By Patrick Mondout
At first glance Simon is a very simple electronic game. The mechanism,
which is about the diameter of an vinyl record album, has four colored
buttons which light up in a random sequence to a series of sounds. When it
has completed its pattern, you must repeat the pattern by pressing the
buttons (which creates sounds) in the correct sequence.
Sounds easy, doesn't it? That's what I thought as a ten-year-old in the
Wickenburg, Arizona, elementary school library when I first encountered
it. All the "good" electronic games were checked out so I gave
this one a try. It's amazing how addictive its simplistic
pattern-matching concept is. And the longer you play, the more difficult
the game becomes.
Simon is smart enough to keep track of multiple players and it is a
great non-violent electronic contest, which may explain why it was and is
as popular with girls (and women) as boys (and men). It's particularly
alluring in a dark, quiet room.
Who's Idea is this Anyway?
Although credit usually goes to video game pioneer Ralph Baer for
creating the single chip Simon electronic game, the complete story of its
origins is a bit more complex. It starts in 1974 with a full-sized arcade
game from Atari called "Touch Me." The object of the game should
sound familiar: four buttons randomly blink and you must repeat the
sequence by pressing the buttons.
The game, however, was a flop in the arcades. The aforementioned Mr.
Baer recast the game with random tones to match the random lights. His
idea was sold to Milton Bradley by the company he licensed his inventions
to, Marvin Glass & Associates. The Simon, released in time for
Christmas 1978, was an instant success. In response to the success of
Simon, Atari released a hand-held version of their Touch Me game,
but once again it failed to touch the hearts and wallets of consumers.
Simon, on the other hand, has sold millions and is still available at
major toy retailers.
Where Are They Now?
Ralph Baer, who was born in Germany in 1922, is still inventing
products at his company, R.H. Baer Consultants. Not many electronic toys
developed in the late Super70s are still being produced, but the venerable
Simon is -- albeit with a few modifications. The new see-through Simon can
be seen (and purchased) at Amazon.com.