
The meeting, which started promptly at 10:00 a.m., awaited Baer in a bleak conference room with a bleak atmosphere. Nevertheless, he managed to convince the managers present in his presentation with the arguments that the team around Helms and him had gained a lot of experience in video game development and that Odyssey2 had the potential to be a sales hit.
Now all that remained was to change the mind of Magnavox’s president. Ralph boarded the business plane that same afternoon with John Helms and John Frauth, the managing director of Magnavox Tennessee, to fly to the company’s headquarters in Forth Wayne, Indiana.
Once there, the three of them were confronted with a strange picture when they entered the video game department „Intel Game“: black mourning strips made of crepe paper hung on the doors to the offices, where most of the employees were already on the phone looking for new jobs.
Colleagues reacted cautiously to the news at first, but showed Mr. Baer a fully functional Odyssey2 prototype! Ralph was thrilled when he saw that the system differed significantly on the hardware side from existing competitors – such as the Atari VCS – and had a keyboard that gave it the appearance of a personal computer.
John Helms asked him to look at the documentation on the Odyssey2 and evaluate it. Ralph suspected that Helms was looking for more moral support for the decision to build the system on an Intel chipset 😉 Anyway, John DeScipio, the president, finally gave the go-ahead to continue the development of the O2.
Ralp H. Baer unsuccessfully offered Magnavox other interactive systems over the years that offered interesting possibilities, from video recorders to video discs to CDs. Frustrated by the fact that the ideas were examined with great interest but nothing else happened, he finally pursued other goals.
in 1991, the Philips CD-I appeared. This was an interactive video game that could insert video films from CD into games as backgrounds and cutscenes. Technically remarkable and pushed into the market with quite a lot of advertising, this system was also not a complete success. Today, in times of photo-realistic game graphics and in the VR age, CD-I games seem strangely anachronistic. My generation has experienced video game history directly. Even in the days when there were no pixels on the screen, we gambled. Even though the game elements in „Pong“ are angular, a Pong game has no pixel graphics. Everything is analogue!
Uncle Hansi’s space technology
At my uncle’s house, we were sometimes allowed to play a game of „pong“. It was a kind of stylized tennis with two bars and a square ball. In black and white and with mono, of course. The sound, too, consisted only of two different electronic beeps.
My uncle spoke almost reverently about his telescope: it was a waste product of the moon landing. Madness! We were very impressed! Much less reverently, we spent many hours playing this archaic video game in front of the flickering TV and had a lot of fun. I remember well the entirely new feeling of being able to control something on the screen, instead of just passively consuming the programme of the three available channels.
Well, a lot of things in the 1970s were called the „waste product of space travel“ without actually being so. The Teflon pan is such a popular example of misinformation. But so what? “Space technology” sounded tremendously important and gave a mundane plaything the air of high technology. At the time, I sometimes wondered whether the astronauts on their way to the moon had really been so bored that they had to play „Pong“ – and had slight doubts about that.
(“Space technology”: The Odyssey 2001, the predecessor of the G7000)
However, my uncle was not that wrong in his assessment of “space technology” because the first teleseries were not yet operated with microprocessors, but with comparatively “stupid” discrete circuits. “Discrete” means that there were no ICs (IC = integrated circuit = many components in one component). On a circuit board, all components such as capacitors, resistors, and transistors were individually located. There were no “black bugs” on it. The technology used to send people to the moon was just as simple. There, too, there was no sign of microprocessors (or of “Pong”).
In fact, it was not until the end of the decade that processors became faster and more powerful so that they could beat the discrete circuits of consumer electronics in terms of performance and cost. In 1977, the Intel company released a microcontroller, still in use today, which was a kind of computer system (consisting of a processor, some memory, and the input/output units) that fit on a single chip. Among other things, it was the heart of the engine control of many VW vehicles until the 1990s.
The new concept
A subsidiary of Philips in the Netherlands, the US company Magnavox, mentioned above, developed a teleplay system around this IC, the Odyssey2, mostly known in Europe as the Philips G7000. Some manuals and brochures even speak of the “Videopac Computer System G7000”. This device was already a game console of the so-called second generation and appeared in 1978.
