Computer Intro (Odyssey^2, 1979)
The Odyssey^2 has one thing that no other videogame console, before or since, ever had: a full-sized, built-in keyboard.
Another exclusive for the Odyssey^2 is Computer Intro; a cart that, along with its manual, teaches its user the fundamentals of assembler and machine language programming. Say what you want about the Odyssey^2's games, sound, graphics or exclaimation-point-driven-advertising, but Computer Intro deserves nothing but respect. We're not just talking about a well-written manual, this is a programming environment that lets the user enter and run their own programs with up to 100 lines of code!
In 1979, find me anything (hardware + software) in the same price range that even comes close to doing that. By the way, don't just get the cart and try to "wing it". The 102-page manual is essential to use this cartridge properly, not only for the wealth of information and tutorials in its text, but for the illustrative gatefolds that serve as handy references for the user while learning to program. In addition to providing a mini-course in assembly language programming the manual also puts things into perspective, claiming:
"The cartridge turns your Odyssey^2 into a very special kind of computer. It won't balance your checkbook or do your income tax or plot the course of a spaceship to Mars. But it will give you some idea of how those computers do their work."
That's exactly what it does. There's no hyperbole to be found in this manual, no techno-babble (like "on-screen electronic sensors") that one may find in other Odyssey^2 manuals. This is straight, informative useful information. If you, like me, are someone who wishes they had learned how to program at an early age, but didn't have access to a computer until it was comparatively too late, let me add to your wishful thinking by recommending you take a look at Computer Intro's manual here from Ozyr's awesome Odyssey^2 archive. (Print it out, it's easier to read without the background.)
After getting an idea of what the manual is teaching you, you'll wish you'd had an Odyssey^2 instead of an Atari -- whoa, let's not go that far! How about this: you'll wish you'd had an Atari and an Odyssey^2, with Computer Intro, back in 1979.
In the interest of avoiding a long and boring "compare and contrast" to Atari's Basic Programming, let me just summarize by saying Odyssey^2's Computer Intro is better than Atari's Basic Programming. When I say "better than," I'm saying something very similar, in spirit, to "kicks the ass of," "wipes the floor with," or "is not fit to tie the shoestrings of." I just want to be sure that you understand what I'm trying to imply here.
If willing to take the time to read the manual and input the programs, I can't imagine anyone not benefitting from Computer Intro.
Next entry, we'll enter into the homestretch for the 197x's, with the 1979 line-up for the Bally Professional Arcade.