A Brief History of Game Consoles, as Seen in Old TV Ads

1982: Milton Bradley Vectrex, Coleco ColecoVision, Atari 5200

In 1982, a number of companies took a shot at the game console sweepstakes. Among the contestents were board-game heavyweight Milton Bradley, leather supplier and Cabbage Patch Kids mass-producer Coleco, and Atari, back for another round and ready to up the ante.

Milton Bradley Vectrex

The unique, portable Vectrex came with a built-in 9-inch vector monitor. Instead of relying on the sprite/raster-based methods that other consoles used, it incorporated wireframe-like vector graphics. Though this idea provided sharp lines, the Vectrex depended on plastic screen overlays to add color to games

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Coleco ColecoVision

At its launch, the $175 ColecoVision qualified as the most technologically advanced console ever. Games like Defender, Frogger, and Zaxxon came closer to "arcade-quality" than did competing titles for the Atari VCS or Intellivision. And many units came bundled with a near-arcade-quality port of Nintendo's Donkey Kong.

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Coleco offered several hardware expansion modules that delivered extras such as Atari VCS cartridge support, driving controls (including a steering wheel), and a trackball-like roller controller. Another expansion module transformed the ColecoVision into a PC. Though the ColecoVision was a market success, Coleco chose to focus on its ill-fated Adam PC instead, and stopped production of the ColecoVision in 1984.

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Atari 5200

Essentially an Atari 400 computer without a keyboard, the 5200 Super System succeeded the Atari 2600 console. Among its innovations were a pause button, automatic switching between TV viewing and game play, and a new controller that combined an analog joystick with a numeric keyboard and two fire buttons. Unfortunately, the joystick proved unreliable, and gamers were unhappy that their older Atari 2600 cartridges were incompatible with the new console (a separate adapter was released the next year).

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