The Videomaster Home T.V. Game model VM 577 was 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
Designed in England, this early system consisted of a black plastic case which looked quite artisanal, and a circuit board containing discrete components like the Orelec
PP-2000 and the Magnavox Odyssey 100/200 (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
aluminium sticker on the bottom of the system.
A four-digit serial was 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
this aluminium sticker, but only small white stickers with the serial. These
units also had 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
note that the first serial was not 0001, but a random number under 0100 according to the earliest serial 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.
Aluminium sticker under VM 577 units
The system, hand assembled, opens very easily.
The metal box is the UHF video modulator.
Click on the picture to see the circuits in detail.
The Videomaster Home T.V. Game played three games: Tennis, Squash and Football.
They were selected using two combined push-buttons (pressing one released the other).
If the released button was pushed slightly, it would release the other, selecting the Football game.
Like the Orelec PP-2000 and other early designs, this system used two potentiometers to adjust the
vertical and horizontal holds of the video signal. Although this eliminated incompatibility problems with 50Hz and 60Hz TV sets, modern TV sets
could have troubles detecting the video signal and making the adjustments more complicated.
Unlike most similar systems showing rectangular player paddles, the Videomaster
Home T.V. Game featured square players with the second one stripped. This clever
and rare design avoided confusion during rapid player motion, as they could only
hit the ball if located in their own area. There was no on-screen scoring and the
net was represented by a thin central line, enabled in all games. The system also beeped when the ball
was lost. The serve
was fully automatic: the hand controls did not have a serve push-button.
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
and used a newer circuit board which would equip the Videomaster Rally shortly after. An additional
"follow-me" on-screen scoring add-on board was available in kit form.
The top and bottom boundaries can be clearly seen.
The stripped player is on the right.
The ball is near the central line.
Nearly same as Tennis but with a 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 their middle), which required more
electronic components. Here again, the central line
should not be displayed in a football game...
The Home T.V. Game system: a typical style of the 1970's !
The boxes used two knobs to move the players.
This early style would shortly be replaced by joysticks.
The system with the two control boxes.
Detail on the knobs used to adjust the H/V holds, and the two game selectors.