Micro Machines: Vectrex

Micro Machines: Vectrex

40 years ago the video gaming world was introduced to a new kind of game console. Vectrex was, and is, a revolution in how it presents graphics. ⁠

The idea of using a vector-drawing cathode ray tube display for electronic entertainment was the brainchild of John Ross of Smith Engineering. Ross and his friends had visited a surplus warehouse in Los Angeles and stumbled upon a one-inch cathode ray tube. This led first to a handheld prototype, which eventually transformed into a tabletop system with a bigger nine-inch display. ⁠

General Consumer Electronics (GCE) was the first to manufacture and distribute the Vectrex system. The console was launched in North America in November 1982 with Europe and Japan following in 1983. Milton Bradley Company continued with Vectrex after GCE.⁠

Vectrex fell victim to the video game crash of 1983. In the end, the console was in production for only two years. It has since become a true cult video game console – for a good reason. Firstly, many of the games were and are still truly good. Secondly, vector graphics remain as sharp and fluid as in 1982 and the originality of the display has not faded. The minimalism of the graphics seems to be almost ageless. ⁠

While the display could only draw one colour, Vectrex games came with imaginative and colourful plastic overlays. The player would put the plastic sheet over the monitor, enhancing the vector graphics with illustrations and added indicators. ⁠

Vectrex had also a few innovative peripherals like a 3-D Imager, a games console first, and a light pen which allowed drawing on the screen. ⁠

A handheld version of Vectrex with colour graphics was in the planning phases in the late 1980s but at that point, Nintendo had already won over the market with its Game Boy. ⁠

Do you remember the Vectrex? ⁠


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