It's a great time to be a gamer as new consoles are launching. It's a time everyone will remember as we buy a piece of technology that will sit happily under our TVs for years to come. With each generation we see various upgrades and get all excited for what is now possible with our new systems, but this generational leap appears to lack the punch of those in the past. So we are here to ask whether we are seeing previous console changes through a haze of nostalgia or is this really the smallest console leap ever? We're going to take a look at each generation change in turn, to discuss each upgrade and to attempt to figure out which was the least significant. We're going to ignore the raw technical specifications and focus more on what each step meant for the gamer.
First To Second (1972-1976)
The first generation of consoles ruled from 1972 to 1976 and included the Magnavox Odyssey, Atari Tele-Games Pong, Coleco and the Nintendo Colour TV Game. The birth of the home console saw a few basic boxes enter the living room. These were simple machines, but they allowed gamers to enjoy "interactive television" from the comfort of their own homes. This was a change from the idea that games were played one coin at a time at the local arcade. Now gamers could pay once and play as much as they liked. Not much more than black and white dots or lines moved around the screen, yet the games made good use of the limited hardware capabilities. Pong is a good example of the level the technology was at, just a few lines that could be moved around a single screen. The second generation of consoles arguably started in 1976 with the Fairchild Channel F and ran until 1983. The Atari 2600, ColecoVision and the Intellivision were among the others. The jump from the first to the second generation essentially saw the hardware capabilities double with an advancement to microprocessor-based gaming from the transistor-based of the first consoles. These were still baby-steps, but consoles were now able to render eight colours rather than two, and boast a higher screen resolution. Players were able to change games using cartridges (a feature that was only previously in the most advanced first generation systems) and games got smart, allowing gamers to play against an AI opponents.