MB OMNI Entertainment System – The 1980s 8-Track games machine.


[Intro Music] In today’s video, I’m going to be doing something a little bit unusual. You see, I don’t normally cover games, but for this device I’ll make an exception. It’s an electronic game from 1980, that uses 8-Track cartridges and it’s called the Omni Entertainment System. Now, I don’t believe they ever sold this here in the UK. I’ve imported this one from the US, via eBay and recently, I’ve also managed to get hold of some extra cartridges for it. So, let’s take a good look at it. At the time the Omni was released, it cost $119.99. I’ve got a page out of the Sears catalogue here, you can also see on the right, how much the additional cartridges cost, $11.99. Now if we look at the other things that are in the catalogue at the same time, you can see the rest of the games are quite basic, LED-based electronic games. There was a chess set there as well, which cost a little bit more than the Omni, but let’s go back to that price again, $199.99. If we convert that from 1980 prices up to the current date, that’s $377.70. The Omni was released under Milton Bradley’s MB Electronics label. That trademark was first applied for in 1978, and first used in 1979, and expired in 2000. But round about 1979/1980, Milton Bradley did introduce quite a few different electronic devices to the market. People around my age will remember the Big Trak, Simon, and the Microvision. But if you look on the Wikipedia page for MB and look under their electronic devices, you’ll see no mention made of the Omni. It seems like this is one of those forgotten products, so let’s put that right in this video, and I’ll explain to you exactly what it is and how it works. It’s an electronic quiz machine that asks questions contained on 8-Track cartridges. It’ll play the tape on the cartridge with the question on it, and then one to four players can enter their answers on the keyboard in front of them, and the machine keeps a score of who answered the questions correctly, who answered it first, and displays it on a little LED screen in front of each player. You can see on the back of the box here, there’s a number of different cartridges that were available for the machine at the time, and they each work in a slightly different way to do with the scoring and various other things I’ll show you that later on. Now recently, I’ve been fortunate enough to acquire some additional cartridges for my machine, but when I first got hold of it, it just came with this one. This is the cartridge that came inside the box when you first bought it. It’s the ‘Variety Programmed Game Cartridge’. It contains four different games, which are really samplers in a way of the other cartidges in the range, because those are all repeated out into full cartridges, such as ‘Vincent Price’s Movie Trivia’, where Mr. Price asks the questions, ‘Jeopardy’ of course based on the US game show, as well as ‘Password Plus’ another game show based cartridge, and then I’ve got a couple of other ones that aren’t really licensed I suppose. We’ve got the ‘Music Quiz’, which ‘You must B Sharp to win’ and ‘Words, Words, Words’, which has great unabridged fun. So if you’d bought all these cartridges, together with the machine itself, back in 1980, that would have been some considerable investment. I’ve gotta say it wasn’t particularly cheap nowadays, especially when you add on those import duties, but let’s have a look at the machine in a little bit more detail. So you can see we’ve got the keyboard, each side, for up to four players, but you don’t have to have four, you can play with just one person if you want, if you don’t have any friends. We’ve got the keyboard across the bottom here, you can see we’ve got numbers, we’ve got colours and we’ve got letters across the top. The games would use those in different ways, it depends which game you’re playing. So, some games would want you to type in the answer as a word, some would want you to select from a multiple choice, 1 to 4, some will say true or false, which would be one or two You’ve also got a go key at one end of the keyboard, and an enter key at the other, and I’d imagine the Sesame Street cartridge would probably use those colours along the top. In the middle of the machine is a speaker, a volume control, and a channel selector, which goes from one to four. That’s how you chose the program that you want to play off the cartridge. The pack-in cartridge, remember, has four different kind of quiz on there, so you chose which one you want to play by dialing that around to the appropriate number. Above each player is a two digit LED display, which has multiple functions. It’ll show the score that has just been obtained on the last question, every now and then it’ll show the total score for that player, it’ll also provide prompts as to the fact that you need to enter something on the keyboard before you can continue. The machine uses normal 8-Track cartridges. There’s nothing unusual all all about the cartridge, It’s more about what’s contained on the tape, in fact the machine can even play back normal music 8-Tracks. But if you don’t know anything about an 8-Track cartridge, I managed to find an old video here which will explain them in a little bit more detail. [Deeper, slightly muffled voice]
Hello, if you’ve bought a new car recently, it’s more than likely it will have an 8-Track cartridge player. But what is an 8-Track cartridge player? And why is it called an 8-Track? I’m going to explain it to you. Now an 8-Track cartridge is a continuous look of tape. If an album has forty minutes on it, it will have a ten minute loop, approximately, which goes around and around. Well how does ten minutes fit forty minutes’ worth of music on it? Well, it divides it into four programmes. Now, when the tape reaches the end, there’s a metallic coating on it, which drops the play head down to continue on the next programme, and similarly all the way down to the end of the cartridge, The tape head looks like this, we’ve got a left and a right channel. If we want to play the first program, it goes to the top of the tape and plays tracks one and five together, to produce a stereo sound. And then when it moves down to the next program, it goes to tracks two and six. Next programme, three and seven, and next, four and eight. And that is how an 8-Track cartridge works. [Normal Voice again]
