03 September 2012

Find: Electronic Milton

One of the local thrift stores (Thrift Mart on University Dr.) had a 50% off of sale today. I happened to drop by earlier and found out about it. I thought it might be a good chance to pick up some needed clothes for our children cheaply. Well, that and I spotted a copy of Essential Super-Villain Team-Up in one of their display cases. I couldn't see the price, but figured anything cheaper than cover price would be a good deal.

Then, over the weekend, I saw a commercial for the sale on TV. But surely, that won't really affect how many people show up that much, will it? Well, I can't say for sure what it was, but there were tons of people there. We arrived around lunch time and decided to go eat before coming back.

Upon our return, it wasn't any better. After we'd been inside a while, my oldest son pointed out that the checkout line stretched all the way to the back of the store! But at least the book was still there. And just $9.98, meaning today it would be $5! I'd searched the Web and discovered that the book, now out of print, can't be had for less than $20 online, so it was a steal.

However, this entry is about the electronic game I found called Milton. As you might have guessed, it's from Milton Bradley and features the short-lived MB Electronics logo on the box. I'm by no means an expert on such games and this one was unfamiliar to me. The box was taped shut, but I decided it was easily worth the $1 (originally priced $1.98) gamble to buy it.

As you can see on Wikipedia, this game came out in 1980, a couple years after Simon. I suspect from the round design and one-word name, they were hoping to capitalize on the huge success Simon was turning out to be. Apparently they were so confident it would be a hit, they were willing to name it after the company! Unfortunately for Milton Bradley, the game was not a hit and quickly became an obscurity.

One thing I found interesting is the inclusion of a power adapter. Again, I'm no expert, but I can't think of any similar electronic games of the time that weren't battery powered. I know adapters were offered for some electronic games of the age, but they were alternatives to batteries and usually had to be purchased separately. I love the big warning on the front of the box: "CAUTION: ELECTRICALLY OPERATED PRODUCT / Not recommended for children under 7 years of age. As with all electric products, precautions should be observed during handling and use to prevent electric shock." And you thought today's product warning labels were excessive!

So when I got home, I found inside the box the game, the adapter, one piece of Styrofoam for the adapter, and a feedback/registration card. No instructions, but the back of the box summarizes the three games well enough. Essentially, you've got to match the first (the red circles) and last words (the yellow circles) of various phrases (e.g. "kiss my lips", "flush your toilet"). It's like the card game Memory, but with spoken words instead of cards. So during play, you get phrases like "kiss my . . . toilet". Hilarity ensues.

Oh yes, just as the box says, it talks! And fairly well, too. From my experience with talking electronics, I'd guess they used recorded speech rather than completely electronically-generated speech. The interesting thing is that Milton has an accent I can't quite put my finger on. I initially was thinking Southern, but my wife said Cajun and she may be right. Judge for yourself by watching this YouTube video. (Not mine.) It also gives some basic instructions as you go, which is much more user-friendly than some other electronic games of the day I've tried to play without instructions. (I'm looking at you, Comp IV!)

Unfortunately, while this one is in working condition, the power cord is touchy. It fits into the game loosely and if bumped, will cause the game to reset. I'm not sure that anything can be done about that. The contacts also look like they need some cleaning. The adapter has a three-prong arrangement I've not seen on any other electronics.

This makes an interesting addition to my vintage electronic (non-video) game collection. I have yet to try it with my kids beyond a brief game with my 3-year-old daughter, but I suspect it won't hold any long-term interest with them. I can see why it wasn't a big hit.