Sometimes, as a collector, you come across something you had been lazily looking for, bought it because the price was too cheap to leave it, and it turns out to be a hidden gem…that was exactly the case with the Jumble JM-125.
Tronica made a pretty good attempt at Space Invaders with the AD-115, Texet made a passable Pacman clone with the Grabman GM-116, but the Jumble JM-125 was a fabulous effort at recreating the arcade game Scramble with five ‘different’ screens of gameplay. Not only that, but its creators managed to squeeze in two difficulty levels (amateur and pro) but also another completely different ‘number invaders’ game similar to Casio’s MG-880!
Unfortunately I knew none of this when I first added the Jumble to my list of wanted calculators, having only seen a grainy picture on Handheld Museum.
Then I missed buying one on eBay in 2006 because I thought $50 was too much to spend on what I considered a budget unit. Almost won a cheaper one in 2008 ($0.99) but missed out because I forgot to bid at the last minute and the buyer sensing there wasn’t much of a market, wouldn’t sell after the auction finished and wouldn’t relist it for the same reason. Lazy huh? So finally, fast forward to 2013, I finally managed to win a complete, boxed Jumble for around 15 euros. Pretty good, except the seller charged 20 euros for postage.
NB This is a situation that can happen anywhere but I’ve experienced it more from Italian ebayers than anyone else. Actual postage was 9 euros, so the other 11 must have been to put petrol in the Vespa. Still, that’s water under the bridge now I finally have a Jumble.
Except, when it arrived, it didn’t work. This despite the auction description promising ‘fully functional, in perfect condition’. It was in too nice a condition for it to be anything serious though, probably just corrosion, oxidation, dust etc from not being played for 30 years. Out with the screwdrivers, fibreglass brush, isopropyl alcohol and cotton buds for a thorough clean. And, sure enough, once this was finished the game cracked into life and is now, indeed, fully functional.
To the games themselves, there are massive limitations when trying to reproduce a video game into a small form factor, with virtually zero memory (which has to be shared with the calculator) etc so to make a side-scrolling game like Scramble but in handheld form was really clever … reminiscent of Tom Sloper’s Space ‘n’ Counter calculator, read about that here.
In the main ‘Jumble’ game there are five different ‘spaces’ – city space, UFO space, tunnel space, rock space and barrier space. You have to guide your ship through them, sometimes firing (and just like Scramble you fire and bomb!) other times dodging enemies. If you’ve ever played Scramble you can only imagine how cool this calculator is.
The other game, as mentioned above, is like Casio’s MG-880 but with a twist. You have to know your maths (kind of). Instead of just matching numbers on the left and right, you have to complete the equation I = 10-A (I is the input number, A the attack number). It’s devilishly difficult because the numbers change as the levels increase.
This is a great find, and if you’re a game calculator fan I recommend not being lazy like I was. Find your own piece of bliss today 😉