The G7000/Odyssey2 was conceptually very different from the Atari VCS – not least because of a membrane keyboard – and its system structure is reminiscent of computers of today. While the VCS could even be rebuilt from thoroughly different components – as Coleco actually did with judicial approval – the Maganox system had more clearly dedicated components such as CPU, sound, graphics, RAM and essentially: a complex ROM! Not least because of this, it was much easier to program and did not rob game developers of sleep as the bulky VCS did.
(Philips G7000 – aka Odyssey2)
Nevertheless, from the perspective of that time, the Atari VCS 2600 was the system with the better graphics and the more complex sound. From today’s perspective, the differences are only marginal. For the first time, both provided a colour picture on which different game characters could be easily recognized, and a polyphonic sound that went far beyond the miserable beeping of the „Pong“ consoles known up to then.
Compared to the Atari system, however, the G7000 was a real number cruncher. The CPU was an Intel 8048H. The specifications for the clock frequency range from 1.79 to 5.91 MHz, depending on which clock is considered decisive, the internal or the external. The memory on the chip was 64 bytes RAM and 1024 bytes ROM. The chip could address a maximum of four Kbytes.
The CPU was supported by a powerful graphics processor, the 8245 with 3.54 MHz. This should not be confused with the later Intel 8245, an on-board graphics chip for PCs.
The graphics resolution was 256 × 192 pixels, but only eight colours were displayed simultaneously.
The 8245 even had sprites, as did the VIC-II in Commodore’s C64 much later. Sprites are blocks of connected pixels that can be positioned, or more precisely moved, on the screen with simple commands. So the programmer does not have to move a figure pixel by pixel. The sprites of the G7000 had a resolution of 8 × 8 pixels and were monochrome. The graphics chip conjured up a maximum of four at a time on the screen.
Actually, sprites were born out of the necessity that RAM was expensive. A complete television picture requires about four million pixels, an expensive joke if you wanted to keep the entire screen in RAM at once in 1977.
The four freely positionable and quickly changeable sprites of the 8245 elegantly circumvented this problem, since high-resolution graphics could be displayed where they were needed. Typically, these were the game characters. A sprite took up only 64 bits (8×8 bits) of RAM. In total, only 256 bits of memory were needed for the sprites. In this way, the on-chip RAM of the graphics processor was sufficient for the graphics display. The system could thus be produced more simply and at lower cost.
The graphics chip still knew eight immobile “grouped objects”, which are, for example, background graphics and the high score display present in almost every game. If you pay attention, you will discover these connected graphic areas in many games. But also sprites could be combined for larger, controllable game characters. Colour changes in the sprite could be made during the blanking interval (the time the electron beam in the TV’s picture tube has to be switched off when it has to jump back to the beginning of a new line or (half) picture, for example).
Furthermore, the 8245 offered a character generator with 64 (special) characters, which it drew from ROM, of which a maximum of 28 could be displayed at once. The special characters were found in many games. There were “trees” that could also be used as mushrooms, small stick figures (space monsters, castle battle) and also versatile graphics such as large dots, dashes, triangles and more abstract characters that could be used, for example, to represent the destroyed towers in „Castle Battle“.
The graphics chip was also responsible for the sound output, but – with one channel over eight octaves, a simple noise generator and control by a shift register with 24 bits – only offered home cooking. The volume could be regulated in 16 steps. Nevertheless, the sound was precise and dynamic, but reminded a little of the sound of the „Pong“ clones.
The main memory was extended by the Motorola MCM 6810p by 128 bytes to 192 bytes. Note: bytes, not Kbytes! The size of the ROM (read-only memory) was one Kbyte on chip, the 30-pin game modules extended this by two, four, or eight Kbyte. The modules number 59 and 60 even had 16 KB ROM.
The glaring lack of memory meant that the plug-on modules for BASIC (C7420) and chess (C7010)
were stand-alone computers with CPU, ROM and RAM that only needed the G7000 to connect to the outside world (keyboard, graphics, and sound). But these modules were so expensive that most customers preferred to buy a real home or chess computer.
The performance of the graphics chip was reflected more in the game speed than in sophisticated game worlds. Scrolling was silky smooth and the games – especially number 39, “Freedom Fighters” became unplayable fast in higher levels. It even became so fast that older, large tube TVs drew streaks on the screen.
The Atari VCS was the undisputed market leader in 1981, but unfortunately exactly the opposite of what I wanted. The design was quintessentially American: a plastic “wooden bezel”, black plastic casing and silver toggle switches – as if cut from the dashboard of a 1970s road cruiser – hardly suited the taste of the dawning 1980s – and certainly not mine.
