Smithsonian Snapshot: Pac-Man Telephone

Pac-Man Telephone, 1982; photo courtesy Smithsonian Institution

Reportedly inspired by a pizza with one slice removed, Pac-Man was developed by Tōru Iwatani, a programmer for the Japanese company Namco. His primary motivation was to develop a nonviolent game that would appeal to male and female players alike. Unlike previous hit video games like Pong and Space Invaders, Pac-Man had a recognizable main character that allowed it to be the first video game to also be a licensing success. Pac-Man is considered today to be one of the video game classics and an icon of the 1980s.

Recognized by 94% of American consumers, Pac-Man has the highest brand awareness of any video game character ever. The character itself appears in more than 30 officially licensed game spin-offs and countless unauthorized ones. During the early 1980s, Pac-Man was everywhere. It was the first video game to spawn a marketing phenomenon, including licensed books, clocks, radios, gumball banks, a Saturday-morning cartoon and gadgets like this Pac-Man telephone.

This item is one of 137 million artifacts, works of art and specimens in the Smithsonian’s collection. It is not currently on display.

Having lived in the DC area for ten years, Ben still loves to wander the city with his wife, shooting lots of photos and exploring all the latest exhibits and galleries. A certified hockey fanatic, he spends some time debating the Washington Capitals club with friends – but everyone knows of his three decade love affair with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A professional writer, gamer, photographer, and Lego enthusiast, Ben remains captivated by DC and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

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