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Vol. 2, Issue 10
January 31, 2000

From the Mouth of Madness:

In Search of the Holy Grail

by Jason "loonyboi" Bergman




efore I get into this week’s column, I should apologize for the scattered updates last week. Sadly, e-mail problems disrupted my normal schedule, preventing a few of them from going up. All is well now, however, so don’t worry. We’ve got lots of great stuff for you this week

Regardless, I’m going to talk about a favorite subject of mine this week, classic console systems. As I’ve already stated here and elsewhere, I’m a collector of old game systems. In the last few days, I’ve acquired a NEC TurboGrafx 16, a brand new Atari Jaguar CD, and a boatload of new games. Not to mention that I’ve got my eye on one of those 3DO systems.

Like any obsessive collector, there are certain items that I would give anything to get my hands on. In every hobby this is the case...from comics to baseball cards, no matter what you collect, there are specific things that are truly the holy grail to collectors.

And so, I thought I’d use this week’s column to talk about the holy grail(s) of console collecting. And hey, if you know where I can find one, feel free to let me know. :)

There are rare systems, all right, like the original Odyssey system from Magnavox. It was actually the first home gaming system, and it’s difficult to find, no question about it. While the Odyssey 2 was released in the late seventies (and is relatively easy to find if you know where to look), the original Odyssey system was released in 1972. That’s a full 16 years before the Atari revolution. The system was pretty pathetic – it had no CPU (they hadn’t been invented yet!) and while it took cartridges, they didn’t actually add anything new to the system, they enabled games already programmed on the hardware to be played.

And of course, it didn’t really have any “graphics.” It came with overlays that you taped to your television in order to get any sort of graphical experience. And of course, it was black and white. It’s not too difficult to find an Odyssey, they are out there. But finding a working one with all the parts (it came with quite a bit) can be a bit of a challenge.

But at least that system actually exists. The real holy grails for collectors are the systems that never actually shipped...in some cases, the ones that were never even confirmed to exist by the developer.

First up: Atari’s Panther. In the late 1980’s when Atari decided they were going to get back into the video game business, they started a massive research project to get things underway. Those of us who were hardcore into the console scene back then recall rumors floating around about first a system called “Panther” and then later one called “Jaguar.” What was really wacky about the rumors, is that all kinds of numbers were floating around. It was a 32 bit system. It was a 64 bit system. It used cartridges, it used CDs. All manner of strangeness was coming out from Atari’s research division.

There’s that saying that there’s a little bit of truth in every rumor...well, in this case, there was a lot of it, but the problem was that all the facts got run together. In actuality, Atari wasn’t developing one system, they were developing two. There was the Panther, and then the Jaguar. The Jaguar, a pseudo 64-bit system (no need to get into technical details there) was eventually released, first as a console system, and later they released a CD-ROM add-on. But there was, in fact a second system, which was 32-bit.

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Credits: Illustration © 2000 Dan Zalkus. From the Mouth of Madness is © 2000 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 2000 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, you strange, strange lad you.