Author Topic: EEVblog #1111 - World's First Microcontroller & Electronic Game  (Read 647 times)

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Offline EEVblog

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A look at one of the world's first handheld electronics games, the classic 1978 Parker Brother game Merlin The Electronic Wizard.
It just so happens to use the world's first microcontroller, the 4 bit Texas Instruments TMS1000
Some history and a teardown.
http://www.theelectronicwizard.com/

Nice history of the Merlin development: https://www.xconomy.com/national/2014/02/28/bob-doyle-and-the-magic-of-merlin-the-first-mobile-game/

 

Offline blueskull

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Re: EEVblog #1111 - World's First Microcontroller & Electronic Game
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2018, 08:06:32 am »
<political>

Jump to 1:04.

The unit costs $20, and common retail price is $25. That's only 25% markup.
A typical western brand nowadays will sell at at least 10x that markup wrt to cost.
A $200 cost iPhone will retail at $800, and a $700 cost i7 Surface Pro will retail at $1900.

Now, why the West wonder they can't compete China in price -- that's the answer.
China is still willing to sell things at 25% markup, even in 2018.

</political>
SIGSEGV is inevitable if you try to talk more than you know. If I say gibberish, keep in mind that my license plate is SIGSEGV.
 

Offline tigrou

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Re: EEVblog #1111 - World's First Microcontroller & Electronic Game
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2018, 08:08:59 am »
Someone wrote an emulator for Simon (it also run on TMS-1000). It has been possible since the rom has been dumped. Emulator is in incomplete state but I made a git fork last year with improved features (added sound and a GUI for activating buttons).
You can download it release here (I have added a release for people who don't have a .NET compiler around).
Instructions : click on "Game" > "Run". Then "Start". It's not a simulator, you are playing the real stuff.

There is also a interesting reverse engineering of the device here
This game is very close to Merlin.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2018, 10:43:12 pm by tigrou »
 

Offline james_s

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Re: EEVblog #1111 - World's First Microcontroller & Electronic Game
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2018, 09:57:45 am »
I had a Merlin when I was a kid, I think I found it at a garage sale for a dollar or two. Had a Simon when I was younger too, I actually like that better. Seems like the Simon at least was around $100 when it came out but maybe it got cheaper later?
 

Offline 0xdeadbeef

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Re: EEVblog #1111 - World's First Microcontroller & Electronic Game
« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2018, 02:35:57 pm »
Yeah, I had it, still have it and it still works. I always thought it was kind of a niche product or knock-off as nobody seemed to know that thing but me (and my sister who also got one).
Anyway, to today kids it probably looks like something from a different century - which is kinda true in a way. Like steam machines or telephones with a dial...
Trying is the first step towards failure - Homer J. Simpson
 

Offline BravoV

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Re: EEVblog #1111 - World's First Microcontroller & Electronic Game
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2018, 02:44:06 pm »
<political>

Jump to 1:04.

The unit costs $20, and common retail price is $25. That's only 25% markup.
A typical western brand nowadays will sell at at least 10x that markup wrt to cost.
A $200 cost iPhone will retail at $800, and a $700 cost i7 Surface Pro will retail at $1900.

Now, why the West wonder they can't compete China in price -- that's the answer.
China is still willing to sell things at 25% markup, even in 2018.

</political>

You tell that to Xiaomi and few others smartphone manufacturers, they even sold at lost when launching new products, and only starting to make money once its getting popular and with quantity sold while BOM starting to decent to provide enough margin.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2018, 02:53:29 pm by BravoV »
 

Offline james_s

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Re: EEVblog #1111 - World's First Microcontroller & Electronic Game
« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2018, 01:57:53 am »
Yeah, I had it, still have it and it still works. I always thought it was kind of a niche product or knock-off as nobody seemed to know that thing but me (and my sister who also got one).
Anyway, to today kids it probably looks like something from a different century - which is kinda true in a way. Like steam machines or telephones with a dial...

I think they were more common in the US.

I always liked rotary telephones. My grandmother had one when I was a kid, there's something satisfying about operating the dial. It's such a clever mechanism too.
 

Online glarsson

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Re: EEVblog #1111 - World's First Microcontroller & Electronic Game
« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2018, 05:44:33 pm »
One thing missed in the video is the Texas Instruments logo on the PCB. It seems TI was more involved in this product than "only" selling microcontroller and LEDs. The "look and feel" of the PCB is also very typical of TI in the seventies.
 

Offline SilverSolder

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Re: EEVblog #1111 - World's First Microcontroller & Electronic Game
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2018, 10:43:12 pm »
Excellent video, very interesting how close the 1970's microcontroller is to what we still have today (at the low end).

Funny, a propos that feature in the TMS1100 - the "Instruction Programmable Logic Array" - it seems that a variation of that idea is making a comeback, in the latest Microchip/AVR chips. 

The modern version is called "Configurable Custom Logic" and is of course much more flexible than the TMS1100 in every way,  but the basic idea of implementing logic that need no code or supervision from the CPU core was definitely present already in the 1970's!

Apparently there is a new Arduino on the way that features a chip with this capability, so we'll all be able to have a play.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2018, 10:44:48 pm by SilverSolder »
 


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