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How Video Game Systems Work

By: Jeff Tyson  | 

Cool Video Game Facts

  • The SegaDreamcast was the first console to implement online play over a phone line, calling the system Sega Net.
  • The MicrosoftXbox was the first video game system to provide full support for HDTV.
  • Popular Science recognized the Sega Dreamcast as one of the most important and innovative products of 1999.
  • The Magnavox Odyssey, released in 1972, contained 40 transistors and no microprocessor. The Pentium 4 microprocessor contains 42 million transistors on the chip itself!
  • The PlayStation 2 was the first system to have graphics capability better than that of the leading-edge personal computer at the time of its release.
  • The NintendoN64 marked the first time that computer graphics workstation manufacturer Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) developed game hardware technology.
  • While the original Atari Football game was first created in 1973, it wasn't released until 1978. It was delayed because the game couldn't scroll the screen -- players couldn't move beyond the area shown on the monitor. When the game was finally released, it became the first game to utilize scrolling, a key part of many games today.
  • The Atari Pong video game console was the No. 1 selling item for the holiday season in 1975.
  • The first console to have games available in the form of add-on cartridges was the Fairchild Channel F console, introduced in August 1976.
  • The PlayStation 2 was the first video game system to use DVD technology.
  • On the original Magnavox Odyssey, players had to keep score themselves because the machine couldn't.
  • The Nintendo GameCube's proprietary disc held 1.5 gigabytes of data -- 190 times more than what an N64 game cartridge could hold.
  • On the market from 1991 till 2004, the SNK NeoGeo AES has tied the Atari 2600 (1977-1990) as the longest supported gaming console in history.
  • The Sega Genesis featured a version of the same Motorola processor that powered the original Apple Macintosh computer.
  • Mattel's Intellivison system, introduced in 1980, featured an add-on called "PlayCable," which delivered games by cable TV.
  • Nintendo's Game Boy was the most successful game system ever, with more than 100 million units sold worldwide.
  • The word atari comes from the ancient Japanese game of Go and means "you are about to be engulfed." Technically, it is the word used by a player to inform his opponent that he is about to lose, similar to "check" in chess.
  • In the 1980s, a service called Gameline allowed users to download games to the Atari 2600 over regular phone lines. It was not a success, but did form part of the foundation for America Online, the world's largest Internet service provider.
  • The first color portable video game system was the Atari Lynx, introduced in 1989 and priced at $149.
  • Introduced in 1993, the 3DO was the first video game system to be based entirely on CD technology.
  • The Sony PlayStation was originally intended as a CD add-on to the Super Nintendo. When licensing problems and other issues arose, Sony decided to develop the PlayStation as a machine of its own.

For more information on video game systems, video games, buying a console and related topics, check out the links below.

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Originally Published: Oct 16, 2000

Video Game System FAQ

What was the first video game console?
The Magnavox Odyssey was released in 1972. Then in 1975, Atari introduced a home version of its popular arcade game, Pong. The Fairchild Channel F, however, was the first true removable game system, released in 1976.
What is the best video game console?
People don't necessarily agree on the best console, as most have pros and cons. Sony's PlayStation 5, Microsoft's Xbox Series X, and Nintendo's Switch are the top three most popular consoles on the market right now.
What is the cheapest video game console?
Currently, Microsoft's Xbox One S is the most affordable console on the market, starting at $299 USD.
Which cable do you need to connect a video game console to a TV?
Most consoles connect to a TV with an HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) cable.
What was the first video game to exist?
The first commercial arcade video game, Computer Space by Nutting Associates, was introduced in 1971. Atari introduced the next one — Pong — in 1972.
How many game consoles are there?
There are approximately 1,000 home video game consoles known to exist, but the majority of consoles were discontinued after the fourth generation. By 2012, only four main home console brands were on the market: wii, Playstation, Xbox, and Ninendo.
How many generations of consoles are there?
As of 2020, there have been eight console generations and we've just started the ninth with the release of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.

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Sources

  • Microsoft. "Xbox 360." (Dec. 1, 2008) http://www.xbox.com/en-US/hardware/
  • Nintendo. "Wii." (Dec. 1, 2008) http://www.nintendo.com/
  • Porcaro, John. "Xbox 360 HD DVD Support Statement Updated." Feb. 23, 2008. (Dec. 1, 2008) http://gamerscoreblog.com/team/archive/2008/02/23/557671.aspx
  • Sony. "PlayStation 3." (Dec. 1, 2008) http://www.us.playstation.com/PS3