So here’s how that works in practice, you can see on this album, we’ve got the four different programs on the back, but if we look a little bit closer, at the end of the first programme, ‘Who Said I Would’, there’s only half of that, it continues on program two. And similarly on programme three, at the end of that one we’ve got ‘Inside Out’, which has to be continued on programme four, and that’s because each loop is a set length. Now when it comes to the interactivity of listening to an 8-Track music cartridge there’s not an awful lot there. You can just listen to it from beginning to end, or by pressing the select button, you can move between the four available programs, one after the other in a sequential loop. And that’s the sum of it. But this feature of the 8-Track cartridge, the ability to jump between four individual parallel programs running at the same time on a tape was used to great effect, in one fondly remembered toy from the 1980s, The 2-XL from Mego. And it achieved this by having an individual selector button for each of the four programmes on the cartridge, so rather than the sequential selection that you get on a normal 8-Track music player, on this machine you can jump to an individual track, in an instant. So the machine could ask a question on programme one. By pressing the answer buttons, you’re jumping the play head down to programmes two, three or four. On which would be contained the appropriate response to the answer that you’ve given. Now the reason I mention this is because you might think with the Omni also using 8-Track cartridges, it uses a similar kind of interactive system, but it doesn’t, on this one it remains on the same channel throughout. The channel selector is just used to pick the type of game that you want to play off the four available on the cartridge. But then it remains on that channel throughout, so there’s something a little bit more complicated going on here to provide the interactivity. My best guess at this point is that it’s something to do with the fact the device only has a mono speaker, so therefore we’ve got a spare channel on the tape which could be loading program data into the Omni to enable it to perform different functions. To give you an idea of some of the programming that’s required to be able to play the different games if we look at the manual here, it explains different scoring systems for the pack-in games. For example ‘Pat Summerall’s Sports Quiz’, the first person to answer the question correctly gets four points and the other people who answer it correctly get three points. Whereas if you go to the reaction game, the first person to answer it correctly gets four points, but then it goes down, the second one gets three, next, two, next, one. But if we look at the Music Quiz, that’s a different scoring system again. The first person to answer the question correctly gets two points, and then the other ones get one. And then on top of this the answers to the questions are provided in a number of different ways. In some of the games it’s just a matter of pressing one of the keys, and then other ones, you have to type in the answer as a word. However that’ll just involve the machine translating those keys into numbers. So ‘Cat’ for example would be 1-1-7. But still, quite a bit of sophistication going on in this machine. Let’s have a listen to one of these cartridges to see if we can figure out where the data lies in relation to the questions. [Electronic Data Sound] [Omni, spoken overlapping]
-You’ve just won the game, congratulations.
-The winner of eleven academy awards, this film featured an exciting chariot race… [Omni]
Which film was it? [Omni]
1. Spartacus.
2. Quo Vadis [Omni]
3. Ben Hur
4. None of the Above [Electronic Data Sound] [Omni]
The film with the chariot race that was unforgettable was, Number Three, Ben Hur So, you should have been able to hear there, that you get a burst of data before the question, which by the way I’ve muted down a lot because it was a lot louder than the speaking section and then you get the question, but you also get some data on the other channel as well as some speaking. So let’s just listen to one channel at a time. [Electronic Data Sound] [Omni]
You deserve an Oscar for winning this game. Congratulations! Right, so this channel just contains a burst of data, a congratulatory message, and then a big gap during which point the question will be being asked on the other channel, which we can’t hear at the moment. [Electronic Data Sound] And then there’s a burst of data, some more silence, and then after a few seconds that’s followed up by another burst of data, and another congratulation type message. [Electronic Data Sound] [Omni]
You’ve just won the game, are you all ready for another look at the movies? Okay so, let’s have a listen to the other channel. [Electronic Data Sound] [Omni]
‘Smokey and the Bandit’ grossed $34,745,000 in 1977, this puts it among the top 25 money makers [Omni]
since ‘Gone With The Wind’ in 1939. True or False? So at this point the players would select one or two and then when every player had made their selection and pressed enter the game would continue. [Electronic Data Sound] [Omni]
