Flashback~*Forget About it-Friday

My son is obsessed with his Xbox 360. Obsessed. So far this obsession has not had a negative effect on his grades, the first sign of decline and the plug will be pulled. When I was a kid, Atari was king. My son doesn’t know what he missed.

Flashback-Favorite electronic games from childhood.

I have to start with Atari, though technically this was my older brother’s system. Pretty sure he only had one or two Atari games and that we only played one of them–Breakout–religiously.


Funny, I don’t remember Breakout being in color, that could be because we only owned black and white television sets at the time.

For those of you too young to remember, here’s a quick Breakout primer, courtesy of Wikipedia:

In the game, a layer of bricks lines the top third of the screen. A ball travels across the screen, bouncing off the top and side walls of the screen. When a brick is hit, the ball bounces away and the brick is destroyed. The player loses a turn when the ball touches the bottom of the screen. To prevent this from happening, the player has a movable paddle to bounce the ball upward, keeping it in play.

I also really enjoyed the handheld electronic game, Merlin. Merlin, which looked a lot like the first incarnation of the cell phone, consisted of six games. Everything from (my personal favorite) tic-tac-toe to blackjack. I vaguely remember an accident involving my Merlin that left it broken after only a month or two of use, but for a brief period, Merlin was my main man.

This commercial from 1978 will fill you in on Merlin’s amazing abilities.

My favorite of all the electronic games was Simon. To succeed at Simon all you had to do was prove that you could listen and remember stuff. Unfortunately for me, after the first round you had to it–quickly. Pretty sure I only beat the game once. No matter, I kept trying and I am sure my parents appreciated my perseverance. Nothing like the repeated sound of a bleating sheep to keep everyone in the house (or car) happy.

Did you have a favorite electronic toy growing up?

*Sorry no Forget About it this week. Today we only Flashback. Soon I will be heading out-of-town for spring break. More than likely posts from me will be sparse or non-existent until the week of 4/12. Cheerio! Ciao! Au revoir!

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14 responses

  1. Oh, wow. This hits right in the sweet spot. First, I was a HUGE fan of the Atari 2600. My family had a weekly ritual. Every Friday night, we would go out to the mall for dinner, shopping and a movie, and stop by Sears to pick up another game cartridge for the system (if there was a fun game available). Then, we would spend all day Saturday learning and playing the new game. By the time I had moved on to other things, we probably had over 100 different games. Some of my favorites included Pitfall, Missile Command, Space Invaders, Yars Revenge, Auto Racing, Defender, Poker/BlackJack, Star Fox, Asteroids, River Raid and Football. And of course, there was the disaster that was ET, which was a terrible, terrible game.

    I’ve tried over the years to get into new gaming systems, but it’s just not the same. I feel like the clueless Emperor in “Amadeus” when he listens to Mozart for the first time, and tells him “…there are simply too many notes.” Except substitute “buttons” for “notes” and there you have it. Give me the joystick and ONE red button any day.

    As for the handhelds, I had those you mentioned above, but my absolute favorites were the Mattel sports games – basically tricked out calculators with red LED dashes on a tiny screen. I had Football, Football II (which featured the forward pass, which Mattel seemed to discover about the same time Vince Dooley did), Basketball, Baseball and Racing. Those things were awesome, and made any road trip or visit to the grandparents 100% more tolerable.

    • Sounds like a great family ritual!

      Your response helped trigger my memory! Pretty sure we also had the Space Invaders and Asteroids Atari games. I’ll have to ask my brother. I am with you on the new gaming systems though I do enjoy playing Wii. I remember walking to a convenience store around the corner from my home with the express purpose of playing Pac-Man–so clearly I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles either.

  2. My first video game was a “Pong” bought at a garage sale. Not sure who made it, probably Atari. B&W screen, paddles on left and right, dot bouncing back and forth.

    Did the Mattel Football gadget during high school. Had to take the speaker out to be able to play during class. What a blast from the past thinking about that and how insanely primitive and addicting it was. All you had to do to beat the game was let the battery drain and the blips slowed down.

    My first real video game experience I was really passionate about was “Intellivision”. The controller was state of the art with a control disk and numerical keypad which provided 9 buttons perfect for playing baseball – which I did a lot of.

    At UGA, a fellow apartment neighbor had a set with many games and of course we spent hours upon hours playing.

    I still have the “Intellisivison” and a handful of games. It’s not so easy to hook up any longer but I think there are adapters for the truly motivated.

    • Another Pong reference–love it!

      Too funny about the Mattel football game! My son and his friends like to take shortcuts on the Xbox if it means they can “level up” sooner.

      Never heard of Intellivision–I’ll have to Google it.

  3. Before my family got the 2600, we too had the single console “Pong.” two buttons on the console, black and white, and 2 games (1 player and 2 player). I had completely forgotten about that. Boy, did that get old after a while.

    A kid in my neighborhood had the Intellivision, and I think the Atari was superior in many ways except for one: the baseball. T Foster, you are exactly right. Their baseball game was the shit. It totally smoked the Atari version, and was without question the best sports game of the era. We made teams, and played entire seasons on it over one summer.

  4. We had Pong on a system called Odyssey I believe. It preceded Atari. But later we got an Atari and my dad always called it “Octari” and still would if you asked him about it. I think my favorite game was pinball, but also liked the basketball game. When playing the system, it would cheat like hell if you started building a good lead and steal from your dribble every time until it caught back up.

    LIke Shan, my favorite was Mattel Football and learned how to use an entire half with one posession. So, If you had the ball first and scored. I would burn the rest of the first half and score on the final play. Then I would burn the entire second half and score again on the final play. I guess it wasn’t any fun to play me. But, I didn’t always play like that, only when someone thought they could beat me and needed to learn a harsh lesson. Haha.

    Also had a Coleco Head-to-Head football handheld that was pretty awesome but we left it at the Space Center in Huntsville, AL while on a field trip. Bummer!

  5. Oh I totally played all of those games! But my fave was a bright yellow Pac Man game, in the shape of a Pac Man. I played that thing for HOURS. I remember playing it on vacation when I was around 10ish and I kept yelling “shit” every time I was eaten by the monsters. My mom was in the next room and kept yelling at me, and then finally took the toy away. I also played the actual arcade game Ms. Pac Man for hours and would get bloody calloused hands from my tight grip on the joy stick. And what perv named those things joy sticks anyway?

  6. I just downloaded Simon for my iPhone. It was a moment. I have only played it once because I don’t think my memory is as good as it used to be! Gave me a headache

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