The Magnavox Odyssey2, which was released as Philips Videopac G7000 in Europe and as Philips Odyssey in Brazil, was a video game console released in 1978 in the United States. (Magnavox, an American company, was owned by the Dutch giant, Philips.) For the debut of our new “Museum” section, we will dissect this video game console and explain, in-depth, how it worked.

The Odyssey2 was designed in the United States. Many people find it amusing that Brazil was the country where the Odyssey2 was the most successful. This, in fact, is easy to explain. Until 1992, Brazilians were forbidden to import electronics; all consumer electronics products had to be manufactured in Brazil. (Of course, some people could smuggle “forbidden” products into the country. Even after this ban was lifted, they still face 100% tariffs to this day.) This barrier was created by the military government that was in power at the time in order to develop the local industries. Since Philips, the owner of Magnavox, had big manufacturing facilities in Brazil, the Odyssey2 was a perfect fit to be manufactured locally, plus it wouldn’t face a lot of competition. So, while in other countries the Odyssey2 had several competitors, in Brazil it only competed with clones of the Atari 2600 and the Intellivision, which was manufactured in Brazil by Sharp. (A clone of the Colecovision called Splicevision was released but was amateurish-looking and never gained enough market share.) With the Brazilian government prohibiting external competition, the Philips Odyssey had record sales there.

Magnavox Odyssey2Figure 1: The Magnavox Odyssey2

Magnavox Odyssey2Figure 2: The Magnavox Odyssey2, view from behind

The Odyssey2 came with two joysticks permanently attached to the console. (A version of the Odyssey2 with detachable joysticks was released later.) These joysticks look analog, but they are, in fact, digital. Since they were permanently attached to the console, you couldn’t easily replace them if they broke or exchange them for a pair of paddles, options available on the Atari 2600. (A “paddle” is an analog controller based on a potentiometer, where you can spin it to the left or to the right to state the direction in which you want to move.)

Magnavox Odyssey2Figure 3: One of the joysticks

The highlight of the Odyssey2 was its alphanumeric membrane keyboard, similar to the one used on the Sinclair ZX81 computers and its clones, which made it look more like a computer, and certainly it was one of the reasons people at the time chose it instead of one of its many competitors. Games were available in cartridges, where the software was written inside a ROM chip (usually a PROM), similarly to other video game consoles at the time. An external transformer and a “TV/Game” antenna switch (frequently wrongly referred to as the “RF modulator”) completed the package.

Magnavox Odyssey2Figure 4: The membrane keyboard

Magnavox Odyssey2Figure 5: The Magnavox Odyssey2 with a cartridge installed

The video game was connected to the TV through the TV’s antenna connector. You had to turn the TV to channel 3 or 4, depending upon how the system was configured. (This configuration is done inside the console.)

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.