7 Things You Might Not Know About the Game Simon

debaird, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Introduced in 1978, Simon represented an evolution in tabletop gaming. Not exactly a board game but not quite a video game, it straddled the line between the past and future of recreational diversions. To play the game, users must memorize a series of tones and lights on the four-button surface, then repeat them in order. As the patterns grow more complex, the game becomes more challenging. (Or frustrating, depending on one’s perspective.) Simon was a hit upon release and has remained a pop culture fixture for over 40 years. For more on the game’s history, keep reading.

1. Simon was invented by Ralph Baer, the “Father of Video Games.”

In the 1960s, German refugee and former World War II Army intelligence officer Ralph Baer was a military engineering contractor who decided to moonlight as a video games pioneer. Baer visualized a system that could be connected to a television to play games on the screen. In 1971, Baer and his employer, Sanders Associates, filed for and later received the first-ever video game patent. The system would become the Magnavox Odyssey, which went on sale in 1972.

Years later, Baer would have another idea. Working as an independent consultant for the toy firm Marvin Glass and Associates, Baer was drawn to an Atari arcade game called Touch Me. He and Marvin Glass employee Howard Morrison had seen it at a trade show in 1976. While they liked the premise—players had to repeat a musical sequence—they felt the execution was lacking and the sounds were unpleasant. Using Touch Me as a jumping-off point, they decided to try and craft a better version. (It was only fitting, as Atari had taken a cue from the Magnavox Odyssey to create their arcade hit Pong.) Along with programmer Lenny Cope, Baer and Morrison worked for nearly two years on a handheld version originally titled Follow Me that had four buttons. Crucially, the four tones they selected were much more pleasant to the ear. Baer selected the four notes played by a bugle. Milton Bradley licensed the idea, and Simon (named after the children’s game Simon Says) was released in 1978.

2. Simon was the hottest toy of the 1978 holiday season.

Making a splashy debut at the trendy Studio 54 nightclub in New York on May 15, 1978, Simon quickly made an impression with adults and found itself hastily added to many holiday wish lists. That winter, several stores reported a Simon shortage and long lines of people hoping to get a crack at a new shipment. One store sold through 1000 of them in just five days. Milton Bradley ultimately put Simon on allocation, meaning that stores received only a portion of their orders until they could ramp up production to meet demand.

3. Simon was very expensive for its time.

Simon originally had a retail price of $25, which amounts to about $92 in today’s dollars. Unlike video game systems, Simon could only do one thing. But people were enamored with computer-based diversions, with many pointing to the novelty of the microprocessor chip as a key reason the game was so popular. (Just a few years prior, the chips had mainly been used for handheld calculators.) The original Simon was also big, taking up considerable space on a tabletop and devouring multiple D batteries.

4. Simon got a sales boost from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The year before Simon went on sale, director Steven Spielberg released Close Encounters of the Third Kind, starring Richard Dreyfuss as a man who establishes a relationship with extraterrestrial life. During the finale, the aliens communicate using musical notes and lights on their spaceship. Though there was no connection between the movie and the game, the popularity of Close Encounters helped raise awareness for Simon, which exhibited a similar pattern. More than 10 million copies were sold by the end of 1982.

5. Simon led to a lot of knock-offs.

Milton Bradley found that there was no shortage of devices looking to capitalize on the Simon phenomenon. A device called Einstein was rectangular instead of circular but had a similar layout. Atari, which produced the Touch Me arcade game Baer and Morrison used as inspiration, released that same game in a handheld version. Among the knock-offs, only Tiger Electronics had a subtle sense of humor about taking obvious inspiration from Simon. They titled their octagon-shaped device Copycat. According to Baer, none of them took off because their noises lacked the charm of the four-note bugle.

6. Simon inspired a Queen album cover.

The musical toy had fans in Queen, the rock band led by Freddie Mercury. For their 1982 album, Hot Space, the band seemed to take inspiration from the design of Simon for the cover, which features the four bandmates in a four-colored grid.

