It’s time. I’m briefly departing from my usual movie filled, video game-inspired posts. Hence the Retro Station History Part 1 title, of course. But as the title suggests (Retro Station History Part 1) I will be covering the history and evolution of the most acclaimed retro stations. A nice blast from the past, don’t you think?
Or in other words, the history behind the most famous home gaming consoles. It’s a fascinating history for every gamer out there. Sure, I already touched on the history of some of the best video game characters. And the iconic video game mascots as well. But this is something totally new for me. It’s a different subject that deserves a different approach.
And because of the extensive history of the subject, I’m going to divide this topic into two separate posts. I’ll be focusing on the first four generations in the first post. And the other four in the second post. Also, I’m going to be focusing on the pioneers behind the consoles. The companies and specifications too. Certainly the sales and the competition. It’s going to be fun. I promise. So let’s begin with Retro Station History Part 1, shall we?
Retro Station History Part 1: First Generation
Can you believe that there are 888 video game consoles in the first generation of stations?
That’s right. Although plentiful in numbers, the first generation is considered the most experimental. However, the official start of the video game stations is in the year 1972. And up until the end of the first generation (in 1984), there were a lot of successful early models. But in terms of the technology the first generation did not contain a microprocessor. The consoles were also based on custom code-less state computers and discrete logic circuits.
Fantastic 888 Consoles In The Fist Generation
Out of the 888 manufactured consoles, there was just a handful of them that stood out. First and foremost there’s the Magnavox Odyssey console from 1972. It came packaged with the board game foodies. It even had cards, paper money and dice to enhance the games. And it was mind blowing for the time. Oh, yeah. While no game data was stored on the cartridges. And you could select one of the twelve games built onto the hardware. It was really groundbreaking for the time nonetheless. TV Tennis Electrotennis arrived just 3 years after the Megnavox Odysse. And Coleco Telstar series arrived in 1976.
Nintendo is the sole survivor of the era
And then came the crash of 1977. The console market in the United States collapsed. Older model consoles were heavily discounted. So the consumer’s power transitioned to the new systems. Besides, even the consoles like Video Pinball from Atari and the Magnavox Odyssey 4000 were squeezed out. By whom you might ask? By their lower-priced predecessors and their more sophisticated replacements. They were new. But, easily replaceable as well.
And did you know that Nintendo is the only company from the first generation that still manufactures video game consoles? To this day? That’s right. Given the fact that more than 200 different companies were involved in the first generation. it’s a fantastic achievement. On the other hand more than half of them, only released one console. But they are considered pioneers of the gaming industry nonetheless.
Retro Station History Part 1: Second Generation
The second generation of consoles refers to the gaming stations from 1976 to 1992. Additionally, the generation began in November 1976 with the release of the Fairchild Channel F. And of course, notable platforms of the second generation include the Fairchild Channel F, Atari 2600, Intellivision, Odyssey². And ColecoVision as well. This particular generation coincided with the so-called „Golden age of arcade video games“ of the 80’s. And some of these consoles are even in popular TV shows of today. The kids from Stranger Things have one such console, and it’s a nice retro homage to the bygone era nonetheless.
Two of the most notable (and best selling) consoles from this generation are Atari 2600 & 5200. Which up to this point (2020) were sold in over 30 million units. However, Fairchild Channel F was the first released console from the second generation and the cheapest of them all. Next, Bally Astrocade was available only through mail order, which was a novelty of the time. Both Intellivision and Vectrex are synonymous with the era as well. But Vectrex sadly spend just 2 years on the marker. It sill counts though.
Retro Station History Part 1: Third Generation
The third generation of consoles produced 23 home video game consoles in total. Compared to the second one which had 20 all in all. However, the third one is considered a lot more successful. Both in technology development and sales. The third generation started in 1983, and by all accounts ended at the start of the New Millennium. Back in 2003. So, this particular generation had 20 full years of competition, development and improvement.
The third generation began on July 15, 1983. With the release of the Nintendo Family Computer and the Sega SG-1000. And those improvements I mentioned earlier? Well, there were a lot, and the improvements in technology are the most memorable. They gave the consoles fairly good graphical and sound capabilities. As expected, Nintendo ruled the marker once more. Likewise, the best-selling console of this generation was Nintendo’s NES/Famicom. But SEGA was Nintendo’s main competitor in this generation, and what a competition it was.
Both in terms of market share and for console units sold. A notable innovation of this generation is the inclusion of cartridges and batteries. Users were able to save their progress in a game. And especially on some of the most popular games of the era. For instance, Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda which is (fair to say) popular to this day. Sega’s SG-1000 and Master System are the hits from this generation. Along with the Famicom/Nintendo system of course. And Atari 7800 is one of the generation’s best sellers as well.
Retro Station History Part 1: Fourth Generation
All in all, there were 17 consoles released in the fourth generation. Tiniest of this bunch indeed. But don’t let the numbers fool you. This is probably one of the most memorable ever. Why? Because it occupied the entire decade of the ’90s. TurboGrafx-16 marked the official kick-off of the generation in 1987. But it was Sega Genesis really made an impact on the market. Furthermore, SEGA built their marketing campaign around their new mascot. Which changed everything. Which mascot you might ask? Sonic the Hedgehog. SEGA also pushed the Genesis as the “cooler” alternative to Nintendo’s console. And the marketing campaign worked. It was way cooler for plenty of kids in the 90’s.
Not to mention there was a another war between SEGA and Nintendo. A war that involved Mortal Kombat. Back in the 90’s Nintendo decided to censor the game’s gore and, violence. However, it was SEGA that kept the violent content. And that particular move became pivotal in the game’s success. Nintendo then released the Super NES console. But SNK released the fairly expensive Neo Geo console. Which didn’t sold as good as the aforementioned consoles, but it’s memorable in it’s own right.
And just what were the big distinctions from the previous generation? Well, there are plenty to mention. But the key differences are the 16-bit microprocessors and the multi-button game controllers. The large sprites are more noticeable in the fourth generation consoles. And so are the more elaborate colors in the graphics. Not to forget the advanced music synthesis. And some cases even included CD-ROM support via add-ons. Cool right? Yup. The fans seem to think so.
Stay tuned: Part 2 is on its way
Retro Station History Part 1 is pretty much done for now. So, stay tuned for the second part of this series. I’ll be covering the next 4 generations of consoles in the second post. But for now… What’s your favorite generation? And of course favorite console? Tell us in the comment section. We’d love to know.