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History of Video Game Consoles

Yash Gode
Video games are one of the most popular modes of entertainment for kids as well as adults these days. However, hardly any kid is aware of the interesting history they entail. Here's some interesting information about the evolution of one of the greatest modes of entertainment for one and all.
Long gone are the days when kids used to flock playgrounds and would get involved in fun filled physical games. For kids today, the fun has been confined to their respective rooms and is obligated only to the circuits of a video game console. Ignoring the drawbacks, let us consider the many good things that attract the kids towards these gadgets.
The evolution of video games has seen kids gaining keen interest in computers and many of them mature up to get a knack of working on them, instead of just playing. However, kids today are not aware of the history of computer and video games which holds significance in the development of electronic technology around the globe.

Video Game Consoles: Timeline

Their history is divided into as many as seven generations according to their technological development and popularity.

First Generation

The origin of video game consoles can be traced back to the 1950s, when computer games using vector displays, not video screens, came to the scene. However, it was Magnavox that released the first console, Magnavox Odyssey, which had a video display.
Initially, the Odyssey was successful only to some extent, and it was Atari's arcade game called Pong which loudly announced the entry of video games and took public attention to the emerging industry. By 1975, Magnavox frantically suspended the sales of the Odyssey and released a new scaled down console, the Odyssey 100, that played only Pong and hockey.
A higher end console called the Odyssey 200 was simultaneously released with the 100, and had added features like onscreen scoring, ability to support up to four players, and had a third game - Smash. So, it was this year in which gaming consoles vigorously initiated this consumer market. This phase is called the first generation.

Second Generation

In 1976, the Fairchild Video Entertainment System (VES) was released. This console made the first true use of the cartridge as a storage device. Previously there had been other consoles like the Odyssey that used cartridges, but had no data and served a function similar to flipping switches.
The VES, on the other hand, had a programmable microprocessor and the cartridges only required a single chip (ROM) to store the processor's instructions. Soon RCA and Atari introduced their own cartridge-based consoles.

Third Generation

In 1983, Japanese gaming giant Nintendo introduced the Family Computer, also known as Famicom in Japan. It supported high-resolution sprites and with more colored tiled backgrounds. This facilitated games in Famicom to be longer and have higher graphics detailing. Famicom came over to the US in 1985 in the form of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and almost instantly gained immense popularity.

Fourth Generation

In October 1988, Sega, another electronics baron, retrieved its market share by releasing its own high featured console in Japan called the Mega Drive. It was released in the U.S. in August 1989 under the brand name of Sega Genesis and in Europe a year later.
Two years after this, Nintendo released its extremely popular Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). This era was a watershed in the history of video games, when video game consoles were fiercely demanded by kids across North America.

Fifth Generation

Initial fifth generation consoles included the Atari Jaguar and the 3DO, which were loaded with many more features than the Super Nintendo. However, the 3DO was more costly than the SNES and Genesis combined together, while the Jaguar was not easily programmable leading to both consoles being discontinued in 1996.
However, it was in this era, on December 3, 1994, that Sony's PlayStation was released in Japan and nine months later in North America. The PlayStation could have been a result of a business partnership between Sony and Nintendo to make a CD based add-on for the SNES.
But, this was not to be and Nintendo walked out of the deal. With the PS project nearing completion, Sony used its own resources and marketed this console under its own brand name, which was, undoubtedly, a landmark event.

Sixth Generation

This generation saw consoles moving towards PC-like features and mulled a shift towards using DVDs for storing game media. This led to enhanced playing experience as games were longer and had spectacular visual effects. Furthermore, this generation saw another noticeable development in the history of game consoles.
There was experimentation with LAN type online console gaming and introductions of flash drives and hard drives for game data storage. Consoles like Sega's Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation 2, and Microsoft XBox belong to this era.

Seventh Generation

The most remarkable feature introduced in this time period was the new disc formats - Blu-ray Disc and the HD DVD, the later one getting discontinued soon. The use of motion as input, IR tracking (implemented on the Wii and demonstrated on the PS3), and standard wireless controllers were the highlights of this generation game consoles. This era included Microsoft's XBox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii, which are the most sought after consoles today.
This is where we can sum up the evolution of gaming consoles. The experience on modern-day consoles is on a completely different level and all its spectacular features can be attributed to the immense effort put over these eras.