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. The Magnavox
Odyssey was also imported there and clones like the Spanish Overkal
This early system consists of a black plastic case which looks quite artisanal, and a circuit board containing discrete components like the Orelec PP-2000 and the Magnavox Odyssey 100/200 as dedicated pong game chips didn't exist yet. Like some later models (for example the Home T.V. Game Mk III and the Superscore), it was sold fully assembled and tested or in kit form.
The picture below shows the silver sticker sticked on the bottom of the system. The four-digit serial number is embossed right to the VM 577 reference. The highest serial known is 8385 (thanks to Jak Wilson for sharing it). Interestingly, early units did not have a silver serial sticker, but only small white stickers with the serial. They also have slightly different knobs and were made in 1974 (some of them contained a paper stating "Technical data will be available in early 1975"). Later manuals did not include this document. Collectors should remember that the first serial was not 1 (but a random number under 250 according to the earliest serials known so far) and that most units were made in 1975.
The Videomaster Home T.V. Game was also sold in at least three countries: England, France and Germany. No french manual has surfaced so far, but the German version exists. Back in 1982 or 1983, a french video game magazine published an article mentioning this system as being the first ever sold in France. However, the Magnavox Odyssey was also sold imported in France in 1975, so it this statement remains uncertain.
Sticker found under VM 577 units
The system, hand assembled, opens very easily.
The small metallic box is the UHF modulator.
Click on the picture to see the circuits in detail.
The Videomaster Home T.V. Game 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 only slightly pressed, it will not lock and let both buttons stay released, selecting the Football game.
Like the Orelec PP-2000 and other early designs, this system uses two potentiometers to adjust the vertical and horizontal holds of the video signal. Although this eliminates incompatibility problems with 50Hz and 60Hz TV sets, modern TV sets can bring more troubles by not detecting the video signal and making the adjustments more complicated.
The players shapes are also different than those of most other similar systems: instead of usual rectangles, both players are square. Moreover, the second player is stripped, which is a very rare (but intelligent) feature for such an early design as it avoids confusion when both players move rapidly. This also avoided swapping both players by mistake, as they can only receive the ball in their dedicated area. There is no on-screen scoring and the thin central line is present in all games. The system also beeps when the ball is lost. The serve is fully automatic: the hand controles do not have any serve push-buttons.
The Videomaster Home T.V. Game was redesigned later in 1975 in a nice bronze metal case. A third version came out in 1976 as the Videomaster Home T.V. Game Mk III, but this system used a newer circuit board, still with discrete components. An additional on-screen scoring board was available. The same cirucit board was used in the Videomaster Rally shortly after.
The top and bottom boundaries can be clearly seen.
The stripped played is on the right.
The ball is near the central line.
Nearly same as Tennis but with the vertical boundary
on the right edge, and even a bug: the central line
should not be displayed in a squash game !
This is the most interesting game of this system.
As a matter of fact, very few discrete systems played
this game because of the additional boundaries and
goals (hole in thei middle), which required more
electronic components. Here again, the central line
should not be displayed in a football game...