Smith Engineering – Vectrex

The name of Jay Smith probably doesn’t tell you anything, yet it is this independent engineer who brought the consoles in our pockets in 1979, with the first handheld console, the Microvision.

In 1981, Smith gives himself a new goal, that of creating a console with its own screen and only requiring a power outlet. The most popular arcade games of the time such as Asteroids, to name only one, were using a vector-based display technology (unlike traditional pixel-based graphics) the technology retained by Jay Smith.

After a first prototype named “Home Arcade”, the Vectrex is born in 1982. Its controller is at least if not more revolutionary. In fact, it has 4 action buttons (against one on its main competitor, the Atari 2600), but more importantly, it is the first joystick in the video games history! The handle easily fits under the console for transport.

The Vectrex starts strong. It charms children and adolescents by its power and arcade look. In addition, it greatly appeals to parents who can continue to watch TV while the kids play on their side with the integrated display. However, two things will hurt its sales: its price of $ 199 (about $ 460 today, taking into account inflation) and its monochrome screen, which uses ”Overlays”, plastic tinted films, to produce an apprearance of color.

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