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2, Issue 10
January 31, 2000
the Mouth of Madness:
In Search of the Holy Grail
I get into this weeks 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 dont worry. Weve got lots
of great stuff for you this week
Im going to talk about a favorite subject of mine this week,
classic console systems. As Ive already stated here and
elsewhere, Im a collector of old game systems. In the last
few days, Ive acquired a NEC TurboGrafx 16, a brand new
Atari Jaguar CD, and a boatload of new games. Not to mention that
Ive got my eye on one of those 3DO systems.
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.
I thought Id use this weeks 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. :)
are rare systems, all right, like the original Odyssey system
from Magnavox. It was actually the first home gaming system, and
its 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. Thats a full 16 years before the Atari
revolution. The system was pretty pathetic it had no CPU
(they hadnt been invented yet!) and while it took cartridges,
they didnt actually add anything new to the system, they
enabled games already programmed on the hardware to be played.
course, it didnt 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. Its 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.
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.
up: Ataris Panther. In the late 1980s 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 Ataris research division.
that saying that theres 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 wasnt
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.
appear that Ataris original plan was to release the Panther
first, and then follow it up with the Jaguar a few years later.
What ended up happening is that the Panther turned out to be a
mishmash of technologies from internal Atari development, and
Flair, which Atari had purchased to kickstart their next-generation
console development. The system was such a mess, that they decided
to move ahead with the Jaguar instead (rather than have two half-assed
system, they preferred to throw their whole ass into one).
of the Panther has long been confirmed by former Atari employees,
but it really entered into the realms of legend when Atari closed
their doors. Smart collectors willing to shed some of their dignity
went rummaging through their dumpsters late at night, and discovered
all manner of things, but there are supposedly three Panther development
systems out there. Thankfully one surfaced at the Home
Computer Museum, so you can look at pictures of the box online.
The other two...well, theyre still out there, possibly in
the possession of someone who has no idea what theyre carrying.
Atari bit of gold, also from the Jaguar era, comes in the form
of the Jaguar 2, or Jag Duo as it is sometimes referred
to. The system was shown once, at the 1995 summer CES show in
Chicago, and more than likely was just a non-working mockup. Still,
if it was shown publicly, it must have existed in some form. The
Jaguar 2 was a complete redesign of the console, that combined
the cartridge base and CD add-on into a single unit. Its
a similar concept to the TurboDuo that NEC released, and like
that system it is likely that it contained more RAM or a faster
CD-ROM than the individual units. As you can see from the picture
here (more are available at AtariHQ)
the system sure was pretty, and improved greatly on the original
Jaguars clunky appearance.
the M2, which not only definitely existed, but still is out there
somewhere. The M2 was the next-generation version of 3DOs
console, that they sold to Matsushita when the company switched
exclusively to software development. Matsushita continued to develop
the hardware, and there were even developers working on games
(D2, which was just now released for the Dreamcast in Japan, started
as an M2 title). The system is supposed to have rivaled the N64
in power, and was eventually scrapped. But again, the system was
shown in public, and was in development for several years. A dumpster
diver somewhere likely has one, and there are collectors across
the globe hunting for these things.
there is the real holy grail, Sonys SNES project. Everyone
knows the story Sony works with Nintendo to make a CD-ROM
add-on for the Super Nintendo system. Then, Nintendo decides to
go with Philips. Sonys mad, they have a working prototype,
which they turn into a full CD-based system, and sell as the Playstation.
The rest is history. But, what most people dont know is
that Sony created a dual SNES cartridge/CD-ROM based system called
the Play Station. This was a different system from
the PSX (eXtension as in the CD-ROM add-on for the
SNES) and was formally announced. It was never shown, but rumors
have surfaced that it did exist. If ever there was a holy grail,
this is it.
Do I ever
expect to own one of these? Well, maybe the Odyssey. As for the
rest...well...I cant say I really expect to. But jeez...would
that ever be nice. :)
next week, stay loony!
Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor in chief here
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