Invicta Electronic Master Mind Electronic Game

Invicta Electronic Master Mind Electronic Game

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
By the late 1970s, some manufacturers designed electronic versions of popular board games. Israeli postmaster Mordecai Meirovitz displayed his design of the logic game later dubbed Master Mind at the 1971 Nuremberg Toy Fair, where the English firm Invicta Plastics purchased the rights. Invicta soon had a display of the game under production, receiving national and international recognition.
The original board game Master Mind has two players, the codemaker and the codebreaker. The codemaker selects an arrangement of four balls from a choice of six colors, and arranges these in a compartment below the board. The codebreaker selects an arrangement of four balls, places it on the board, and learns how many balls are in the correct position and how many are the correct color but misplaces. Guessing again, the codebreaker can narrow his or her choices.
In 1976 computer scientist Donald Knuth of Stanford University published analysis of the game in which he argued that the codebreaker could always succeed in five moves or fewer. The following year, Invicta released an electronic form of the game. The colored balls were replaced by an array of up to five digits (a code of 3, 4, or 5 digits could be set). These could be selected by the machine or entered by a codemaker. The vacuum fluorescent display not only shows up to five digits but has columns marked with a check mark and an X.
In front of the display is an array of ten red digit keys for entering digits. Next to these is a column with SET, TRY, FAIL, and CLEAR keys. A mark behind the display reads: Invicta (/) ELECTRONIC MASTER MIND. A hole at the top is for a power adapter.
Text at the bottom of the back reads: INVICTA [...] 1977 (/) PATENTS APP FOR (/) DESIGNED IN ENGLAND (/) MICROPROCESSOR – USA (/) MADE IN HONG KONG. A sticker on the inside of the battery case shows how two AA batteries are installed. Text at the bottom of this sticker reads: ERL 278309.
A square of Velcro on the back of the calculator holds it to a plastic wallet. There is room for a pencil and score sheets, but this example lacks them.
The black plastic cover is marked on the front: Invicta (/) ELECTRONIC (/) MASTER MIND.
Mordecai Meirovitz applied for a German patent for a board game in 1979, received it that year, and assigned it to Invicta Patents. He applied for a similar patent in the United States the same year, received in 1980, and assigned it to Invicta Plastics. These patents are for a somewhat different aspect of Master Mind. They suggest that this example of Electronic Master Mind is from 1979-1980.
Alexander, Ron, “Mickey, Teddy and Barbie Hold Court at the Toy Fair,” New York Times, February 17. 1978, p. 84. Alexander mentions that Invicta Plastics “will be introducing a hand-held Electronic MasterMind [sic.”
Kelly, Amanda, “The Real Mr Mastermind [sic] Comes Out to Play,” The Independent, November 4, 1997.
Knuth, Donald E. “The Computer as Master Mind,” Journal of Recreational Mathematics, 9 (1), 1976, pp. 1–6.
Meirovitz, Mordecai, “Brettspiel,” German Patent No. DE7900843, May 23, 1979.
Meirovitz, Mordecai, “Board Game,” U.S. Patent No. 4241923A, December 30, 1980.
“Turned on toys,” Starlog Magazine, issue 23, June 1979, p. 12. Here Electronic Master Mind is discussed as a new toy.
Currently not on view
Object Name
electronic calculator
electronic game
date made
Invicta Plastics, Ltd.
place made
China: Hong Kong
Physical Description
plastic (case; display cover; keys; wallet material)
metal (circuitry material)
glass (display material)
paper (sticker material)
overall: 3/4 in x 3 in x 5 13/32 in; 1.905 cm x 7.62 cm x 13.716 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of John B. Priser
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Computers
Handheld Electronic Calculators
Computers & Business Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object