28 March 2009


Sweeping into pubs across the land from around 1981/1982 onwards...

The best of both worlds - a Pac-Man Rubik's Cube -bliss!

"The action packed game that's sweeping the US..."

"Be first with the PACMAN game..."

Advertisement from the "Daily Mirror", November 1982.
A Pac-Man phone from later in the decade. 

Pac-Man celebrated his 25th anniversary in 2005, and was invented by Japanese games designer Toru Iwatani. The first Pac-Man (or "Puck-Man/PuckMan", as he was then called) arcade machines were released in Japan on 22 May 1980.

The idea for the character was apparently inspired by a pizza with a slice missing!
In 1986, Toru Iwatani confessed that the pizza was only part of the story. He revealed that the Pac-Man design had also come about through simplifying and rounding out the Japanese character for mouth, kuchi (口) - and from the basic concept of eating.

As mentioned above, the original name in Japan was 'Puck-Man' but that name was felt to be too much of a gift for graffiti artists and soon altered!

We were introduced to Pac-Man here in England around 1981, or it may have been as late as 1982 - the advertisement for the Pac-Man watch from November '82 featured above refers to our old pal as "The action packed video game that's sweeping the US". No mention of it sweeping the UK at that point!
Incidentally, you may have some old Pac-Man merchandise with the trademark "Namco Limited 1980" on it, but the trademark is no indication that your merchandise was actually manufactured that year. Details like this often trip up pop culture "experts" - and the likes of the BBC!
Whichever year he debuted in England, Pac-Man was soon making waves in pubs and arcades. Pretty grotty for me. My pal Pete and I often used to meet for a pint and a chat in our local pub, but this was the era of Pac-Man and Space Invaders (the highly addictive Invaders were invented in Japan in 1978, and first exhibited at a UK trade show in 1979) and conversation was now a dead duck. As a leisure pursuit, it was no match for the burbling machines.

I also recall the Asteroids game. I'm not sure when it got to England, but I don't recall it being mentioned as much as the other two. It was "Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Space Invaders" from certain of my friends all day long (and probably night as well, given half a chance!)

"I'll just have a quick game," my pal Pete would say, eyeing Pac-Man as we found a table at the pub. It was always the same.

An hour later, I'd still be on my own at the table, probably on my third "Snakebite" and glumly listening to Toto Coelo or whatever on the jukebox. Don't get me wrong, I liked Toto Coelo, who didn't, but I hated the idea that my old schoolmate preferred Pac-Man's company to mine.

I loved the "Wacca-Wacca-Wacca" sound of Pac-Man - and thought the character refreshingly different, but was absolutely hopeless at it. Was just as bad at Space Invaders. So that was it. Me and my Snakebite - all alone and feeling blue...

More merchandise - this was ideal for carrying sardine and tomato paste sandwiches, tepid tea and a Marathon (comes up peanuts, slice after slice).

1980-2005 - an official Namco Pac-Man 25th anniversary sticker.

This article was originally posted in January 2008 and updated in March 2009.

1 comment:

They think they are right. said...

I was so hooked on Pacman. Me and my mate worked in a club outside Leeds on a Sunday morning cleaning the bar area. When we had finished the steward always gave us the key for consistent play until the club opened. I had a lump on my finger where I had been gripping the control lever. It was brilliant. This was the start of the technological revolution. Although it seems its here and now, it had to start somewhere. People laugh at such games, mobile phones and TV at the time. But it was really ground breaking. Think about it. the Channel 4 logo cost £1000.000 back then. Due to the level of technology involved. (had to be done in the US) Now can be done for a fraction of the cost.

Good times.