(Didn’t meet my taste: Atari VCS 2600)
To make matters worse, my cousin Andreas, the son of the “space uncle”, was now allowed to call an Atari VCS his own. There was no way I wanted to have one too. I had to get something else.
The G7000 from Philips was the only game console that not only looked like a home computer with its built-in keyboard, but also came close to its performance with two different computer modules.
(Number 9, “Computer Programmer”, one of the two computer modules)
The design still looks fresh and modern today, but that’s because it’s a little overdrawn and looks like something out of a sci-fi film: relatively flat, desk-shaped, in elegant silver with black accents, it has always been an eye-catcher. At the time, my mother had just bought a brand-new, stylish high-end TV from Loewe, and the Philips G7000 was the perfect match. Wooden decor made of plastic would have been unacceptable. But unfortunately, I still didn’t have a chic G7000!
The console alone cost around DM 400 and you had to spend around DM 89 per game. Somewhat older modules could be bought on sale in the newly emerging electronics markets on the green meadow for 60 to 70 marks. The first titles often contained two or three wholly different games that could be switched between using the keyboard. The modules for the G7000 were cheaper across the board than those for the Atari. This was an argument that could be used with parents: „Look, the boy is cost-conscious!
Even if the reader might now think that a price of the equivalent of 200 euros for a game console was not expensive, that was not the case. in 1981, the average income in DM was the same as in 2008 – only in euros. So the console cost a whopping 400 EUR when adjusted for price!
Shortly before Christmas 1981, I was in the Metro with my mother and brother. As always, I was drawn to the video game section of this wholesale store. Our mother could “park” us there and shop in peace. What were we going to look at food or classic toys for? We were young, dynamic, and completely tech-savvy.
The object of my desire stood in a display case, glittering silver like a jewel. It looked almost supernaturally technical in the cold light of the showcase lighting. As if it had come from the control panel of a star destroyer … oh, what am I saying? As if it had been removed directly from the fire control centre of the Death Star! I didn’t have an eye for all the other consoles on display there. Atari VCS, Interton VC4000, various Pong clones – nothing could hold a candle to “my” Philips G7000.
So, I pressed my nose against the glass door, only centimetres away from the greatest piece of technology on this planet – and yet unreachable.
(Promotional photo of the Philips G7000, courtesy of Philips Deutschland GmbH)
Normally, the end of every shopping trip to the Metro caused me almost a physically palpable pain of separation. But this evening, with my mother’s sudden interest in the device, I finally felt hopeful. She asked me casually what games I was interested in. What did that mean? Was I going to get the console for Christmas? From then on, the time until then stretched towards infinity.
Under the Christmas tree, there was indeed a large package, which – after frantically tearing the colourful wrapping paper – turned out to be the package of a G7000. I had finally arrived in the realm of programmable computers.
I was happy.
From the beginning, Philips relied on the advantages that a keyboard brought with it. On the first module that appeared, which Philips called “Videopac”, there was a game called “Secret Writing” in addition to “Car Racing” and “Rendezvous in Space”. A word that one of the players typed in was jumbled up and displayed on the screen. The other players had to guess this word and type it in again correctly. This was familiar from television at the time: In Blacky Fuchsberger’s show „Auf los geht’s los“ the „A-Z game“ worked almost identically.
Educational games such as „Kinder im Verkehr“ (Children in Traffic) not only used the QWERTY membrane keyboard with 49 keys – they were made possible by it. A concept that was clearly aimed at parents who did not only want to see their children shooting virtual spaceships and monsters in front of the TV, but who wanted to explain the purchase of a game console – more or less – rationally.
(A perfect advertising world: children in front of the G7000 – note the glass of orange juice! courtesy of Philips Deutschland GmbH)
In the same vein was „Musikant“ („Musican“), a video pack with an overlay foil that was supposed to turn the G7000 into a kind of electronic piano. From today’s standpoint, the Videopac A, “Ticker”, also seems bizarre: You could use it to leave a message on the TV for family members when you left the house. For the few buyers, the handwritten and energy-saving note was apparently not modern enough.
Some titles, such as “Blackjack” and “Backgammon”, even appealed directly to adults who otherwise knew nothing about video games. The first modules in particular therefore dispensed with an abstract or comic-like representation on the cover, but stood out with a rather realistic style.