7. There’s a touch-free Simon.

Since its inception, Simon has seen a variety of spin-offs hit the market. In 1979, Milton Bradley released Super Simon, with four buttons on each side of a rectangular device that pitted players against one another in a timed contest. Simon Stix with drumsticks followed; Simon Swipe offered touch-based interaction. The most intriguing might be Simon Air, a vertical Simon iteration released by Hasbro—which bought Milton Bradley—that allows players to wave over the colored sections with their hands. Another version, Simon Optix, uses a headset to flash colors before the user's eyes. Players can then use their hands to replicate the pattern.

10 Facts About the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

qingwa/iStock via Getty Images
qingwa/iStock via Getty Images

On Veterans Day, 1921, President Warren G. Harding presided over an interment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery for an unknown soldier who died during World War I. Since then, three more soldiers have been added to the Tomb of the Unknowns (also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) memorial—and one has been disinterred. Below, a few things you might not know about the historic site and the rituals that surround it.

1. THERE WERE FOUR UNKNOWN SOLDIER CANDIDATES FOR THE WWI CRYPT. 


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

To ensure a truly random selection, four unknown soldiers were exhumed from four different WWI American cemeteries in France. U.S. Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat and received the Distinguished Service Medal, was chosen to select a soldier for burial at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington. After the four identical caskets were lined up for his inspection, Younger chose the third casket from the left by placing a spray of white roses on it. The chosen soldier was transported to the U.S. on the USS Olympia, while the other three were reburied at Meuse Argonne American Cemetery in France.

2. SIMILARLY, TWO UNKNOWN SOLDIERS WERE SELECTED AS POTENTIAL REPRESENTATIVES OF WWII.

One had served in the European Theater and the other served in the Pacific Theater. The Navy’s only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient, Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, chose one of the identical caskets to go on to Arlington. The other was given a burial at sea.

3. THERE WERE FOUR POTENTIAL KOREAN WAR REPRESENTATIVES.


WikimediaCommons // Public Domain

The soldiers were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. This time, Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle was the one to choose the casket. Along with the unknown soldier from WWII, the unknown Korean War soldier lay in the Capitol Rotunda from May 28 to May 30, 1958.

4. THE VIETNAM WAR UNKNOWN WAS SELECTED ON MAY 17, 1984.

Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg, Jr., selected the Vietnam War representative during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor.

5. BUT THE VIETNAM VETERAN WASN'T UNKNOWN FOR LONG.


Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to advances in mitochondrial DNA testing, scientists were eventually able to identify the remains of the Vietnam War soldier. On May 14, 1998, the remains were exhumed and tested, revealing the “unknown” soldier to be Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie (pictured). Blassie was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. After his identification, Blassie’s family had him moved to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. Instead of adding another unknown soldier to the Vietnam War crypt, the crypt cover has been replaced with one bearing the inscription, “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

6. THE MARBLE SCULPTORS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR MANY OTHER U.S. MONUMENTS. 

The Tomb was designed by architect Lorimer Rich and sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones, but the actual carving was done by the Piccirilli Brothers. Even if you don’t know them, you know their work: The brothers carved the 19-foot statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial, the lions outside of the New York Public Library, the Maine Monument in Central Park, the DuPont Circle Fountain in D.C., and much more.

7. THE TOMB HAS BEEN GUARDED 24/7 SINCE 1937. 

Tomb Guards come from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment "The Old Guard." Serving the U.S. since 1784, the Old Guard is the oldest active infantry unit in the military. They keep watch over the memorial every minute of every day, including when the cemetery is closed and in inclement weather.

8. BECOMING A TOMB GUARD IS INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT.

Members of the Old Guard must apply for the position. If chosen, the applicant goes through an intense training period, in which they must pass tests on weapons, ceremonial steps, cadence, military bearing, uniform preparation, and orders. Although military members are known for their neat uniforms, it’s said that the Tomb Guards have the highest standards of them all. A knowledge test quizzes applicants on their memorization—including punctuation—of 35 pages on the history of the Tomb. Once they’re selected, Guards “walk the mat” in front of the Tomb for anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the time of year and time of day. They work in 24-hour shifts, however, and when they aren’t walking the mat, they’re in the living quarters beneath it. This gives the sentinels time to complete training and prepare their uniforms, which can take up to eight hours.