True! This movie starring Burt Reynolds and Sally Field is one of the all time big money makers. Okay, so let’s try this out on the Omni itself. The cartridge slot is located on Player One’s side of the game. By inserting the cartridge, it turns the device on. It’s plugged into a mains power supply and I’ve got a voltage converter on it. I can feel the motor going, but I’ve got a feeling this tape isn’t advancing, so I’ve put a mark on the tape itself. Putting it back into the machine to see if the tape is moving at all. So after a few seconds, removed it, and sure enough the dot is still in the same place. However I figured out, that it was just a matter of locating the cartridge slightly differently inside the slot. Things must have moved around a little bit because if you push it in and then just pull it out ever so slightly, I could feel the cartridge moving properly. After checking it I could see that the tape was advancing. But still we were getting no kind of action out of the machine itself at all. No questions were being asked, nothing was showing on those LED displays. So after playing around with it for an hour or so, I decided it was time to open this one up. I’m sure you’ll be quite happy about this because people like to see what’s inside these things as well, so, it’s a good opportunity to look in it and hopefully we’ll be able to get this thing up and running. So there’s eight screws in total in the bottom there. It’s held together with a couple of wires here I just had to remove those so I could seperate the two halves. As you can see the 8-Track player is in the bottom and all the circuitry is in the top, and it’s just joined together with a couple of different cables. Now, one of the advertised features of this device is that it’s able to play normal music 8-Tracks as well as the games. So I thought I’d test it out by playing an 8-Track in it and as you can see here, this is the issue I was having before. You just have to move the 8-Track out a little bit from where it first locates to be able to get the tape to move. I also had to reconnect up those wires for the power and also this one is for the tape heads, and after waiting around for about 30 seconds or so, you hear a beep, at which point you can press the enter key, and much to my relief, this happened; [Disco Music Playing] But whilst it was capable of playing 8-Track music, it still didn’t want to interact with the data that was contained on the special game cartridges. So I thought I’d take a closer look at the circuitry and see if I could find anything that was wrong that I was able to repair. Now I’m not an expert in electronics. In fact I’m not an expert in any field whatsoever, but what I’m looking for here is obviously bulging or leaking capacitors, or anything that just looks a little bit out of place. But unfortunately, nothing stuck out as being obviously damaged, however whilst I was in here I did write down the values of the different capacitors with the intention of getting replacements if I need them, and whilst I’m in here it gives the the opportunity to give you a bit of a tour around, so you can see here, the two main chips that are on the circuit board, both from Texas Instruments, and if you look down towards the bottom left here, it looks like it’s gone through quite a few Quality Control steps. And you’ll have noticed that when I took it apart, I had to unplug four of these connectors, and these are the wires that go the LED displays that show the scores for each player. And the keyboards for those players are behind these panels here, and they’re all linked together by ribbon cables which go around the outside of the case, and then join onto the circuit board at these two locations here. Now whilst I had access to the volume control, it was a good opportinity to de-oxidise it, to get rid of the crackles, and I also thought, I might as well unplug both of those chips, and just spray some contact cleaner in there. I’ve had old computers in the past where socketed chips have become unresponsive, so I thought it might be something worth trying. And of course it’s always a good idea to clean the tape head. Now you can do this without taking the cover off, but with the cover removed it’s a little bit easier to access it, so I cleaned that with some isopropyl alcohol. So I decided that this point, before I order any components, I’ll just plug it all back together, and we’ll see if any of the things that I’ve done, however minor they are, if they’ve brought this thing back to life. So, let’s put in a cartridge and find out. Now I don’t know whether it was anything I’ve done, and I severely doubt it was, however I’ve now got the LED display flashing for each player, and that’s indicating that you have to sign in to start the game. Which is just a matter of pressing the enter key at the right of they keyboard, and then pressing ‘Go’. Now, I can hear the motor trying to move the tape, so the cartridge just needs a little bit of a wiggle to give it some encouragement. [Omni]
Can you guess this extra bonus word? [Omni]
This first clue is: Republic. [Omni]
R-E-P-U-B-L-I-C Great! The first questions it’s asked me and I haven’t got a clue about the answer. So I’ll just type something random in to move it on a bit. [Omni]
Second clue: Sadat [Omni]
S-A-D-A-T [Omni]
Third clue: Nile [Omni]
N-I-L-E Okay, I should have got it on the second clue, Sadat, but this time I do know what it is, It’s Egypt, so let’s type that in on the keyboard. Now I’ve set this up for multiple players, so I’ll have to press enter for the other players as well, [Omni]
You’re correct, the password is Egypt [Omni]
E-G-Y-P-T Now, a lot of the interference on that last test was being picked up from my Wi-Fi router, which is located only about a foot or so away from where I’m shooting, so I’ve switched it off for this next test. Let’s try a different cartridge. [Omni]
This actor was a circus performer before he became a movie star. [Electronic Data Sound] [Omni, spoken overlapping]
-You’ve played a great game, and you’ve won!
-Is his name… [Omni]
1. Tony Curtis
2. Burt Lancaster [Omni]
3. Charlton Heston
4. None of the Above Now there’s something not quite right here, because I’m able to hear the data burst, which should be muted and I can also hear some of the audio from other tracks. [Omni]
Number 2. His name was Burt Lancaster.
