Merlin, the Electronic Wizard

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Merlin (sometimes known as Merlin, the Electronic Wizard) was a handheld electronic game first made by Parker Brothers in 1978. Merlin is notable as one of the earliest and most popular handheld games, selling over 5 million units during its initial run, as well as one of the most long-lived, remaining popular throughout the 1980s. A version of the game has been recently re-released by the Milton Bradley Company.

Merlin was created by Bob Doyle, a Harvard PhD and inventor who had previously worked with NASA. Merlin took the form of a rectangular device about eight inches long and three inches wide. The play area of the game consisted of a matrix of eleven buttons; each button contained a red LED. The array was encased in a red plastic housing, bearing a slight resemblance to an overgrown touch-tone telephone. Four game-selection and control buttons were also placed at the bottom of the unit; a speaker took up the top section. Supporting electronics (including a simple microprocessor) were contained within the shell of the game. Parker Brothers later released Master Merlin with more games, and the rarer Split Second, where all games involve time with a more advanced display, sporting line segments around the dots. Both of these share the same general case shape, and came out a few years after Merlin.

Merlin's simple array of buttons and lights supported play of six different games, some of which could be played against the computer or against another person. Here is the list of games that could be selected:

Tic Tac Toe
Music Machine
Echo, a game similar to Simon
Blackjack 13
Magic Square, a pattern game similar to Lights Out
Mindbender, a game similar to Mastermind


Our machine was kindly donated by Martin Towner.

Manufacturer: Parker Brothers
Date: 1978

Merlin, the Electronic Wizard Manuals:

Item Manufacturer Date
BT Merlin User Guide M2105 Messaging Terminal BT 2 Jun 1985

Magazines RELATED to Merlin, the Electronic Wizard in our Library

Item Manufacturer Date
SERC Bulletin Spring 1984 1984
Acorn User - May 1996 1 Jul 2009

This exhibit has a reference ID of CH16957. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.

Merlin, the Electronic Wizard

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