Which Of These Early Game Consoles Eschewed Raster Graphics For An Authentic Arcade Display?
Answer: The Vectrex
When you imagine old arcade games in your mind, what stands out the most? Most likely, it’s the intense glowing lines and high contrast between them and the inky black negative space around the lines. Those line-art style games—like Asteroids, Battlezone, and Space Wars—used vector-based displays, like those found in early radar display consoles and oscilloscopes.
While vector graphics were incredibly popular in early arcade games, there was only a single example of vector graphics making inroads into the home console market—the very appropriately named Vectrex Arcade System. The Vectrex stood apart from other game consoles, which used raster graphics, by including a vector monitor as part of the core package. Thanks to licensing deals with popular arcade manufacturers, not only did the Vectrex have the ability to render vector graphics in the home just like at the arcade, but you could actually play games like Space Wars right at home.
The console initially retailed for $199 (a little over $500 in modern money) when it was released in November 1982, but the looming video game crash of the early 1980s put the hurt on sales. Despite how impressive it was to have true arcade quality graphics in the home, General Consumer Electronics and its product lines ended up being sold to Milton Bradley where the retail price of the Vectrex slowly drifted down until the last units were sold for a mere $49 each.
Image courtesy of General Consumer Electronics/Milton Bradley.