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Miscellaneous Gaming - Merlin

Miscellaneous Gaming

Merlin The Electronic Wizard of 1978

This gem dates back to my childhood when a series of flashing lights could be considered a "game" worthy of one's time and money. This Merlin unit was the first handheld game I ever owned. It comes from the same era as the Mattel handheld sports games.

Merlin (aka: The Electronic Wizard) was a handheld electronic game 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. It remained popular throughout the 80s. A version of the game was re-released by the Milton Bradley Company.

Six games were built-in to the Merlin:

  1. Tic Tac Toe
  2. Music Machine
  3. Echo, a game similar to Simon
  4. Blackjack 13
  5. Magic Square, a pattern game similar to Lights Out
  6. Mindbender, a game similar to Mastermind

We have scans of the entire Merlin Instruction Manual.

Merlin The Electronic Wizard - Images

Merlin box & Packaging

Merlin Front of the Merlin box. Merlin was created by Bob Doyle, a Harvard PhD and inventor who had previously worked with NASA.
Merlin Back of the Merlin box. The play area of the game consisted of a matrix of eleven buttons; each button contained a red LED.
Merlin The Merlin instruction manual shows how to play all the games as well as providing a few songs - via numeric input - for some tunes to try with Music Machine. View the entire Merlin Instruction Manual.

Merlin Handheld Game

Merlin Top view of the Merlin handheld gaming unit. The Music Machine game functioned as a musical instrument; in this mode each key was assigned a musical note, and sequences of notes could be recorded and played back. This made Merlin one of the earliest sequencers as well as an early consumer-level electronic synthesizer.
Merlin Left side of the Merlin handheld showing the 1/8" headphone jack. The Toy Manufacturers of America named Merlin the best selling Toy and Game Item in America in 1980, selling 2.2 million units.
Merlin Right side of the Merlin handheld showing the power switch. Merlin has been featured on TV shows - I Love the '70s: Volume 2, My Name Is Earl, Fantasy Island and Firefly.
Merlin Side view of the Merlin handheld.
Merlin Bottom of the Merlin handheld showing basic game info on the outside of the battery compartment.
Merlin Close-up detail of the basic game info on the outside of the battery compartment.

Merlin's 3 Areas

Merlin The speaker was at the top end of the Merlin handheld.
Merlin The illuminated game buttons located in the center of the Merlin handheld. All of it's built-in games used these lights for game-play. they were also labeled 1 through 10 for games that couldn't rely solely on the lights.
Merlin Game selection option buttons located at the bottom of the Merlin handheld.

Merlin Details

Merlin The power switch on the right side of the Merlin handheld.
Merlin The headphone jack on the left side of the Merlin handheld.
Merlin The battery compartment with the slide-away door removed. The unit operated on 6 AA batteries.

Milton Bradley Merlin Re-issue

Merlin Milton Bradley's re-issue of the Merlin handheld. It is approximately the same size as the Parker Brothers original (1.2 x 5.5 x 10.5 inches | 6.4 ounces) and offers 6 games - Tic Tac Toe, Music Machine, Echo, Blackjack 13, Magic Square, and Mind Bender.
Merlin Milton Bradley's flat-pack version is smaller than the unit above.

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