Poly Play videogame was the Eastern Bloc's answer to the capitalist's
Pac Man but resembles something more like an old-fashioned TV set
in a tall wooden cabinet.
Poly Play machine c.1985
with up to eight games, a simple firing button and 8-way joystick,
and a slot to take tokens rather than coins, the Poly Play is, in
fact, less grim than it sounds.
Webb, the curator of Swindon's Museum of Computing told BBC Wiltshire,
"The story goes that this was the only arcade approved machine
to be produced in East Germany and they used to go into places like
municipal swimming pool and leisure centres.
the Berlin Wall came down, for some strange reason they recalled
the machines to the factory and had them dismantled. A few were
salvaged. There were probably about 1000-1500 made."
Poly Play arcade machine on display in the museum is an original
from East Germany, although Simon admits he is unsure from where
Poly Play machine's 'guts'.
machine stands out from the many other computers on display and
looks more like it was built in the 1970s, rather than the mid-eighties.
think someone described it as technology that was ten years out
of date and styling that was at least twenty years out of date,"
is a little bit temperamental and when we first got it into the
museum it wasn't working properly but it seems to have settled in
now. I think it likes being amongst good company, so it's behaving
actual computer inside is a Russian business computer - a rack based
system, with an array of plug-in cards and chips marked in Cyrillic.
The Poly Play: token-operated video arcade games console.
Machine made from readily-available components, rather than
specifically manufactured items.
Display an Eastern German colour TV set with a screen resolution
Number of players: 1
Hirschjagd (Deer Hunt)
Hase und Wolf (Hare and Wolf)
Schiessbude (shooting gallery)
The Poly Play machine is on display at the Swindon Museum
of Computing at the Oakfield Campus of the University of Bath
in Swindon (on Marlowe Avenue)
The Museum's Game's Exhibition "High Score" continues
until September 2004 - more details via the Museum's website.
surprising that it is still working but it is very solidly built
- typical German engineering," says Simon, adding that the
wooden cabinet was made by a GDR furniture manufacturer.
display is quite interesting because if you lift the lid it's just
an East German TV set."
from the word go, sound was an important feature on many arcade
and console games - certainly in the West, but this particular Poly
Play machine is devoid of any sound.
seems the models vary," says Simon, "because they were
all hand built and parts weren't always readily available; it seems
that some versions did have sound but this one doesn't".
with many of the early computer games, the graphics on the Poly
Play are pretty basic and the games don't require much skill.
got seven different games in this case that you can play and some
of them are similar to some Western games," says Simon.
one called Hare and Wolf, which is a bit like Pac Man - you're the
hare being chased by a not very intelligent wolf!"
on the question of spare parts it seems that they're almost non-existent,
which makes switching on the machine a risky business if there's
a chance that something might go pop.
says, "The chips were Russian clones and are very, very difficult
to get hold of but we power it up every Saturday morning so that
people can come in and have a look and see what it was like and
have a go on it."
Poly Play flashing lights.
particular Poly Play came from a firm who specialise in refurbishing
and selling arcade machines. The machine had been in storage but
it was felt it would be better to get the thing on display so that
more people could see appreciate it.
what about its value? Simon says it's hard to say; as it's only
one of three in existence, it could be priceless.