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The Story of the Game Operation



When you were a kid, it was always fun to play Operation, a game in which you fished parts out of a patient named Cavity Sam, and you had be precise or you'd complete an electric circuit and a buzzer would sound. It was not the first game based on an electric circuit- Ben Franklin actually developed one! And the idea behind Operation was originally based on believe it or not, desert survival.

John Spinello created the initial concept for what became Operation in the early 1960s, when he was an industrial design student at the University of Illinois. Spinello’s game, called Death Valley, didn’t feature a patient, but rather a character lost in the desert. His canteen drained by a bullet hole, he wanders through ridiculous hazards in search of water. Players moved around the board, inserting their game piece—a metal probe—into holes of various sizes. The probe had to go in cleanly without touching the sides; otherwise it would complete a circuit and sound a buzzer. Spinello’s professor gave him an A.

Spinello sold the idea to Marvin Glass and Associates, a Chicago-based toy design company, for US $500, his name on the U.S. patent (3,333,846), and the promise of a job, which never materialized.

Read the story of how Operation came about, and how it charmed several generations of players at IEEE Spectrum. -via Boing Boing


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