In the late 1970s, the availability of low-cost microprocessors from Texas Instruments helped usher in the era of hand-held, electronic gaming. These logic chips allowed companies like Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers to augment their traditional toy lines with computer-controlled games. Simon, Merlin, and Electronic Battleship all allowed for solo and group play.
Comp IV, from Milton Bradley, was another of these microprocessor-driven games. Released in 1977, it was an electronic equivalent of the code-breaking board game, Mastermind. In place of Mastermind’s multi-colored pegs and game board, Comp IV substituted a keyboard and on-screen display.
Game play began with Comp IV selecting a random 5-digit number (with no digits repeated). A player’s initial guess of a three, four, or five-digit number determined the game’s complexity. After each guess, Comp IV provided two types of feedback via its on-screen display. The Number column lit up to indicate how many digits in the entry appeared in the number, and the Sequence column highlighted how many of the digits were in the correct position.
Feedback from Comp IV was displayed on-screen for approximately 30 seconds before the game re-entered a “ready” state for the player to key in another guess. To keep track of a player’s progress, the game included a pad that could be used as a work space and to keep track of one’s entries. Once a player correctly guessed the secret number, Comp IV flashed all of its light on the screen – an audio-free indication of victory.
Comp IV was advertised as having “9 ways to play”, which referred to the combination of initial random number selection (skill level) and group play options, such as who solved the number puzzle first and/or in the fewest steps.
A fun fact about the game is that Milton Bradley “focus-tested” Comp IV by placing it in various bars around New York City to solicit feedback and track repeated usage.
Todd Coopee is Editor-in-Chief of Toy Tales, an online publication that covers toys and games past and present.