[Electronic Data Sound] The fact I can hear audio which shouldn’t be coming through on the speaker, gives me the indication that there’s something wrong with the alignment of the head on the 8-Track mechanism. So let’s have a look at it. So here’s the head, the metal section which moves up and down, and that’s held within a plastic cradle. And you can see on the edge of the cradle here, there’s a crack. The actual plastic has snapped and separated, which means of course that the head will be out of alignment. So I’m going to have to take this thing apart so I can get to that component, and then I’m gonna glue it together with some epoxy resin. So it requires quite a bit of delicate work just taking these components one after the other out of the mechanism, and then I can remove the section which holds the head, and I can also remove the head from that, so I don’t accidentally get any glue on it and you can see there, how it’s cracked. So, just a matter now of mixing up some epoxy, putting that onto the plastic mechanism, and holding it together and letting it set overnight. Whilst were waiting for that, I’ll just mention a couple of other things I got inside the box. You’ve already seen the instruction booklet, but notice, it’s a device for ages ten to adult, and the reason they’ve given for that is beacuse it’s a device which plugs into the wall power supply, it’s not powered by batteries, and they don’t want younger children messing around with that. But also I think that a lot of children would have difficulty answering the questions on some of these cartridges. They do seem to be aimed at adults. We’ve also got the Omni Toll Free Hot Line number here which we can ring up, I doubt anyone would answer that now, and we’ve got the Omni registration card. And it amused me that, that card goes back to Jean Lewis at Milton Bradley. Nowadays, something like this would go back to the regustration department, but back then it was just ‘Jean’ and everyone assumed that Jean would never retire from her job. It reminds me of a name from an old advert in the UK: Eileen Bilton. There’ll be a few people that remember that one. But anyway, back to what was in the box. I’ve also got a letter that was sent from MB, presumably to the previous owner of this device I’ve got, back in 1991, and they’re writing to him to say that it’s a discontinued device. Now I’m wondering if this was the chap writing to them to say ‘My Omni has broken, do you offer repairs or replacements?’, and they’ve written back to say ‘No, I’m afraid we no longer support it’. Which might explain why my device is broken. So hopefully, over 25 years later, my fix with epoxy resin, will have resolved the issue that Mr. Thomas was having back in 1991. So, let’s put this thing back together, and see if this time,I I can properly demonstrate it to you, without having the data track blast over the audio, or the other track leak through. Hopefully this time, it’s going to work properly, the heads are gonna line up, with the audio. Let’s try it first though with an 8-Track tape, just to see if the tracks are lined up with the head, and after a little bit of adjustment, everything seemed to be working fine, so I put the cover on, and let’s have a listen to ‘Vincent Price’s Movie Quiz’. [Omni, second track audible but incoherent]
In 1950, what movie featured the song, Pete Kelly’s Blues? Was it… [Omni, second track audible but incoherent]
1. Singing in the Rain
2. Kelly and Me So I’m still hearing two tracks at once. Well I’m pretty sure the machine is fine now, so it’s got to be something wrong with the 8-Track cartridge itself, now I’ve repaired plenty of these over the years, it’s just a matter of figuring out how they open, there’s quite a few different ways. With this one it’s just some plastic catches, which have to be moved out of the way so, get the front open first. The other two are located beneath the sticker, on the back. So just a matter of putting a screwdriver in there, and levering those until they open up, and there you go, we’re inside. So, let’s have a look at this sponge. Now you can see here it’s lost its elasticity, and I’m guessing that that’s putting the tracks out of alignment. So, let me try and replace that sponge. Just a matter of peeling it off the plastic backing, and then I’m gonna use the usual 8-Track sponge replacement I normally use, this comes from Stokvis Tapes, people have asked me about this before, the model, there, TLD9624. I bought this at Clas Ohlson in the UK, but I think it’s available in other places, you just have to hunt it out. But, look this is like a dust excluder. We’ve got self adhesive on one side, a shiny coating on the other, perfect for 8-Track tapes to slide over. We’ve got the sponge in the middle which is about the same width as the original 8-Track sponge, so you just stick it on there, and just cut off the edges, so it’s just nice and neat. Put a notch in each end for this particular cartridge, because that’s how it’s held in at the back. Then you just slide it in, between those two pegs, and it’s just a matter of putting the cartridge back together again.Now I’m going to come back to this cartridge in a moment. But first, let’s try playing ‘Words, Words, Words’. [Omni]
Type in the word that completes this affinity: [Omni]
Assault and… Right, so, what could that be? Well, remember, this is a game playable by children of 10 years and older, so, let me put Pepper in here. Assault and Pepper. [Omni]
Battery. [Omni]
B-A-T-T-E-R-Y [Omni]
Assault and Battery. Oh, erm, okay, I can’t imagine them putting that in a game nowadays, but anyway, let’s move onto the next question. [Omni]
What word completes this affinity: [Omni]
Soap and… So I’ll type ‘water’ in on the keyboard, or as the computer will read it 8-1-7-2-6. And as soon as I press enter, look at the score at the top, it goes up by 4. [Omni]
Water. [Omni]
W-A-T-E-R [Omni]
Soap and Water. Now, on this cartridge, some of the answers you type in, and then some are multiple choice. [Omni]
Choose the word that means the same as ‘Lexicon’ [Omni]
L-E-X-I-C-O-N [Omni]
1. Imp
2. Left-Handed [Omni]
3. Dictonary It’s difficult to know what age group these cartridges are aimed at, because questions like that one are particularly easy. [Omni]
A Lexicon is a Dictonary. [Omni]
Number Three. The study of word applications is Lexicology. [Omni]
