We all remember the magic of seeing Pong – widely considered the original home video game – for the first time. And maybe we still have an old Atari 2600 or Nintendo game system shoved in a box in the attic somewhere. But as a child of the ‘70s and ‘80s, I was captivated by the magic of handheld electronic games. No longer would I be tethered to that 12-inch black-and-white TV that my parents placed in my bedroom. Now I could carry my games along with me in the car – for our epic long road trips each summer from Florida to Ohio and back again – knowing I could irritate the entire family with the endless bleeps and bloops and other insanely annoying sound effects.
For years now, I’ve been craving a return to those simple times. I yearn to relive the experience of “numb thumb” – the condition created by the nonstop use of those simple electronic gadgets. Thankfully, I found three such games that will shortly be mine again. Will you join me?
Test your memory
You remember how this works, right? Just repeat the random sequence of flashing lights and sounds. “Simon says…” get it? The game speeds up as you improve – but at our age, maybe it’s best we take it slow for a while. The game was invented by Ralph H. Baer and Howard J. Morrison, who were inspired by Atari’s arcade game Touch Me at a trade show in 1976. They found the concept intriguing but the execution dreadful. The pair used a low-cost microcontroller chip from Texas Instruments to create a demo. The sounds of the game are inspired by the notes of a common bugle. Think of that next time you play. The completed Simon game debuted in 1978 at a retail price of $24.95 – a small fortune in those days – and became a best-seller that winter holiday season.
Oh no! My thumbs are aching just seeing this game again. I must have mashed the keys of this game for hours a day in the early ‘80s. Is it just like real football? Absolutely not, but it’s as close as we could get back in the good ole days of home electronics. In case you’re wondering, the “original” version of the game was called “Electronic Quarterback” and it was sold by Coleco beginning in 1978. Mattel and Sears would later sell the game under different names. It’s the ultimate “numb thumb” toy of the early ’80s.
Be a Trailblazer
Can you believe there was once a time when teaching history and learning to play games were once living in harmony? That’s The Oregon Trail for you. Guide your covered wagon to the West while gathering supplies and trading for supplies along the way. Just learn your lessons well or you’ll get the dreaded message: “You have died of dysentery!”
Buy Now: The Oregon Trail Handheld Game
If this is your idea of the OG handheld game, you’re a bit older than me. But hey, I admire your passion! The 8-bit handheld game console was developed and manufactured by Nintendo and released in 1989. It was quickly emulated by competitors, but the original Game Boy outsold them all thanks to superior battery life. This particular retro model of Game Boy includes 400 classic games, so you’ll stay busy for a quite a while.
Steve Spears is editor of Florida Travel & Life, an online brand that inspires active, affluent travelers, providing them with insider information on discovering the best of Florida. Informative and engaging, the website showcases travel destinations, arts and cultural venues, vibrant dining scenes, recreational activities, the great outdoors and the revitalized real-estate market. He is based in Orlando and counts St. Augustine, Key West and the Gulf Beaches among his favorite destinations in the state.