The best bits
The accessories that were manufactured for
the Vectrex are nowadays the best bits for collectors. Ultra rare for
instance is the Vectrex 3D Imager, which was only sold in small numbers in
the U.S. The 3D Imager was a big pair of glasses - that big that it looked
more like a mask - which contained a circulating disc. By spinning the
disc covered in turn the left and the right eye. The Vectrex at the same
moment showed images for the left and the right eye in turn, so that a
threedimensional effect was created.
The 3D Imager had to be attached at the left joystick port. The use of it
made only sense with specially designed games: 3D Mine Storm, 3D Narrow
Escape and 3D Crazy Coaster. Also a fourth game was developed (3D Pole
Position), but this never made it into the stores.
As said the Vectrex had a second port,
for which one could buy an extra joystick. But actually this didn't make
much sense, because on most of the Vectrex games it wasn't possible to play
At the second port one could also attach a light pen. Like the Imager the
light pen was only sold in the United States. There were three cartridges
for use in combination with the light pen: Artmaster, Melody Master and
And then besides of those accessories
there were plenty of ideas. General Consumer Electronics e.g. wanted to
change the Vectrex into a real home computer set. Planned were a
keyboard, a modem, disk drive and printer. There also (still) exists a
prototype of a Vectrex with a colour display.
Welcome to the nostalgic
history of home and game computers
VECTREX - pearl among the game consoles
Vectrex had many ingredients to become a big success in the early eighties, but
for several reasons this striking game console failed to fulfil this promise.
But this doesn't bother today's collectors: because of the design the Vectrex
and all accessories have become items he MUST have.
Among the game consoles the appearance of the Vectrex was
unique: an elongated monitor that was hidden about three inches deep in an
arcade-like, black case. The player immediately thought himself in his own
arcade. Also unique was the controller of the Vectrex. Hidden in the lower end
of the case it was invisible, but once outside the controller turned out to have
enormous proportions: it measured 8 x 3 inches, with four buttons and a
The Vectrex owed its name to the vector technique that was used in the
arcades (for instance in Asteroids and Space War), but until then not yet in
game consoles. Different from the raster technique in the usual screens, it
wasn't necessary to project all points of the screen again and again: the
projection could be limited to those parts of the screen that were in use at
that moment. The result were pinpoint-sharp images.
Also typical, although not directly favourable, were the overlays like the ones
used with the Magnavox Odyssey ten years before. Because the Vectrex had a
black-and-white monitor, it was decided to supply every game with its own
coloured and transparent overlay, that could be attached to the screen. The
overlays livened up the games and moreover protected the eyes for the bright and
a bit blinking light that was typical of the vector technique.
The Vectrex was sold with a build-in game, Mine Storm, a derivative of the arcade
hit Asteroids. The other games were sold on cartridges, which could be plugged into the right side of the console that one would have placed on their adjustable desk. All together more then thirty different
cartridges appeared in the stores.
Father of the Vectrex
The 'Father of the Vectrex' was Jay Smith together with his companies Western
Technology and Smith Engineering. The idea for a 'mini- arcade' was born in the
early eighties, initially thought with a 5-inch monitor. Smith and co. in July
1981 went with it to Kenner, but this company didn't like it. But General
Consumer Electronics (GCE), known because of it's game & watches, was
enthusiastic and wanted to cooperate with Smith, on condition that a bigger
monitor would be used. And that's how, after code names like HP-3000 and
Vector-X, the Vectrex with a 9-inch screen was born. Manufacturing of the
newcomer among the game consoles started in the summer of 1982 and in November
1982 the first Vectrex consoles appeared in American stores. Now, for 199 dollar, the
consumer could create his own arcade.
Although General Consumer Electronics quickly sold it's stock of Vectrex
the company had to contend with financial difficulties. In the beginning of 1983
GCE was bought by Milton-Bradley (MB), the game manufacturer that in the
part' of the market had big successes with Simon, but that was rather envious of
the profits manufacturers like Mattel had with real consoles. MB immediately
decided to expand the Vectrex to Europe. 1983 Became the most important year in
the short history of this special game console. Then the Vectrex was sold in
many places in the United States and Europe, and in that year the most game
cartridges were manufactured.
Nevertheless, the sales figures were disappointing en in February 1984 MB was
forced to discontinue the manufacturing of the Vectrex. This decision didn't
come entirely unexpected: an omen for the fate of the Vectrex had been the
enormous drop in the selling prices. When we take the prices in the U.S. as an
example, we see that MB like GCE took 199 dollar as the starting price, but
later the selling prices descended to 150 and even 100 dollar. The result was
that MB suffered a loss of 32 million dollar. Even after the discontinuing of the
manufacturing, MB had full warehouses. De stock of Vectrex consoles was sold to
discounters, which gave them for prices of 45 dollar. For the cartridges they
asked 5 to 10 dollar, compared with 30 to 40 dollar in the beginning.
Long live the Vectrex!
But... the Vectrex isn't really dead. All the rights on the Vectrex and
related stuff went back to Smith Engineering. Without profit motive the
company makes possible the distribution of cartridge-ROMS, overlays and
In 1988 Smith Engineering even developed plans to come with a handheld
model of the Vectrex, but it abandoned the plan because of the imminent
coming of the Nintendo Game Boy.
Only for hardcore gamers
It is difficult to find out the exact causes for the fact the Vectrex
didn't have the expected success. Clear is that the large-scale launch by
MB in 1983 was ill-starred, since a year later the video game industry
collapsed. But that's wisdom in retrospect.
Possibly the consumer didn't like the black-and-white monitor of the
Vectrex; besides that the overlays at this time struck as outmoded. In the
field of consumer electronics the use of the vector technique made the
Vectrex an advanced device, but in other respects the graphic performances
were limited compared with the Atari VCS, the Intellivision and the
Colecovision. Probably the Vectrex particularly appealed to hardcore
gamers, who knew the advantages of the vector technique from their
experiences in the arcades.
An important pro GCE and MB stressed in their
commercials was that the Vectrex had its own monitor, so that unlike when
using other game consoles, the television didn't need to be annexed. This
argument may have been useful in Europe, but in the U.S. many households
meanwhile had more than one television.
Specifications of the Vectrex
Consumer Electronics in 1982/83
Milton-Bradley in 1983/84
||1982 to 1984
||8 KB (4 KB used by Mine Storm)
||2 x 1 KB
||3 channels through AY-3-8912
||cartridge, 2 joystick ports
Dollar at the moment of introduction.
sold for 45 dollar.
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