Merlin was a handheld electronic game made by Parker Brothers in 1978. Merlin is notable as one of the earliest and most popular handheld games, selling over 5 million units during its initial run, as well as one of the most long-lived, remaining popular throughout the 1980s.
Merlin was approximately the size of a primitive cell phone. It emitted beeping sounds that could creep into your nightmares. It was about as much fun as pressing the "No Sale" button on a cash register over and over until your finger calloused.
It was the first multi-game hand-held electronic game. It offered six not so challenging games. Tic Tac Toe, Music Machine, Echo, (a game similar to Simon), Blackjack 13, Magic Square, Mindbender, (a game similar to Mastermind.) Boy oh boy, just image the fun kids had on Christmas morning being able to play Tic Tac Toe with a computer in their very own hand! Imagine the parents horror as they realized the six AA batteries required to play Tic Tac Toe would not last the day. This was in a time where you could get more fun typing in 58008 on your calculator and turning it upside down.
The game does have its place in history.
The Music Machine game functioned as a musical instrument; in this mode each key was assigned a musical note, and sequences of notes could be recorded and played back. This made Merlin one of the earliest sequencers as well as an early consumer-level electronic synthesizer.
If you want a little retro reading material here is a pdf of the manual that came with the game.
They Always Come Back:
No need to scour E-bay to relive those fond memories of this really boring and primitive electronic game. You can play it now with Virtual java Merlin. If you forgot how annoying simple beeps can be, please, play the virtual game and share my pain.