The story of Simon, the original memory game Jun 18, 2021

The original Simon

Inventor Ralph Baer is best known for creating the first video game system, but his contributions extend much further. In 1975, Baer started an independent consulting business and began working with Marvin Glass & Associates in Chicago, a toy design firm responsible for some of the most successful American toys of the 20th century. Baer’s role was to develop electronic toys and games, and the most famous outcome of this collaboration was Simon.

Inspiration strikes

Named after the children’s game “Simon Says,” Simon was inspired by an Atari arcade game called Follow-Me. Baer and Howard Morrison, a partner at Marvin Glass, first encountered Follow-Me at a trade show in 1976. They agreed that while the execution of the arcade game was flawed, its core idea—challenging players to repeat a musical sequence created by the machine—had great potential. They set out to create a hand-held game based on this concept.

Crafting the game

Like Follow-Me, Simon featured four colored buttons, each playing a unique note. Players had to replicate an increasingly complex sequence of tones generated by Simon. A single mistake would end the game. Baer recognized that selecting the right tones was crucial. He and Morrison believed that one of Follow-Me’s key shortcomings was its unpleasant sounds.

Baer found the solution in his children’s Compton Encyclopedia. He discovered that a bugle could only play four notes, making them ideal for Simon. These bugle notes ensured that any sequence produced by the game was not only challenging but also pleasing to the ear.

Simon’s launch and legacy

Simon was released by Milton-Bradley in 1978 with significant fanfare, including a midnight release party at Studio 54, the elite New York City disco. The game was an instant success, peaking during the 1980s and continuing to sell for decades.

Simon remains a beloved memory game that has stood the test of time, remarkable for its simplicity and engaging challenge. Whether you played it decades ago or are discovering it anew, Simon continues to captivate players with its timeless fun. If you want to try a simple online version of this classic game, check out Molly: Memory Game.