Western Technologies / Smith Engineering Vectrex

2nd Generation Competitors
Mattel Intellivision Atari 2600
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan Jun 1983 1984
North America Nov 1982 1984
Europe May 1983 1984

The Vectrex is an interesting beast.  It was created with the idea of portability in mind, the idea that the owner could pack it up and carry it wherever they wanted then plug it in and play.

To this end it had a lovely Vector based display.  Unlike the raster based displays that televisions employed, the vector display was designed to draw lines.  The result is an image that, whilst only black and white, pops off the screen and has a fair 3D effect.

Western Technologies shopped this idea around to manufacturers and eventually signed a license agreement with General Consumer ElectronicsGCE would build and distribute it and pay WT royalties.

GCE showed it off at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1982 and released it in November of the same year, just in time for Christmas.  The initial sales were promising, so much so that Milton Bradley, who had been looking to break into the games market, decided to purchase GCE.

With the extra muscle that the large toy company bought, the Vectrex was marketed in Europe and, in a partnership with Bandai, Japan.

However, the promising start ended when the video game crash, which affected North America and parts of Europe, hit.  The Vectrex sales disappeared and MB lost millions of dollars, causing them to merge with Hasbro.

Because the Vectrex was a black and white device, and the built-in screen meant it always would be, games came with a colour overlay.  This overlay marked off certain parts of the screen and highlighted score areas.

The downside of this technique is that over time the display becomes misaligned, so the overlays no longer line up properly.

The Vectrex produces a loud buzzing during operation, due to a noise issues with the high voltage line.  There is a mod that can be made to reduce this.

The Vectrex was the first home console to offer a 3D peripheral, the 3D Imager, which used a spinning disc to alternate eye covers.  The Vectrex also had a light pen which could be used by a couple of titles.

The Vectrex was a phenomenal achievement for it’s time and still has a devoted fan following.  The screen is hard to describe and can’t be adequately reproduced in pictures and video.

All Vectrex units come with Mine Storm, an asteroids clone, built-in.  It loads when a game cartridge is not detected.

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