(Philips advertisement: Adults have fun with the G7000, courtesy of Philips Deutschland GmbH)
The early Videopacs were sold in an unadorned black cardboard case with the number of the game emblazoned in big red letters – Philips numbered through almost all the games. Only when you opened it up did you see the actual cover picture.
The later modules were delivered in a robust folding box made of plastic with a large transparent lid. Through the small round hole in the back, the boxes could be hung on the wall like a picture frame. Similar to the later CDs, the cover was at the same time the booklet, or more precisely the instructions, and stuck behind the lid of the box.
Third-party suppliers such as Imagic, on the other hand, offered their titles loose in cardboard boxes.
The module shape was the same for all manufacturers: A large handle facilitated the insertion and removal of the modules, which otherwise had almost the same dimensions as the competitor Atari VCS. The handle protruded slightly at the front so that the modules could be stacked securely on top of each other, even if they were loose. The contact strip was covered from sticky children’s fingers by a spring-loaded metal guard.
Almost all games offered the display of the high-score holder in the game, whose name could be entered comfortably with the keyboard. While you were still laboriously selecting individual letters for the high score with the joystick on the Atari – if the game offered this at all – you were already playing the next round on the G7000. If no record had been achieved yet, or no one had typed in their name, six question marks appeared next to the high score. The high score was lost, however, when the console was switched off.
Two of my first Videopacs were “Space Monster” and “Super muncher”, both brazen copies of the successful games “Space Invaders” and “Pac-Man”. “Space Monster” was impressive not for the mass of enemies, but for the speed of the shots.
“Super Munchers”, on the other hand, was actually much better than the original. Although there were fewer dots to eat, they moved independently and almost as fast as the player figure through the maze, which did not make the story any easier. The diverse mazes, some of which changed constantly during the game, added to the greater fun.
Together with my brother Mark, I played these games for hours – at least until we had to release the TV again – or our hands hurt from the bulky joysticks.
Hand-pleasers look different!
The controllers of the G7000 were truly cruel: a square housing that made the fingers cramp after playing for a long time, as well as a fire button without a recognizable pressure point. Moreover, the button often broke off after a while to become nothing more than a small, sharp-edged plastic nipple that left deep, painful marks on the thumb.
With this handicap, it was hardly possible to climb the heights of the high score Olympus, and so a battle regularly broke out over the remaining intact joystick. Needless to say, the button could not be stuck permanently.
In fact, the basic housings of the sticks were the same as those of the well-known predecessor, the Odyssey 2001. The analogue rotary control was simply replaced by a joystick on the G7000. At first glance, one would think that the sticks, with their enormous travel, were made in analogue technology. But this is not the case. As sensitive as the fire button was, the joystick itself could not be destroyed. A thick steel pin actuated the foil contacts of the control via a large spring and a ring. The stop with eight latching points reliably prevented the controller from being mechanically overloaded – as is usual with Atari joysticks.
There is no rule whether the sticks were removable or permanently installed: One model series was built this way, the other that way. But anyone who thought that detachable joysticks meant that one could simply connect commercially available joysticks to the console was disappointed: the assignment of the connections was incompatible with the usual standard.
(no hand-held joysticks: G7000 stick)
The most important Videopac for me was undoubtedly “Computer Programmer”, which allowed programming the console in machine language (assembler). If you followed the thick instructions and managed to type the commands without double characters on the bouncing membrane keyboard, you were rewarded after hours of work only with little men or UFOs that moved sluggishly across the screen. The programmes could not be saved, so that all the effort was in vain and lost as soon as you wanted to play something again or switched off the console.
(Interface of the G7000 assembler module „Computer Programmer)
I sorely missed the possibility of connecting a mass storage device to the G7000. The common storage option at the time was to connect a cassette recorder. Every child knew these “compact cassettes”, which were also the first affordable mass storage devices for the emerging home computers. Meanwhile, they have not been produced for years….
