Milton-Bradley Omni Entertainment System (found 8-track tape series of trivia games; 1980)
The console with two of its games.
Date found: 08 Nov 2020
Found by: TropesAreDangerous
The Milton-Bradley Omni Entertainment System was a game console released by Milton-Bradley around 1980, via their MB Electronics division. The console was designed to allow up to four people to sit around it and use the built-in keypads to answer trivia questions. The games were audio-only and were stored on 8-track tapes, similar to the famous Mego 2-XL Robot toy. However, the Milton-Bradley Omni also placed programming data on these tapes to allow the system to know the correct answer to the questions and check it against the answers that were typed in via the keypads. The Omni also only used one of the four stereo programs at any given time during a game, while the 2-XL needed to be manually switched between the four stereo programs to give different responses for different answers. However, it is believed that the Omni was a market failure due to being far too expensive for a trivia game. As a result, the system and its games have fallen into obscurity, with only a few having resurfaced online.
The system focused on trivia games, as the 8-track tapes were perfect for holding audio recordings of the questions being asked. Milton-Bradley was able to license existing game shows, such as Jeopardy and Password Plus to use with the system. Celebrities, such as horror movie icon Vincent Price and the legendary sportscaster Pat Summerall lent their voices for their respective trivia games. Even Sesame Street's own Big Bird was pulled into the mix with a single Sesame Street game. The speaker on the Omni was mono, but the programming data enabled the system to switch between the two stereo lines depending on the outcome of the game. This would also enable to console to mute the load buzzes that would otherwise be heard when the next section of program data was pulled from the audiotape. In simple games, such as Pat Summerall's Sports Quiz, switching the stereo lines could be used to present a congratulatory message whenever at least one player answered correctly. In more complicated games, such as Password Plus, the system needed to know when at least one person had guessed the correct password in order to know when to stop giving clues. Also, it needed to be able to recognize when no one answered correctly, and thus, not provide the bonus question.
Game Preservation Status
The console was largely forgotten until August 2017 when the TechMoan YouTube channel acquired a unit and some games to demonstrate. However, the tapes are still quite rare, due to the obscurity of the console. Many tapes also require repair due to their advanced age. Finally, as 8-track tapes have been obsolete since the mid-1980s, the machines are becoming harder to find in working condition. Using the bottom of the console box and the supplied mail-order flyer, titles can be obtained for thirteen cartridges in the series. Four of these titles, Variety Programmed Cartridge, Vincent Price's TV Trivia, Pat Summerall's Sports Quiz, and Words Words Words, resurfaced on the Internet Archive in April 2019. Additionally, the first five minutes of Vincent Price's Movie Trivia was uploaded to pcloud. In November 2019, the following three cartridges were digitized and uploaded to the Internet Archive: Music Quiz, Pat Summerall's Baseball Quiz, and Jeopardy. In November 2020, the final cartridge, "For the Fun of It" was uploaded to the Internet Archive. The entire series of known releases is now found.
|Variety Programmed Cartridge||Found|
|Vincent Price's Movie Trivia||Found|
|Vincent Price's TV Trivia||Found|
|Pat Summerall's Baseball Quiz||Found|
|Pat Summerall's Football Quiz||Found|
|Pat Summerall's Sports Quiz||Found|
|Words Words Words||Found|
|For the Fun of It!||Found|
|Games Hosted by Big Bird and Other Sesame Street Friends||Found|
- Museum of Obsolete Media article on the Omni Entertainment System. Retrieved 18 May '19
- TechMoan YouTube video demonstrating some games and explaining the stereo line switching. Retrieved 18 May '19
- Imgur gallery of pictures of the console, including the games list. Retrieved 18 May '19