(beep) Okay, now let’s try the Jeopardy cartridge, now this is licenced from the TV show in the US, Now, the US viewers might be surprised to know that we don’t have Jeopardy on screens here in the UK. There were no instructions in this box, in fact I haven’t got instructions for any of these cartridges, so it took me a little while to figure out exactly how to play this game. Now, at the start, each player signs in by pressing the enter key, so, we’ll sign in players One and Two here by pressing enter, notice each player gets ten points. And for each question you’re given a category, and you have to decide in advance how many points you’re prepared to stake on it. [Omni]
Under the category of ‘Famous Names’ another one of our daily bonus questions. [Omni]
(beep) And at this point you decide how many of your points, you’re prepared to gamble on getting that question right, with the maximum being four. So player one is gambling two, and player two is gambling three. [Omni]
In 1960, he won an Olympic boxing title; four years later, he won the heavy weight chapionship [Omni]
1. Cassius Clay
2. Floyd Patterson [Omni]
3. Sugar Ray Leonard So, player one thinks the answer is number one, so he presses one, and then enter, and then player two thinks the answer is number two. and once the last person has answered, the scores are updated. [Omni]
Who is Cassius Clay? Number One, is also known as Muhammad Ali. Now, having very little knowledge of the Jeopardy Game Show, and no access to the instruction booklet, I wasn’t too sure how many points you could stake on a particular category, but luckily the machine will tell you. If you select four or below, it accepts it, if you try and go above that number it won’t accept it. Okay, so let’s just try one more question. Imagine it’s Christmas Day 1980, all the family are sat around with their new Omni game system, let’s see what question it asks. [Omni]
The profession with the highest suicide rate. [Omni]
1. Accountants
2. Writers [Omni]
3. Physicians Oh good, a nice jolly question. Well, stake your bets, who do you think is most likely to kill themselves? Accountants, Writers or Physicians? Come on Physicians! You can do it! [Omni]
What are Physicians? Number Three. [Omni]
(Beep) Woohoo! Get in there! Now, on this game, every now and then, it’ll stop and say something like… [Omni]
That’s using your head! And flash the score of the current leader Okay, that’s enough Jeopardy for the moment, so let’s try a different cartridge. We’ll play the movie trivia one, but unfortunately, even though I repaired it earlier on, I still haven’t got it working perfectly. [Omni, other track inaudible in background]
My Darling Clementine, with Henry Fonda, depicted a famous gunfight, [Omni, other track inaudible in background]
which took place at the ‘blank’ Corral. Type in the name of that Corral. Okay, that’s an easy one. It can only really be one answer, but I’ll type it in, “O.K.,” on both of these keypads here, and I’m going to press the enter keys at slightly different times so you can see how the scoring system works. [Omni, other track inaudible in background]
The gunfight took place at the ‘O.K. Corral’ [Omni, other track inaudible in background]
I don’t have to spell that out for you. [Omni]
(beep) Okay, we’ll have a quick look at the Music Quiz now. [Omni]
This is a favorite campfire song, for young and old alike. Type in the first word of the title. [Omni]
(‘On Top of Old Smokey’ plays) Notice how I can type the answer, even whilst the music is still being played. [Omni]
‘On Top of Old Smokey’ is the title. [Omni]
‘Old Smokey’ refers to a hazy looking peak in the Blue Ridge mountains Right, I’ll let the machine do the talking now. So I’ve edited out the pauses, it’s going to ask you three questions, see how well you do. [Omni]
According to the music man, there’s going to be trouble in… [Omni]
1. Ocean City
2. Lake City [Omni]
3. River City
4. None of the Above [Omni]
Trouble in River City. Number Three [Omni]
Who made a hit recording of ‘What a Difference a Day Makes’? [Omni]
1. Dinah Washington
2. Natalie Cole [Omni]
3. Carly Simon
4. None of the Above [Omni]
Dinah Washington. Number One [Omni]
You are sharp today! [Omni]
Who wrote the soundtrack for the movie ‘Super Fly’? [Omni]
1. Anthony Newley
2. Curtis Mayfield [Omni]
3. Paul Williams
4. None of the Above [Omni]
Super Fly represents the best of orchestral soul music, and a platinum record for… [Omni]
Number Two, Curtis Mayfield. [Omni]
(beep) And finally I want to show you ‘Password Plus’, because this one works a little bit differently to the other cartridges, in the way it switches between the two available audio tracks. [Omni]
Can you guess this extra bonus word? [Omni]
The first clue is ‘Barrier’ [Omni]
B-A-R-R-I-E-R Right, so I’m going to enter my answer, I think I’ll put ‘reef’ in as in ‘Great Barrier Reef’ So let me type that in, and see how we get on. Oh, and player two, well he’s just having a bit of a moment. [Omni]
Second clue: ‘Great’ [Omni]
G-R-E-A-T Well, that still fits in with my orignal answer, as in ‘Reef’, so let me type that in again, maybe the keys weren’t registering properly. And what do you think player two? Okay, well, chin up, it might be right. [Omni]
Third clue: ‘Berlin’ [Omni]
B-E-R-L-I-N Finally, I get it, now It’s ‘Wall’. As in ‘Berlin Wall’, ‘Great Wall of China’ and ‘Barrier Wall’. What do you think player number two? Oh, forget it. [Omni]
You guessed it, the password is ‘Wall’ [Omni]
W-A-L-L Now, as far as what it does differently, just listen to the next announcement. [Omni]
