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As the saying goes, it all started somewhere. For the world of analog video gaming, it all started in 1972 when Magnavox made the first Odyssey console. Through the 1970s and early 80s, Magnavox and Atari were the only manufacturers with continued success selling in-home video game systems in North America. The US market for video game consoles nearly disappeared in 1983, though, when most manufacturers filed for bankruptcy and left the market. It was not until 1985 when Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in North America that the home video game market again found strength, and eventually boomed.
Retro is a fluid term used to describe a bygone era of gaming. There are a few things to look for when determining if your console is "retro:"
- Cartridge slots: Most retro consoles from the 1980s and 1990s, like the NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, and Atari 2600, use game cartridges instead of discs. These slots are typically quite large and prominent on the console.
- Wired controllers: Retro consoles will often have wired controllers that plug directly into the console. Wireless controllers were not common until the mid-2000s.
- A/V connectors: Most retro consoles will use analog audio/video connectors. These could be RCA connectors (yellow for video, red and white for audio), or an RF connector for very old systems like the Atari 2600.
- Material: Retro consoles are almost entirely made of plastic, which likely has discolored over time. Some very old systems like the Atari 2600 use faux wood paneling as part of the design.
- Branding: Look for brands like Nintendo, Sega, Atari, Magnavox, NEC (on the TurboGrafx-16), and SNK (on the Neo Geo).