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’s an electronic equivalent of the code-breaking board game, Mastermind. In place of Mastermind’s multi-colored pegs and game board, Comp IV substitutes a keyboard and on-screen display.
Game play begins 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 determines the game’s complexity. After each guess, Comp IV provides two types of feedback via its on-screen display. The Number column lights up to indicate how many digits in the entry appear in the number, and the Sequence column highlights how many of the digits are in the correct position.
Feedback from Comp IV is displayed on-screen for approximately 30 seconds before the game re-enters a “ready” state for the player to key in another guess. To keep track of a player’s progress, the game features a pad that can be used as a work space and to keep track of one’s entries. Once a player correctly guesses the secret number, Comp IV flashes all of its light on the screen – an audio-free indication of victory.
Comp IV was advertised as having “9 ways to play”, which refers to the combination of initial random number selection (skill level) and group play options, such as who solves 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.
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