Play Games
Site Info
In Dutch

Search for:

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 simultaneous.
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 Animaction.

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

The 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 self-centring joystick.

Pinpoint-sharp images
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. 

Clearance prices
Although General Consumer Electronics quickly sold it's stock of Vectrex consoles, 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 'electronic 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.

32 Million loss
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 manuals.
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


General Consumer Electronics in 1982/83
Milton-Bradley in 1983/84

Period 1982 to 1984
CPU Motorola 68A09
Frequency 1,6 MHz
ROM 8 KB (4 KB used by Mine Storm)
RAM 2 x 1 KB
Colours none
Sound 3 channels through AY-3-8912 sound chip
I/O cartridge, 2 joystick ports

199 Dollar at the moment of introduction.
In 1984 sold for 45 dollar.


Play games online on this site, and enter your name and high score. No need to download, play Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Asteroids and Snake simply on the screen.


Gameshop - Atari, NES, SNES and SEGA games for sale

nintendo nes en snes games

View results from last poll: how many games you have? (3127 votes)

Tell a Friend

History of Home and Game Computers, by Erik Klooster, the Netherlands

With 4 computers, this site participates in the Cancer Research Project. Worldwide, already 1.5 million people make time on their computers available. Join our team: Mrs. Dynamite. Thank you very much!