Telstar Ranger

Tonight I was reading up on video games on Wikipedia and wound up reading about the Atari Computer that we used to have (the Atari 400) and before too long I found the Coleco Telstar Ranger. This was the first video game system we ever had. It was a little more advanced than PONG, including six games, including a pretty cool old West “gun” that you could use to shoot targets on the TV screen.

Just seeing a picture of the console brought back memories. The controllers were just dials that you could rotate to make something go left and right or up and down. There wasn’t even a button. They either sat in the console or you could connect a wire to them (which was a neat concept; early Coleco models didn’t have a detachable controller). I have no idea how the gun worked, but it was pretty neat technology, even if it didn’t make for a great game.

They had “tennis” where you would bounce a ball back and forth with the other player and try to get it past them.

With “hockey” you tried to get it past the person and into a goal. You had a goalie and a forward that moved in unison. I remember that being a pretty good game. When you changed levels your player would get smaller and the ball would move faster. At the highest speed it was pretty much impossible.

They had “handball” where both players were at one end of the screen and bounced the ball off the other end, taking turns for responsibility of keeping the ball from going past.

I think “Jai Alai” was just handball with two people on your team. That was the first I had ever heard of jai alai.

“Skeet” sent a ball across the screen from left to right that you had to shoot.

“Target” allowed the ball to bounce off the edges until you hit it.

That same year, 1977, Atari released the 2600 which had much better games that were in color. Wikipedia says that the 2600 was an early 2nd generation home video game, whereas the Coleco was 1st generation (today’s Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii are 7th generation). I remember Jeb and I (and Grant sometimes) going up to the Northlake Sears to play Combat. Eventually, after the 2600 was obsolete, Grant bought one from one of his friends and we played that for a while.

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