Please wait 10 seconds. Now if you’re wondering why we have to wait ten seconds, well, I’ve got a chap in my garage, who can explain that to you. Right, now this is a little bit complicated, so it’s going to be easier for me to explain it with another low-tech chart. Imagine, this is your tape, we’ve got the left and right channels on it. And remember the Omni can switch between the channels, as and when it needs to. So, if we’re playing password, the idea of the game is that it gives you three clues to the password, and if you guess the password, it’ll then move onto the next question. The problem with this is, if you guess it too early, things get a little bit out of whack. I’ll explain. You get, Clue One, Clue Two and Clue Three. Now, let’s imagine we’ve just guessed it after Clue Three So, we’ve got the third clue, we’ve gone ‘Ah I know what it is’, type it in. If you get it right, it’s gonna say ‘Congratulations, You got it right, you’ve got the answer right’ etc. And then it’s gonna give us a bonus question at this point which is just one more question, and if we guess that one right, we get another ‘Congratulations, you’ve got it right’ here. Now, if we’re not as good as that and we get to the third clue, and we haven’t figured it out, we get it wrong, we get a fail message, ‘Sorry, you’ve got it wrong, this answer is such and such’. Probably at the end of here, and it just plays past this section in silence, until it can get back to the next question again. so what is has to do is just play past it, silently. So it’s got a message saying ‘Please Wait Ten Seconds’ Probably at the end of here, and it just plays past this section in silence, until it can get back to the next question again. Now the problem lies if you answer it too early as well. So you get clue number one, and you think ‘Ah, I know it!’ immediately, and you answer it here, Well, it’s a long way away from this section here. So what it has to do, you’ve got Clue Two and Clue Three yet to play, but it’s not going to give you those, because you’ve already got it right, So, it jumps down to this one, and plays you a little bit of a jingle, just to fill in a bit of time, and then, Music One that is by the way, it’ll play you another bit of a jingle here, just to fill in some more time, just killing time until it can eventually get to the “congratulations, you’ve got the answer right” message. So you can see here, on this particular game, by having these two linear tracks, depending on where you answer the question, you can sometimes find yourself answering a little bit too early for the game, and it just has to play past the section after that. So, to give you an idea of what that sounds like, here’s what happens when you answer the qustion on the first guess. [Omni]
Can you guess this extra bonus word? [Omni]
The first clue is ‘Tumble’ [Omni]
T-U-M-B-L-E Right, so let’s type in the answer, which is ‘Fall’, and see what happens [Omni]
(plays a jingle) Okay, so that was the first piece of music, but all the time I’m talking to you, the tape is still moving forwards. [Omni]
(plays another jingle) Okay, so that was the second stalling piece of music, but now we’re finally up to the section of the tape when it can say this… [Omni]
You’re correct, the password is ‘Fall’ [Omni]
F-A-L-L Now, I think my chart was a little bit wrong, because this was a bonus question, so it’s a little bit more elaborate, than I was describing, because then you get this… [Omni]
Please Wait 20 Seconds to start the next puzzle. But I’m sure you get the idea, and that just leaves one thing left to test, I know somebody is going to ask me to do this if I don’t, so what happens if you put a 2-XL cartridge in the Omni. Well obviously it’s incompatible, the Omni is just going to play it as a normal 8-Track cartridge. Which means playing it from the beginning to the end with no interactivity. [Omni]
Thank you for turning me on [Omni]
I am 2-XL, and this program will pitch my electronic brains against your biological thinking unit, in the area of Nostalgia. So I think you get the idea there, it’s just going to play through the whole tape. Which of course you could do on any 8-Track cartridge player. Perhaps I’ll have a look at a 2-XL in a future video, but now, onto the wrap-up. So, there you go, that’s the Omni from MB Electronics. Now when you mention a quiz machine that uses 8-Track tapes, it sounds a little bit quaint, but this thing really is a bit of a marvel of technology for the time. The things they’ve done here are quite impressive. You’ve gotta remember this is 1980, so we’re going back quite a way. And, it’s a programmable computer effectively. It’s reading data off the cartridges, that enables it to run the different games, in different ways. Before the questions come up, it knows what the answers are because it’s loaded in a bit of data, but it’s muted out that section, it then un-mutes, so that you can hear the question. Depending on what your answer is, it then tallies up the scores. It can score One to Four people, it knows the winner, it can flash the lights up, it can jump to the other track to play back audio that’s relevant to the input that’s been put in. There’s a heck of a lot going on here, it’s an incredibly impressive device really. And the thing is, it’s still fun. I mean, I had a lot of fun playing with this, and I’m sure if I had my nephews over, we could have a good game on this, and it wouldn’t feel like something that was 37 years old. There aren’t many games from that era, that you can really play for more than a few moments. If you look at the catalogues from the time, from 1980, what electronic games were available, it’s things like Simon and stuff, which I’ve got to be honest, the novelty on those wears off a lot quicker than it does on this. Now, of course at the time, once you’d played through the cartridge, once you’d played through all four programs on it, there’d be very little incentive to return, but of course you can then buy additional cartridges. I think the main reason why this never really took off, well, there’s probably a couple. It’s gigantic, and it was expensive, and at a hundered and odd dollars at the time, I’ve got a catalogue that I’ve shown you earlier on, where you can see the comparison between this and the other devices that were available. There won’t be many households that would have wanted to purchase one of these. And I’d imagine it’s got to have been a very expensive thing for MB to put together, the amount of engineering work that went into creating this is probably mind-boggling. But anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at this surviving Omni Entertainment System, and that’s it for the moment. As always, thanks for watching. [Outro Music]

