INITIAL PRICE: $199 , $526 in 2019
The Vectrex is a vector display-based home video game console developed by Smith Engineering. It was first released for North America in 1982 and for both Europe and Japan in 1983. Originally manufactured by General Computer Electronics, it would soon be licensed to Milton Bradley after they acquired the company. Bandai would release the system in Japan.
As opposed to other video game systems available at the time, the Vectrex instead uses a monochrome CRT monitor, capable of displaying vector graphics, without the need to be hooked up to a television set. The control pad is mounted to the base of the console, and is detachable. To accommodate for the monochrome screen, games came with color overlays to compensate for this. A number of peripherals were also produced, such as a pair of 3D goggles known as the “3D Imager”, alongside a “light-pen” that allowed the player to draw on the screen. The system also comes with a built-in game, Mine Storm, playable if a cartridge is absent.
The console was originally conceived by John Ross, an employee at Smith Engineering, as far back as late 1980. Originally an idea to clear out excess inventory of 1-inch monitors, the console would soon become Smith’s first foray into the home game market. It was at first conceived as a handheld system, known as the “Mini Arcade”. Once the prototype was completed, it was presented to General Computer, who agreed to publish the console. Initial sales of the system were strong, causing General Computer to be acquired by Milton Bradley. The Vectrex was a victim of the North American video game crash of 1983, and was discontinued shortly after Milton Bradley’s acquisition by Hasbro.
Despite being a commercial failure, the Vectrex was highly praised for its software library, graphical capabilities and use of a monitor built-in to the system; several publications labeled it one of the best home consoles available at the time. The Vectrex is considered the first video game console to have a 3D-based peripheral. In later years, the system would gain a cult following, with many releasing homebrew software for it. A colorized handheld version of the Vectrex was conceived in the late 1980’s, however the success of the Nintendo Game Boy and manufacturing cost caused it to be shelved.
It was recently brought to my attention that the Vectrex and all related software are not public domain. Jay Smith still retains the rights but allow for new software development without fee.