Friday, December 01, 2006

Mastering MERLIN

For the record, I was not looking for porn when I found MERLIN in my closet.

So I was looking for some wiring for my display lights in my storage bins and came across my MERLIN electronic toy from 1978. Parker Brothers made this cool handheld game and it was one of my favorite toys. I even still have the orginal box, although it's barely square anymore. I believe they have redesigned and re-released this classic game, along with some other great original handhelds of my childhood.

It has 6 game modes:
  • Tic-Tac-Toe
  • Music Machine
  • Echo
  • Blackjack 13
  • Magic Square
  • Mindbender

The last one, Mindbender, is an electronic version of the old code breaking game, Mastermind.

There's even been a Virtual MERLIN project that, despite website appearances, seems to be mostly completed.

So why do we care here? Because there's something to be said for mastering this game. It is a great exercise in efficient code breaking. Below are the results of my first recording of a 9 digit Mindbender game. It makes me wonder, what is the best way to solve these? Is there a secret? Any mathematicians out there have an equation to prove it can be done in says..10 steps everytime? Stay tuned...I may try to figure this out.

In the meantime:

UPDATE: I pulled another sample. After putzing around for 24 rounds, I buckled down and realized that I MUST have enough information by now. I did, but it took some digging to see it. I highlighted in pink the hits and in red the misses. Going back over the history like this, the code slowly revealed itself. It's like a really primitive version of Minesweeper. Now, to improve the process.

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