Without a storage option, the very tedious input of assembler programs was rather pointless. It was not until the (Microsoft) BASIC extension (C7420) appeared later that the connection socket for a commercially available cassette recorder was included. This BASIC module was more than just a simple Videopac. It had its CPU as well as RAM and ROM. The width corresponded to the housing of the G7000. It was piggybacked onto the back of the G7000 and connected to the module port via an adapter cassette. Two other expansions came on the market in a similarly bulky design: “Chess” (C7010)
and „The Voice“. The latter even enabled voice output for some game titles. However, since „2The Voice“ was not connected to the console via a module with a cable, but has a rigid connection, it only fits on the G7000 and not on the G7400.
It was interesting that the G7000 console – at least in Germany – did not have a power switch, but you had to pull the plug to switch it off. Consequently, the modules were changed during operation, a method that would have rewarded other consoles with their imminent demise and whose instructions also explicitly warned against this procedure.
(Videopac 38 with characteristic handle – on it is „Super-Mampfer“)
Games for the G7000 are still being developed and sold today. Of course, no longer by Philips or the other big game manufacturers, but as so-called “Homebrew software” by private individuals, purely for the fun of it.
Jon Dondzilla from the USA sells the well-known „128-in-1“ Videopac. This module contains all the Videopacs that have been released (including those for the successor G7400). Since this was considerably less than 128 games in total, the rest consists of the various country versions and the “Homebrew programmes” mentioned above. Officially, only 73 titles were released by Philips/Magnavox and nine by third parties – depending on how you count the different variants.
The only downer of the „128-in-1“ module is the rather awkward selection of games via the tiny DIP switches. It would have been very nice to have a software switch that does justice to the performance of the G7000. Presumably, however, the hardware required for this would have made the production of the module too expensive.
I have never been able to part with my G7000 and have continued to expand my Videopac collection over the years. Many collectors are pure messies, but for me, it is enough to own each module in the plastic box once and have an identical console as a replacement in case something should happen to my original device.
In the meantime, I also have two of the three board games that were released for the G7000, but they explain more than clearly why this game genre has died out. While the titles „The Search for the Rings“ and „The Discovery of the World“ were still Germanised, the „Great Wall Street Fortune Hunt“ had to do without a German title and the same manual.
(Pack of „The Search for the Rings.“)
Together with my wife and our children, we recently played „The Quest for the Rings“. The game console not only replaces the dice! No! You fight your way on the board in a mini-game on the TV at home. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Yes, it is, but unfortunately, it is not.
(The playing field with figures from „In Search of the Rings“)
(Playing field as a whole)
The mini-games are always the same, and only four. The difficulty does not increase and is at a level that even myopic grannies with arthritis can easily master from their wing chairs. But there is at least some joy in the fact that you fight in teams and always cheer each other on.
(Start menu of „The Search for the Rings“))
(Overlay for the keyboard – with buttons for selecting the mazes and monsters)
It is interesting that these kinds of games did not only exist with the G7000/Odyssey2, but that already the first Odyssey came along via games with overlay slides for the TV and event cards.
Everyone has their personal favourite games on the G7000, mostly the ones they owned at the time and thus inevitably had to deal with. But outstanding games were certainly “Super Munchers”, “Freedom Fighters” and “Killer Bees”.
But Videopac number 20, “Castle Battle”, proves that even less complex games have what it takes to become classics and can still inspire young and old. Two knights face each other with a catapult and a castle. The aim of the game is to gradually destroy the opponent’s fortress by throwing stones at it. The longer you pull the joystick down and then release it, the further the stone flies.
(Screenshot Castle Battle)
(Cover Castle Battle)
A simple principle that everyone understands and which is still enormous fun. Even my children and their friends enjoy playing this game. Even – or maybe just because – their children’s room equipment far surpasses the world computing power of 1970. 🙂
If you want to experience the G7000 on your home computer, you can use the o2em emulator. This emulates the successor Philips G7400 and is available for macOS, Linux and Windows.
Variants and successors
Other compatible versions of the G7000 were the G7200 (with built-in green monitor), the successor G7400, which offered slightly better graphics with full compatibility, and the G7401, a G7400 with SCART connection. In France, the N60 was sold, which was similar to the G7200 but came in the smaller housing of a minitel (comparable to our BTX terminals). The G7400 took almost no advantage of the better hardware. The great graphics are limited exclusively to the background graphics.
Philips did not produce any successors to the Videopac computer series after the 1983 telescreen crash. The Dutch company joined the MSX consortium, which produced home computers according to the Microsoft standard. The first MSX computer from Philips, the VG5000, had the Videopacjoysticks as accessories, which were sold under the article designation VU-0001. The programmes available for the VG5000 came on compact cassettes in the familiar plastic boxes of the G7000 system, and were also numbered consecutively.
