The July 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Hasbro’s Classic Game Operation Was Sparked by a Grad Student’s Electric Idea

The original objective of the board game was to avoid dying of thirst in the desert

3 min read
Photo of the Operation game box.
Photo: The Strong, Rochester, N.Y.

Photo of the Operation game box.Remove Funny Bone: In Operation, players try to “cure” Cavity Sam’s ailments by carefully removing game pieces from an electrified board.Photo: The Strong, Rochester, N.Y.

Cavity Sam, the cartoon patient in the board game Operation, suffers from an array of anatomically questionable ailments: writer’s cramp (represented by a tiny plastic pencil), water on the knee (a bucket of water), butterflies in the stomach (you get the idea). Each player takes a turn as Sam’s doctor, using a pair of tweezers to try to remove the plastic piece for each ailment. Dexterity is key. If the tweezers touch the side of the opening, it closes a circuit, causing the red bulb that is Sam’s nose to light up and a buzzer to sound. Your turn is then over. The game’s main flaw, at least from the patient’s perspective, is that it’s more fun to lose your turn than to play perfectly.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions
polaroid sx-70 camera, silver with brown leather, open on white surface
Thomas Backa

In one corner stood the defending champion, Texas Instruments. In the other stood the challenger, Fairchild Semiconductor. The referee, judge, promoter, and only spectator was Polaroid. In contention was the contract for the electronics of Polaroid’s secret project—a pioneering product introduced in 1972 as the SX-70, a camera eventually purchased by millions of people.

As the embodiment of truly automated instant photography, the SX-70 fulfilled a long-held dream of Edwin Land, founder of Polaroid Corp., Cambridge, Mass. Vital to this “point and shoot” capability was a new film—one that would develop while exposed to light and so eliminate the tear-away covers of previous Polaroid films. Also vital were sophisticated electronics to control all single lens reflex (SLR) camera functions, including flashbulb selection, exposure control, mirror positioning, start of print development, and ejection of print. These circuits were divided into three modules, one each for motor, exposure and logic, and flash control. At the final count, some 400 transistors were used.

Keep Reading ↓Show less