Saturday, February 26, 2011

Vectrex - The High Performance Machine

The exciting news in the early days of video games wasn't always about the games themselves.  Sometimes it was about the sheer technology envelope-pushing joy of new game hardware, devices that were the stuff of science fiction a decade earlier.   And the Vectrex, famously the only home console with a true vector-graphics monitor, was no slouch in the new hardware department.  This Vectrex magazine ad from the mid-1980s barely mentions the system's games, and certainly doesn't picture any of them.  In fact, it doesn't even call the Vectrex a game console -- in the company's marketing parlance, it's the Vectrex Graphic Computer System.

In a break from 80s gaming tradition, all of the products advertised here actually did come to market.  There wasn't much one could do with the light pen beyond playing around with several animation and music programs; these tools were sophisticated for the time, but with no ability to save work in progress, their usefulness was limited.  The 3-D Imager claimed to present images "in color," and in fact did so using a spinning color wheel and shuttered glasses to present a (rather flickery) three-color stereoscopic 3-D image, but again only a handful of games were released for use with this peripheral.

It's another case of interesting hardware and bad timing -- as the industry went into its first major crash, having the look, action and power that leaves the others in the dust only meant that your system might be the last to go into the discount bin or get shipped off to Goodwill in bulk.  The dust was mighty deep in those dark days.

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