When I was seven years old, my dad had one of those Mattel handheld football games, and I loved it. I bet if you grabbed a few Gen X-ers and told them to close their eyes, they’d all be able to identify that game by the click-click-click-chirrrrp! sound which is as linked to that game as "D’Oh!" is to Homer Simpson.

As a member of the video game generation, I’ve been through most of the console systems, watched the rise and fall of video arcades, and written extensively about some very memorable games. I am a sucker for anything that celebrates the games of our lives, and  Donald Melanson‘s A Brief History of Handheld Videogames at Engadget is hawesome. He starts at the aforementioned (and pictured) Mattel Football, and works his way through the Atari Lynx, past all the incarnations of the Gameboy, to the PSP.

We’ve come a long way in the last 28 years, baby.

30 thoughts on “Handhelds!”

  1. I still have mine (in working condition, no less) and a few others from that time period. My kids love to play them as well.
    Thanks for the memories!

  2. A former co-worker of mine had the largest collection of all things video game related that I had ever seen. I could just point you to his history of video games, but his whole site is at its eclectic best: http://www.sporktania.com/
    Have fun visiting.. 😉

  3. Oh my gah! That photo took me straight to junior high and my beloved Mattel Football unit. I remember scraping together enough of my paper route earnings to go get one at the old Zody’s (yes I know that carbon dates me waaaaay back) on Sunset and Western to get mine.
    So addicted was I too it that I actually cut the wires to the speaker so I could play it during class without its ticks and beeps and brrrrrrs giving me away.

  4. I also remember my friends across the street who had the baseball one and the 2nd gen football game where you could pass.

  5. I still have mine in working condition. And I still have the basketball one, as well. I think I will have to lose an hour (or four) to playing tonight.

  6. My brother had the Mattel football game. I can’t tell you how annoying I found those sounds, especially when he played on long cartrips. (Will Campbell, I should have figured out how to silence it better than stealing his batteries.)
    I had a Microvision … with THREE games! Breakout, Pinball and Star Trek Phaser Strike! (Man, I wish I still had that game but we completely wore out the little touchpad buttons.)

  7. My neighbor had one, so I always had to beg him to let me play. First he’d hog it to himself. Then he’d get bored and want to do “something else”. Feh. I always wanted one… never did get one. Sigh.

  8. I had the table top version of Frogger myself… the one that looked like a “real” arcade game only in miniature. I can pinpoint which level someone is on just from the sound.
    BTW, I notice you’ve been putting some visual aids in each post lately – very cool! It makes your blog just a little bit brighter without being obnoxious.

  9. I used to play this game ALL the time. It was great while I was ‘sleeping’ under the covers. I used the game for school as we did a ‘comercial’ for it in our public speaking class. Wow thanks for that trip(fall) down amnesia lane.

  10. I was just remarking to my husband that that particular football game was the most coveted items of my 5th grade class, and was well out of financial reach of anyone without a paper route and an allowance.
    And now kids get similar (or better) games with their Happy Meals.

  11. Wil,
    Off topic note here. Have you seen the latest from AOLhell?
    Their idea is to charge for email and in some cases pay for it themselves. The thought is spammers won’t pay to spam, but AOL will pay for certain non-profit groups to email out.
    Personally, its funny, spam central wants to charge for sending spam. For me, concerning the non-profit groups, all unwanted, unsolicited email that advertises something, regardless of the source is spam.

  12. My brothers had them when they were young, but my parents took them away because the noise kept giving them headaches!
    I’m only old enough to remember the original Game Boy-which is still at my parents’ home, but it doesn’t work anymore. The games rocked.

  13. Wil, check out my still-working Space Invader (no final ‘S’) handheld here:
    Space Invader
    I have to concur with Brian about the GP2X. I got one for Christmas, and have been doing homebrew development on it — it runs a Linux 2.4 kernel! I got DosBox working on it so I could play BlockOut on a handheld.

  14. My brother, 12 years older than me, had one of mattel baseball games when I was a kid….he would lord that damn thing over my head. When my dad got smart and kicked his sorry butt out, I got some of his old commodores,kool and the gang albums and that mattel unit. I still have it in my office to this day, and it still works 😉

  15. My dad had one of those and all my brothers and sisters fought over it to play it. I never got into it though. Those were the days……..Brings back the memories of the holidays when everyone would grab a handheld game and play away.

  16. Eep! OMG! I had that and the baseball one. I loved the baseball one.
    Now, it makes me wish I still had it. The farthest I have of my childhood electronic toys is my Atari 2600.

  17. According to the article, “It’s almost impossible to understate the impact of Nintendo’s Game Boy.”
    Er, no it isn’t. Heck, I’ll do it right now: “the Gameboy had no impact.”

  18. Still got my orig. Mattel Football. Still works. But, without waking the kid to dig in the desk for it, I can’t remember if it’s my first or second [orig.] one.
    I think the first had hyphens for markers, and the second just had dots.
    Bought my sister a new, smaller, Merlin from Target for xmas this past year. Haven’t tried it, but I assume it’ll do all the same things as the orig. one she had.

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