Milton Bradley Phantom
MB Phantom  4  30 x 30

Milton Bradley built three models of their “Phantom”. There was the Grandmaster, sold on the American market, the Milton sold in Germany, The Netherlands and France, and the Phantom sold in the UK. The machines were identical apart from the names and key labels so why they needed three names I do not know. Of course the power supplies and manuals would also have been different in the UK, USA and mainland Europe.

The Milton Bradley is a “robot” chess computer which moves its own pieces by means of a plotter type mechanism under a touch sensory chessboard. Motors drive belts which pull an electro-magnet up and down two metal rods in the x and y axes. This picks up the required piece, they all have magnets in the bottom, and moves it to its destination square. Any pieces in the way are shuffled out of the way and back again. Any captured pieces are moved to the alloted spaces at the side of the board. It is a fascinating process to watch.

The story of how Milton Bradley’s chess computer came about is told below.

In terms of rarity MB Grandmasters are fairly easy to find in the USA, and Miltons are not particularly rare in Germany. Not a great many MBs were sold in the UK and so the Milton Bradley Phantom is relatively rare.

MB Phantom  1  25 x 25
MB Phantom  3  15 x 15
Milton Bradley Phantom  13  15 x 15
Milton Bradley Phantom  14  15 x 15

The story goes like this. Milton Bradley rang David Levy of Intelligent Software in June 1981 saying that they wanted some advice about chess computers. They asked Levy to go to see them at their East Longmeadow, Massachusetts offices.

This is how Levy described the meeting ‘When I arrived they showed me into a room and, after asking me to sign the traditional non-disclosure agreement, they put a machine on the table, switched it on, and a pawn moved - as if by magic - from e2 to e4 - without any human intervention or any visible, physical device for making it move. I was fascinated,’ Levy said.

‘This was the idea they wanted to develop: that is, they wanted the mechanism that had just moved the pawn developed to the point where it would be reliable enough to be used in a consumer product. And they wanted a chess program that would work with this mechanism.’

Although still working on programs for Scisys, after consultation with colleagues Levy’s response was to take on the project. He said ‘ It was the most exciting chess product that we had been faced with and we could not resist the challenge.’

Milton Bradley wanted the project completed in five months and Levy was asked if his company could do it in that time. When Levy phoned his technical director he did not mention the time constraint but asked how long he thought he could do it in. The reply was five months.

Despite never having been involved with electro-mechanical technology Intelligent Software undertook to write the chess program and the software to control the electro-magnetic system which moved the pieces.

For the chess program the brief was to produce a program stronger than Sargon 2 running on an Apple computer. The processor used was a 6502A with 2K RAM and 16K ROM. The program rating was described as 1550 at the time which was attained in a 40 game match with Sensory 9 and Sargon 2.5 both of which had USCF ratings.

Intelligent Software succeeded and in the time frame allocated. The Milton Bradleys were in production before the end of 1982 and in the shops early in 1983.

Milton Bradley Phantom  10  20 x 20
Milton Bradley Phantom  12  20 x 20
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