(G7200 – a G7000 with green monitor)
Various versions of the G7000 were released, differing as follows:
G7000/00: loose, silver joysticks; plug-in power supply
G7000/08: fixed, black joysticks; plug-in power supply unit
G7000/20: loose, black joysticks; plug-in power supply unit
G7000/21: fixed, black joysticks; plug-in power supply unit
G7000/22: fixed, black joysticks; internal power supply unit
G7000/30: loose, black(?) joysticks; plug-in power supply unit
G7000/35: loose, black joysticks; plug-in power supply unit
G7000/36: fixed, black joysticks; plug-in power supply unit
G7000/37: fixed, black joysticks; internal power supply unit
G7000/49: fixed, black joysticks; plug-in power supply unit
G7000/53: loose, black joysticks; plug-in power supply unit
G7000/54: fixed, black joysticks; plug-in power supply unit
G7000/75: loose, black(?) joysticks; plug-in power supply unit
The joysticks of the successor G7400 had, even if they looked the same, a DIN plug, so that they could not be connected to the G7000.
The pinball game by Ralph H. Baer At the Classic Game Expo 2000, about two dozen re-produced modules of a pinball game by Ralph Baer were sold. This game was written by him as early as 1978 and allowed the player to freely place the pinball bumpers on the playing field. The modules were signed by Ralph Baer, but otherwise corresponded to the style of contemporary video pacs in terms of presentation.
This pinball game was more or less a waste product from the development of a system that was to be called „Telesketch“ and was developedby Baer and Lenny Cope. In a kind of breakout or squash game, the player was supposed to be able to build his own elements into the game. This was probably the birth of the level editors 😉
While the G7000 was sold on the US market as Odyssey2, and there was never a successor there, the G7400 was launched in Europe. The G7400, however, was ultimately just a graphically pimped G7000, but was supposedly technically based in part on the prototype of the Odyssey3, a very ambitious project that would have blurred the lines between telescreen games and home computers. The Odyssey3 was supposed to have a built-in BASIC, a proper (rubber) keyboard and a modem. Quasi as an anticipation of the CD-i system, it was supposedly also to be connectable to a laserdisc player, thus enabling interactive videos and games. If one looks at the above-mentioned VG5000, apart from the equipment of joysticks and the similar modules, the suspicion arises at the sight of the housing and keyboard that it could possibly be the design of the Odyssey3. The name also seems suspicious: „V_G5000_“.
Successor in spirit
More or less successful game systems in the 1990s combined the possibilities of laser disc players (Pioneer) and video CDs (Philips CD-I). But Commodore’s CD32 should not go unmentioned either. Nowadays, even the simplest game consoles have HD video capabilities for the cutscenes and the game graphics can hardly be distinguished from reality (except for human figures).
To my knowledge, the next game console based on Intel technology after the G7000 was actually the Microsoft Xbox in 2001. Currently, there are no plans for further Intel-based game systems; all modern consoles work with hardware from the PowerPC consortium.
The G7000 in pop culture
In 1999, the Belgian band „Das Pop“ released the song „Electronica for Lovers“. In its music video, the G7000 is shown as a workstation in an open-plan office, unleashing the feelings of a work colleague for the programmer through a self-written programme on a video pac module. However, there is no reference to the G7000 in the song lyrics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsIX2nrhFwA Das Pop – Electronica for Lovers (c) 1999 DasPop.com
At this point, I would like to thank Ralph H. Baer, who kindly helped me at short notice with an excerpt about the Odyssey from his previously unpublished new edition of his book „Videogames: In The Beginning“. He also allowed me to use his portrait above.
My thanks also go to Mr Wilde of Philips Deutschland GmbH, Consumer Lifestyle Division. Philips provided me with the above promotional images for this article. They are very pleased that someone is taking on the Videopac systems.
There are some video game manufacturers still active today who are not interested in their past and from whom I received no support for reports. In this respect, Philips‘ commitment cannot be overestimated.
My many questions about the different G7000 versions were answered very patiently and kindly by the people in the Dutch Videopacforum
. Many thanks for that!
If there are any mistakes here, they are all my fault and not the fault of the people mentioned above.
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