9. THE HONOR IS ALSO INCREDIBLY RARE.

The Tomb Guard badge is the least awarded badge in the Army, and the second least awarded badge in the overall military. (The first is the astronaut badge.) Tomb Guards are held to the highest standards of behavior, and can have their badge taken away for any action on or off duty that could bring disrespect to the Tomb. And that’s for the entire lifetime of the Tomb Guard, even well after his or her guarding duty is over. For the record, it seems that Tomb Guards are rarely female—only three women have held the post.

10. THE STEPS THE GUARDS PERFORM HAVE SPECIFIC MEANING.

Everything the guards do is a series of 21, which alludes to the 21-gun salute. According to TombGuard.org:

The Sentinel does not execute an about face, rather they stop on the 21st step, then turn and face the Tomb for 21 seconds. They then turn to face back down the mat, change the weapon to the outside shoulder, mentally count off 21 seconds, then step off for another 21 step walk down the mat. They face the Tomb at each end of the 21 step walk for 21 seconds. The Sentinel then repeats this over and over until the Guard Change ceremony begins.

Looking to Move? These Are the 20 Best States to Live In

The skyline of Boston, Massachusetts.
The skyline of Boston, Massachusetts.
Sean Pavone/iStock via Getty Images

To a certain extent, identifying the “best” states to live in is wide open to interpretation. If your happiness is contingent upon the opportunity to shred gnarly waves, for example, chances are low that Kansas would even crack the top 40 on your personal list.

Having said that, some metrics for evaluating the nifty 50 aren’t so subjective—and it’s not only about income, either. To find out which states are “good” to live in, financial news website 24/7 Wall St. devised a rating system based on a few of these universally good qualities: Life expectancy at birth, bachelor’s degree attainment, and poverty rate. After all, a state with a high number of healthy, educated, financially stable people seems like a place you’d want to live, right?

The rating system is based on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index, which aims to assess the well-being of a nation’s population through similar statistics: Life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling for adults over 25, and gross national income per capita.

Based on 24/7 Wall St.’s study, Massachusetts took the top spot. Of all residents aged 25 and older, 44.5 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree—the highest rate of any state. Their 10 percent poverty rate is the eighth lowest in the nation, and life expectancy at birth is 80.4 years, which beats the national average (79.1 years) by more than a year.

As far as regional trends go, Massachusetts isn’t alone in its greatness. Almost the entire Northeast ranks in the top 20, including New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and Rhode Island.

The number-two spot went to Colorado—low on surfing opportunities, perhaps, but plenty of gnarly slopes to shred—which actually edged out Massachusetts in life expectancy (80.5 years) and poverty rate (9.6 percent). Its neighbors in Utah and Nebraska made the top 20, too.

24/7 Wall St. also points out the cyclical nature of these metrics. People with advanced degrees earn more money, which they use to afford better healthcare and establish healthier lifestyles, so they live longer.

Then again, a high number of college graduates means nothing if you’re mainly just looking to settle down near the nation’s best roller coasters or curiosity shops (none of which, by the way, are located in Massachusetts). As for those of you looking for that perfect wave? Hawaii claimed the fourth spot.

Scroll on to see if your home state ranks in the top 20, and read more about 24/7 Wall St.’s study here.

  1. Massachusetts

  1. Colorado

  1. New Jersey

  1. Hawaii

  1. Connecticut

  1. Minnesota

  1. Maryland

  1. New Hampshire

  1. Washington

  1. Virginia

  1. Utah

  1. Vermont

  1. New York

  1. California

  1. Nebraska

  1. Illinois

  1. Rhode Island

  1. Oregon

  1. North Dakota

  1. Wisconsin

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER