In the UK sold through Palitoy, in most other countries through Clipper.
Merlin -the Electronic Wizard- was a handheld electronic game first made in 1978 by Parker Bros. It is notable as one of the earliest and most popular handheld games, with sales exceeding 5 million units during its initial run, as well as one of the most long-lived, remaining popular throughout the 1980s.
Merlin was created by Bob Doyle, a Harvard PhD. and inventor who had previously worked with NASA. Merlin took the form of a rectangular device about eight inches long and three inches wide. The play area of the game consisted of a matrix of eleven buttons; each button contained a red LED. The array was encased in a red plastic housing, bearing a slight resemblance to an overgrown touch-tone telephone. Four game-selection and control buttons were also placed at the bottom of the unit; a speaker took up the top section. Supporting electronics (including a simple microprocessor) were contained within the shell of the game. Parker Brothers later released Master Merlin with more games, and the rarer Split Second, where all games involve time with a more advanced display, sporting line segments around the dots. Both of these share the same general case shape, and came out a few years after Merlin.
Merlin's simple array of buttons and lights supported play of six different games, some of which could be played against the computer or against another person. Here is the list of games that could be selected:
1. Tic Tac Toe
2. Music Machine
4. Blackjack 13
5. Magic Square
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.
In 1978 Merlin (painted blue) and Milton Bradley's Simon shared the cover of the Christmas issue of Newsweek.
The Toy Manufacturers of America named Merlin the best selling Toy and Game Item (SKU) in America in 1980 (2.2 million sold).