100 thoughts on “MB OMNI Entertainment System – The 1980s 8-Track games machine.

  1. A few people have found the Wikipedia entry for the Omni https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/OMNI_Entertainment_System
    and are informing me I was wrong when I said it didn't have an entry. Well I was right at the time I made the video as that Wikipedia Omni page has been created directly as a result of people watching this video…it didn't exist before, but it does now. If you search for 'Techmoan' on Wikipedia you'll also find a few other articles that refer back to some of my videos.

  2. Its hilarious that someone in 1991 wrote a letter to Milton Bradley to inquire about his 8-track gaming machine. If he was still playing it in the 90s didn't he already know the answers to the questions?

  3. OMG, love it, we pulled all the chips from our Apple II E after we spilled a coke in it and then proceeded to wash it in the dishwasher, yes it worked after that and dad didnt beat our ass that nite. LOL Thanks for this retro memory I barely remember.. .. ….

  4. This is reminiscent of those VHS games or what we had here in Quebec as "Videoway" which used 4 TV Chanels cleverly switched by the set top box as you played along various scheduled game shows.

  5. Very interesting. I did not have the omni but I did have Milton. It uses an electronic voice that sounds like a southern black man. It used various short phrases like, pluck your chicken or flush your toilet and one button press would say part of the phrase pressing another button would say the end of a phrase. So you could have, flush your chicken, then he would laugh and say ridiculous or absurd. It was awesome. You should try and get a hold of that one.

  6. 0:49 I had the "Head-To-Head Baseball" game as a kid (and the football game, single player). I had totally forgotten these existed. I may need to dig through some closets next time I visit my parents.

  7. Let us mix enough epoxy for gluing the whole game to a wall, and then use 0.01% of it for gluing this small crack 😀

  8. Interesting on the 8-track. So if the longest play would have decided the "loop" length then possibly no "ca-clunk" between songs? Should of have just figured a way to advance the remaining tape on shorter programs.

