How Video Games Invaded The Home TV Set – Chapter 22

We Play Cable Games … 20 Years Ahead Of Our Time

As I said, in 1974, try as I might, I couldn’t get Magnavox to show any interest in this interactive video quiz game and video teaching system. So we went on to try and peddle it elsewhere. One obvious candidate was once again the cable TV industry. I concentrated on the Warner Cable Company and made a number of presentations to get them to use what we now called our video annotation system. Eventually, I was able to get into an arrangement with a Malden, Massachussetts Warner Cable system operator to put interactive video games on their cable on a technical trial basis.

First, Bill Harrison and I modified an ordinary Odyssey game for use at the viewing end of the cable – at home. Then we built a spot generator unit for Warner that allowed them to overlay randomly moving “player spots” on a camera generated, color videographics background of a soccer field. At the receiving end in the home, the modified Odyssey unit now displayed its own player spots on top of the received cable picture of the soccer field, along with the transmitted player spots. That gave us an attractive view of the playing field with four or six player spots. The neatest thing was that the remotely generated, randomly moving “soccer player” spots sent to us over the cable were just as capable of intercepting and reversing or forwarding the ball as the manually controlled “soccer player” spots coming from our Odyssey game unit. Some of those spots always seemed to be at just the right place.

Bill Harrison and I put that test on the cable late one evening and it worked like a charm. We were pleased with the way it all worked and got home very late that night. On the way we stopped off at a diner for some fast food and ruminated on our work and life in general: We were practically free agents, working out of a big company, assured of a paycheck every month, doing our own thing with virtually total freedom from the usual nonsense attendant to a normal job. We knew how unusual this arrangement was and we felt very fortunate. We also knew that we had to produce results to keep this desirable situation going ad infinitum.

Interactive video became our “religion”. We spent the next several years trying to make interactive video cable games into a commercial reality. That was to prove to be a much more difficult job than coming up with neat concepts and building demo hardware to show them off!

As I’ve mentioned before, when talking about the scheme of things, I tell everyone who wants to listen that inventing something is easy; doing hardware and software design to make it work is also relatively easy … selling or licensing the darned stuff … that’s the hard part. No wonder the marketers of this world drive Cadillacs and the engineers come to work in their Chevies and Fords.

Trying To Get Magnavox Into The Arcade Video Game Business – And Super Odyssey

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