The Videomaster Home T.V. Game,
model VM 577, is one of the first
video game systems designed and released in Europe along with the
Henry's Videosport MKII. Magnavox
Odyssey was also imported there and clones like the Spanish Overkal
This basic system is made in a black plastic case which looks quite artisanal. Dedicated pong game chips didn't exist yet, so its electronic circuit uses discrete components like the Orelec PP-2000 and the Magnavox Odyssey 100/200.
The next picture shows the silver sticker on the bottom side of the system, which can be considered as its ID card. The serial number consists of four digits stamped on this sticker, right to the VM 577 reference. The highest serial known to exist is 8000. Interestingly, the earliest units did not have this sticker, but only small white stickers with the serial. Only two units are known with such early serials, and are both of the first 350 specimens built. They also have slightly different knobs. Considering the date codes on the chips as well as the date code found on the original battery of one of these two units, they are believed to date prior to June 1974.
So far, this system is known to have been sold in at leasr three countries: England, France and Germany. No french manual has surfaced so far, but the German version had a manual in German.
The next photo shows the inside of the system. Although the chips have late 1974 date codes, the user manual mentions: "Technical data will be available in early 1975". Later manuals (supposedly from 1975) do not contain this sentence. Back in 1982 or 1983, a french video game magazine published an article mentioning this system as being the first ever sold in France. As the Magnavox Odyssey also sold in France in 1974, it is unknown which came first to the market.
Like some later models (for example the
Home T.V. Game Mk III and the Superscore),
this system was sold either ready for use, or as a kit.
It plays three games: Tennis, Squash and Football. They are selected using two combined push-buttons (pressing one releases the other). If the released button is pressed slowly, it does not lock and both of the buttons are released. This allows playing the Football game.
Like the Orelec PP-2000, this system uses two potentiometers to adjust the vertical and horizontal frequencies of the video signal. This eliminates the incompatibility problems due to the differences between 50Hz and 60Hz TV sets. However it can be very difficult to ajust them for using the game with a modern TV set.
The players shapes are also different than those of most other analog systems: they are larger, and a bit smaller in height. The first player is white and the second is stripped. This smart feature avoids confusion when both players move rapidly. There is no on-screen scoring, and the central line (used as net) is also different: it is very thin (one or a few pixels wide). The system produces a beep when the ball is lost. The serve is automatic (no serve buttons). This system has been redesigned in 1975 in a nice bronze metal case, and a lighter version was also released in 1976 as Home T.V. Game Mk III.
The top and bottom boundaries can be clearly seen.
The size of the players is quite big. Note the different
shape of the second player: it is stripped. A quite
intelligent idea as swapping the players positions
would make the game unplayable, each player having
his own area.
Nearly same as Tennis, with a vertical bounday on
the right edge. One amazing detail is the presence of
the central line, which should not be displayed in a
squash game !
This is the most interesting game of this system.
As a matter of fact, very few analog systems featured
this game because of the additional boundaries and
their shapes (hole in the middle), which require more
electronic components. Here again, the central line
should not be displayed in a football game...