  9. I am absolutely blown away the lengths you go to fix the devices. You could just order a new one, but no, you open that sucka up and are just brilliant about it. Thanks for all you do.

  10. I was a kid back then and i never heard of this. It probably wasn't big because it kinda sucks. Video games were just really starting to take off. Why the hell would someone want to spend all that money for something like this ? I wouldn't. I probably would have played it for about 3 or 4 questions and never used it again. Sorry, just think it sucks and clearly so did every other american kid.

  11. I am thoroughly enamored by this machine, especially by the fact that it loads programs from the tape, so that the games can be different from each other. Simply awesome.

  12. Love watching things like this. Wish I was less cackhanded, I'd be able to do it to the same level of expertise.
    One of the reasons I wish that Elon Musk's Neuralink wasn't a backdoor, brainwashing device, would be having access to such knowledge as was required. Replacing valves with transistors, comprehending circuits and chips. Mechanics and engineering. The secrets of Nickola Tesla. "Think it, know it." That would be a hell of a thing. Sadly, the tech giants can't even be trusted to give us the search results we asked fior.
    Ah well, cackhanded it is then. 🙂

  13. Wow to my ears the voice of the movie announcer/game host sounds a lot like Vincent Price. does some research IT IS VINCENT PRICE! By the way, I am 33yrs old and know his voice from "The Saint," Radio show. gets to 19:37 Oh, well that confirms it.

  14. You might be surprised to find that while the 800 number on the sheet at 18:02 does appear to be abandoned, the local number appears to still point to Milton Bradley Co.

  15. Have you accepted the next challenge? That is, so decode/interpret the machine instructions on one of the tapes, create new ones on your computer, and record that to a blank 8-track and create your own interactive cassette?

  16. This reminds me of mixed audio/data cassettes for the Atari XL/XE 8 Bit computers from end ot the seventies/early eighties. They used the left channel for speach and music and the right one for data or programs. So you got a multimedia programming lesson for example: Real music and spoken explanation on one channel and the programs to show or to fix on the other (loaded while the audio was played). You couldn‘t do that on Commodore C64 as the cassette was mono (only data).

  17. My grandparents had a 2-XL when I was a kid! IT was old at the time, but it had several tapes and I freaking loved it when I was growing up!! I have been keeping an eye out for one of those for years to no avail. :/

  18. People seem to think that the "old days" must have been soooo boring. But really they were better in many MANY ways. Sure we had devices and toys and television for distractions but we also went outside on the regular. If you wanted to have friends or be social, you had to. And we were happy to! You'd grab your bike, go play soccer or explore the local woods etc. If todays youth had any clue what they were missing they'd be singing a different tune. Oddly enough, Stranger Things season 1 captures it pretty well. Well there were less monsters but you know what I mean.😁

  19. i think it would have been cooler if it was computer with an 8-track player instead of compact cassette. but that would be a lot for 1980.

  20. Impressive! I use to own one of these back i nthe 1990's, but as I got it with zero documentation and no power cord I never got to do anything with it sadly.

  21. There's something depressing about the limitations and aesthetics of 1970s and 1980s electronic games in general. But a quiz game run on 8-track tapes really takes it down to the next level.

  22. Wow that device really is very sophisticated mix of analog and hybrid technologies. a lot of work must have gone into developing this game for sure.

  23. 22:38 No Jeopardy UK? That bad.
    In the US. Jeopardy is on CBS-TV
    With Alex Treberk.

    There is no UK.ver. of Jeopardy. That is odd

  24. This taught me a fact. I thought On Top Of Old Smoky was a song about a meatball rolling down the street (grandmas version)

  25. I can just imagine what development of this was like. They come up with the idea, say it's totally doable with the day's electronics, probably have an idea to make a cartridge like an Atari takes, and then some bean counter comes in and slaps an 8 track on the table, "Make it work with this."

  26. It's fascinating that, at a basic level, this works similar to how those DVD games worked that were all the rage in the 00s. Just that the DVD format had the advantage of a menu system and track system the games could take advantage of, to skip parts that were irrelevant to the current game.

  27. Never heard of this machine before but we had the Talk and Play witch is similar as it uses a 4 track tape with a book to follow along. You can choose different storylines. shown here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-9RzePSD-c

  28. These are by far the worst games I've ever seen in my life and they were well over $300 what the hell get pong | • | it literally looks just like thisand it's light years ahead of whatever that crap is and if you need to play games like that just go get trivial pursuit. Or grab deck next time you go to Fuddruckers

  29. This looks sort of like a super version of 2-XL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMqy87LKahE (and then I saw that you covered that too). :]
    Groovy hair, by the way.

  30. Thank you for posting this and going into great detail! I absolutely find this type of obscure 8-track FASCiN8ting!!!! 👉💜🙏

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