Simon is an electronic game of memory skill invented by Ralph H. Baer and Howard J. Morrison, with software programming by Lenny Cope, and manufactured and distributed by Milton Bradley. Much of the assembly language was written by Dr. Charles Kapps, who taught computer science at Temple University and also wrote one of the first books on the theory of computer programming. Simon was launched in 1978 at Studio 54 in New York City and was an immediate success, becoming a pop culture symbol of the 1970s and 1980s.
Ralph H. Baer and Howard J. Morrison were first introduced to Atari’s game Touch Me at the Music Operators of America (MOA) trade show in 1976. Baer said of the product, “Nice gameplay. Terrible execution. Visually boring. Miserable, rasping sounds.” The original prototype, built by Baer, included the Texas Instruments TMS 1000 microprocessor chip, which was low cost and used by many games of the 1970s. Lenny Cope, who was one of Ralph H. Baer’s partners, worked on the programming code for the core of the game, titled Follow Me at the time. Baer developed the tones of the game, inspired by the notes of a bugle. It was when they pitched the demo, an 8-inch-by-8-inch console, to the Milton Bradley Company that the name of the game was changed to Simon. Simon debuted in 1978 at the cost of $24.95 (equivalent to $90 in 2014) and became one of the top selling toys that Christmas
The device has four colored buttons, each producing a particular tone when it is pressed or activated by the device. A round in the game consists of the device lighting up one or more buttons in a random order, after which the player must reproduce that order by pressing the buttons. As the game progresses, the number of buttons to be pressed increases. The US patent for this game, Pat No. 4,207,087 was obtained in 1980 by patent counsel for Marvin Glass and Associates, Robert J. Schneider, a managing partner with the firm of Mason, Kolehmainen, Rathburn and Wyss. Mr. Schneider also procured US Design Pat. No 253,786 for the game housing which was invented by Douglas Montague, a designer at Marvin Glass and Associates. Mr. Schneider in currently Co-Chair of the Intellectual Property Department of Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP.
Simon is named for the simple children's game of Simon Says, but the gameplay is based on Atari's unpopular Touch Me arcade game from 1974. Simon differs from Touch Me in that the Touch Me buttons were all the same color (black) and the sounds it produced were harsh and grating.
Simon's tones, on the other hand, were designed to always be harmonic, no matter what order they were played in, and consisted of an A major triad in second inversion which resembles a Trumpet fanfare:
E-note (blue, lower right);
C♯-note (yellow, lower left);
A-note (red, upper right).
E-note (green, upper left, an octave lower than blue);
The re-released version of Simon
Simon was later re-released by Milton Bradley – now owned by Hasbro – in its original circular form, though with a translucent case rather than plain black. It was also sold as a two-sided Simon Squared version, with the reverse side having eight buttons for head-to-head play, and as a keychain (officially licensed by Fun4All) with simplified gameplay (only having Game 1, Difficulty 4 available). Other variations of the original game, no longer produced, include Pocket Simon and the eight-button Super Simon, both from 1980. Finally, Nelsonic released an official wristwatch version of Simon.
Later versions of the game being sold include a pocket version of the original game in a smaller, yellow, oval-shaped case; Simon Trickster, which plays the original game as well as variations where the colors shift around from button to button (Simon Bounce), where the buttons have no colors at all (Simon Surprise), or where the player must repeat the sequence backwards (Simon Rewind); and a pocket version of Simon Trickster.