Nerding Out on Cool Things – Memory Games

In September of 2013, I was in a group show in Berlin, Germany called “We Love 8 Bit”.  Here is the link. click me I had been doing 8 bit technology paintings since the beginning of 2012 and was know for it and they heard about me from a gallery in Los Angeles aptly called Iam8bit.  For the Berlin show, I painted a bunch of hand held video games.  One of the handheld games I painted was the Touch Me from Atari.  This painting I painted more impasto than I normally do.  It’s kinda a crazy piece for me.  It sold to a really cool collector and vintage gaming enthusiast there who commissioned me two more paintings.
It’s questionable that this can be considered “8 bit”  because the term 8 bit can refer to the amount of memory (bit a.k.a byte) needed for color and this is just a light flashing game, but term 8 bit is more commonly refered to the years that it came out in the video gaming world.  8 bit being the most early and it’s by the brand Atari, so I got away with it.  The Atari Touch Me was created as an Arcade game in 1974 and then as a handheld game in 1978.  It is a sequencing game where the game’s colored buttons light up and you have to memorize the sequence and play it back to it correctly.

Atari_Touchme_handheld lg

When I first came to Navasota, Donny Hall came to the house to make a video of us residents.  We all became fast friends with him and he has helped us feel very welcome here.  The second week, I was honored to be able to photograph some of his electronic collection.  It was mostly consisting of epic boomboxes, but also contained a handheld Simon, The Pocket Simon.  This was the first painting I completed in my residency.  The original Simon was created by Ralph H. Baer who in 1976 (or in 1977 depending on your source) saw the Atari Touch Me in the Arcade and saw it’s potential as a handheld videogame and thought he could make the design of the game more appealing. The prototype built by Baer contained a Texas Instruments TMS 1000 microprocessor chip!  Go Texas Instruments! The Simon came out it 1978.  Milton Bradley acquired and re-released the Simon and variations of the Simon including the Pocket Simon in 1980.

The Simon Wikipedia is pretty harsh on the Handheld Atari Touch Me and calls it a clone of the Simon.  Some say Atari was just slow to put it out as a handheld.  Is whoever wrote the Simon Wiki biased? Who really cloned who?


Right before I left to come to this residency a friend of mine in Los Angeles lent me an Einstein, which is a undebatable clone of the Simon. It was put out by a Canadian company called Castle Toys in 1979. I photographed it 2 days before I left, so when I saw Donny’s pocket simon, I knew it was meant to be and I had to paint it next and I did.

The Pocket Simon and the Einstein Painting are for sale and on view at the Parker Astin Art center in Downtown Bryan, TX. Open Tues-Sat 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM
216 N Bryan Ave, Bryan, TX 77803
(979) 822-0496

Afterthought – in 1984 Hasbro (then the nation’s sixth-best-selling toymaker) acquired Milton Bradley (then the nation’s fifth bestselling toymaker).  Hasbro acquired Atari 1998.  So now they are on the same side.


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