Magnavox

Founded in 1917

Peter Laurits Jensen (1886 - 1961)

Career

Peter Laurits Jensen was born on May 16, 1886 in Falster, Denmark.  After graduating in 1902, Jensen worked an apprentice in the laboratory of Valdemar Poulsen, the inventor of magnetic recording.  He later became his assistant in 1905 and went to the United States in order to introduce the Poulsen Radio Arc System in 1909.

Together with his friends Edwin Pridham and Richard O’Conner, he founded the Commercial Wireless and Development Co. in 1911 in Napa, California.  In 1916, Jensen and Pridham moved from Napa, and the next year they changed the company’s name to Magnavox.  Jensen was chief engineer until 1925, when he resigned and founded the Jensen Radio Manufacturing company.  In 1945 Jensen founded Jensen Industries, Inc. to manufacture phonograph needles.

Recognition

In 1956 he was made an honorary member of the Audio Engineering Society; the next year he was knighted by King Frederick IX of Denmark.

Death and Legacy

Peter Jensen died on October 26, 1961 at the age of 75.  Later his company, Magnavox, created the world’s first home video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey.


Video Games

Magnavox Odyssey

The Magnavox Odyssey is the world’s first home video game console, designed by Ralph Baer.  It was released in August 1972.  A total of 27 different games were released on 12 game cards.  In 1972, about 100,000 consoles were sold; By 1974, total sales reached about 350,000 units.

Baer also invented the classic game Simon in 1978 for Milton Bradley.  This was a device with four buttons that would light up in a random order.  The player would have to repeat the pattern by pressing the buttons in the same order.

Magnavox has sued Atari for creating the classic game Pong, which resembled Magnavox’s tennis game.  This case was eventually settled.  Over the next decade, Magnavox sued Coleco, Mattel, Seeburg, and Activision, either winning or settling every dispute.

Magnavox Odyssey2

Unlike the original Odyssey, the Odyssey2 used more advanced game cards that each with individual graphics, gameplay, scoring, and music.  The games were designed by Ron Bradford and Steve Lehner.  The Odyssey2 used two joystick controllers like its predecessor.  It also included an alphanumeric membrane keyboard for educational games or programming.

One of the strongest points of the console was its speech synthesis add-on.  A board game series was also released, called The Master Strategy Series.  The first was Quest for the Rings!, which had gameplay similar to Dungeons and Dragons and a plot reminiscent of Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien.

Magnavox’s biggest competitors released consoles with much better graphics and color schemes.  However, the Odyssey2 still sold over one million units in the United States alone by 1983.