You already know that I'm a fan of video games. What you may not know is that the Odyssey2 was my first home game console. Back in the far-flung year of 1982, most kids were scratching their gaming itch with the Atari 2600, and a lucky few had stepped up to the big leagues of the Intellivision and Atari 5200. However, my brother and I had to get by with the hapless Odyssey2, offered by television manufacturer Magnavox.
|Oh yeah, that thing can go|
right back where it came from.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, I recently rummaged for some of the old stuff I left in my parents' abandoned barn, and an Odyssey2 turned up. Not the original one; that died in a tree fort a quarter of a century ago. My mom found this one at a garage sale in the 1990s, but it had been buried under a small mountain of clutter. After untangling it from the cords of other abandoned game systems, random gadgets, and even some Christmas lights for fun, I brought it into the house for some... elective surgery.
The first step was to get rid of the RF shielding. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, game systems had metal plating around the internal circuitry to keep their signals isolated. That way, when you're playing Pac-Man, your roommate isn't seeing the ghosts of gaming present on the television in the other room. However, TVs have gotten a lot more sophisticated in the last thirty years, and the RF shield has become little more than a nuisance, keeping prospective hackers like myself from getting at the nutmeats of the console.
|We used to connect our video games to a television|
with one of these things! Truly, those were dark times.
Okay, I wasn't quite done. There was one other modification I wanted to make before I could wrap up this operation. Later models of the Odyssey2- like this one- had hardwired controllers, a design flaw in early game consoles I still have trouble wrapping my head around. Not only does this deny you the chance to switch to a controller you prefer, but it means that if one controller is destroyed, the whole console has to be sent in for repairs. Nuts to that! If I was going to play a crappy system like the Odyssey2, I was going to do it with a joystick I liked.
|The twin D-shell ports, mounted on the side of the unit.|
By the end of the weekend, I had myself an Odyssey2 that was even better than the real thing... although that's probably not much of a compliment. Testing the machine with the title Quest for the Rings! (Odyssey2 games had exclamation points at the ends of their titles, in the mistaken belief that the extra enthusiasm would make up for their shortcomings) left me wishing I'd left the blasted thing buried in the barn where I found it. Quest for the Rings! is a pretty cool idea in theory, a hybrid of video games and board games with a medieval setting and some proto-RPG play mechanics. As one of four races, it's your duty to collect the magical rings scattering the countryside, while dodging eldritch creatures and a lawsuit from the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien.
|Sure, that looks more like Godzilla than a dragon,|
but it's still a step up from a duck.
Still, I feel like this has been a victory for me. Not all of my game system mods have been successful, but I'm pretty happy with how this one turned out. After a weekend of tinkering, I've got an Odyssey2 that I can use with a modern television set, and with my favorite controllers. Now I just need a reason to actually play the thing.
(Alien Invaders- Plus! image nicked from TheStrong.com)
(RF Modulator image taken from Sydlexia.com)