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University of Pittsburgh Students Resurrect The Magnavox Odyssey

Students at the University of Pittsburgh’s Vibrant Media Lab are re-engineering the Magnavox Odyssey, the first-ever commercial home video game console released in 1972.

About 350,000 Magnavox Odyssey units were ever sold, according to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The OdysseyNow Project aims to recreate the console and reconnect it to its original hardware. It’s also creating new games and controllers. The lab will showcase its work during a one-day expo on Friday, Apr. 5 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room, giving the public the opportunity to go experience the OdysseyNow themselves. The console will be available to play online as well, which is something that Vibrant Media Lab director Zachary Horton said hasn’t been accomplished, to the best of his knowledge.

“The Magnavox Odyssey was the first home video game console that was ever sold. Without it, we might not be as far as we are today with video game technology,” said University of Pittsburgh student Ryan Tomaszewski in a post on the school’s website. “The OdysseyNow project is to show others the importance of the Odyssey and showcase its history. A lot of people think that Atari first introduced video games into the home, and surprisingly, not a lot of people know what the Magnavox Odyssey is.”

In addition to the OdysseyNow Project, the Vibrant Media Lab features a full electronics workstation, 3D printers, and even a sewing machine. It hosted an event called Cathedral Arcade in November to promote its resources, which also includes a variety of retro gaming systems like the Magnavox Odyssey, Atari, and PlayStation 1.

“Video game culture can be very isolating,” said Horton. “The act of taking those experiences that are normally single-player and having them in an open environment and bringing them into a space with lots of people changes your understanding of the game experiences.”

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