Simon Electronic Game, 1978

The Father of the Video Game was also the inventor of Simon.
Inventor Ralph Baer is best known for developing the first video game system, but he accomplished far more. In 1975, Baer started an independent consulting business and began to work in association with Marvin Glass & Associates in Chicago, the toy design firm responsible for some of the most successful American toys of the 20th century. Baer’s job was to develop electronic toys and games. The best-known result of this partnership was Simon.
Named for the children’s game of “Simon Says,” the game was inspired by an Atari arcade game called Touch Me. Baer and Howard Morrison, a partner at Marvin Glass, first saw Touch Me at a trade show in 1976. Both agreed that while the execution of the arcade game was horrible, the game itself—trying to repeat a musical sequence the machine created—was worthy of exploration. The two set about creating a handheld game around the same concept.
Like Touch Me, Simon had four different colored buttons. Each button played a unique note. Players had to be able to repeat an increasingly long string of tones that Simon created. If you got the order wrong, you lost. Baer was aware that choosing Simon’s four tones was a critical decision. He and Morrison both felt that one of Touch Me’s main failings was that its sounds were unpleasant.
But how to choose four notes that could be played in any sequence and not hurt the ears? Baer found the answer while looking through his children’s Compton's Encyclopedia. He discovered that the bugle can only plays four notes. So, Simon would play those same four bugle notes.
Simon was released by Milton Bradley in 1978 with much fanfare, including a midnight release party at Studio 54, the elite disco in New York City. An instance success, the game reached its peak during the 1980s and continued to sell for decades thereafter.
Baer was very careful to document in his patent application that Simon was based on Atari’s Touch Me, given his past history with the company. Years earlier, Atari was sued for patent rights infringement. At the center of the controversy were the video game prototypes invented by Ralph Baer. With Simon, Baer found himself on the other side of the story. His patent was to protect his innovations, rather than an original game idea.
Currently not on view
Object Name
microprocessor-control game
Date made
Baer, Ralph H.
Milton Bradley Company
Physical Description
plastic (overall material)
overall: 3 in x 10 1/2 in; 7.62 cm x 26.67 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Computers & Business Machines
Family & Social Life
Popular Entertainment
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Computers
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Ralph H. Baer
Related Publication
Baer, Ralph H.. Videogames: In The Beginning
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

8/1/2015 4:14:36 AM
Vicki Gibbens
I love this game I got mine in 1982 I have just about worn it out since being sick since Christmas 2014 and having a hip replacement I would so love to have another one
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