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Mark B. Lesser papers

 Collection — Box: 1-3
Identifier: 119.3686
The Mark B. Lesser papers are a collection of technical documentation, design notes, programming notes, schematics, memos, and other information related to the programming of Mattel Electronics’ handheld games, including Auto Race, Football, and Baseball. Other materials include program overviews, development plans, and other game design documents. Additional scope and content information can be found in the Contents List section of this finding aid.

The Mark B. Lesser papers have been arranged into two series. The materials are housed in three archival document boxes.


  • 1973 - 1999
  • Majority of material found within 1976 - 1978



The materials in this collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Due to the nature of the printed source code on perforated, connected printer paper, reference scans of these pages may only be available at the discretion of the library staff.

Please see The Strong's Digital Games Files Access Policy here.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Though the donor has not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, he has given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.


2.5 Linear Feet (3 archival document boxes)


The Mark B. Lesser papers are a compilation of technical documentation, notes, memos, and other information related to the programming of Mattel Electronics’ handheld games (including Auto Race, Football, and Baseball), as well as documentation for other video game designs. The bulk of the materials are dated between 1976 and 1978.

Biographical Note

Mark B. Lesser is an American electronic engineer and game producer, best known for programming Mattel Electronics’ first handheld games, as well as the popular NHL video game series published by EA Sports.

Lesser earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from MIT. In 1972, he joined the Microelectronics Division of Rockwell International, in Anaheim, California, as a Circuit Designer. Lesser worked on designing circuits for handheld calculators and I/O (input/output) chips. Rockwell received a proposal from Mattel Electronics to convert handheld calculators into electronic games, and Lesser joined the project. He designed the program directly into the hardware, writing the program using punch cards in a minicomputer. Lesser not only designed the hardware chips but ultimately programmed the games for the first three titles of the Mattel handhelds line: Auto Race (1976), Football (1977), and Baseball (1978). The popularity of these titles spawned several imitators, including a line of electronic games by Coleco (which was sued by Mattel for patent violations).

After leaving Rockwell, Lesser worked at Parker Brothers, developing (never-released) handheld games and programming Frogger II: Threeedeep! (1984) for the Atari 2600, followed by an unproduced game, “Lord of the Rings: Journey to Rivendell.” Lesser moved on from Parker Brothers to work with Rex Bradford at Microsmiths for several years before forming his own company, MBL Research, Inc.

In 1991, Lesser was subcontracted to program John Madden Football ’93 (1992) for the Sega Genesis; Electronic Arts later offered him the direct contract to develop NHL ’94. He stayed with the NHL series through NHL ’99. Lesser’s final game was Supercross 2000, a supercross motorcycle simulation game published by EA Sports in 1999. Lesser has since retired from game programming.

System of Arrangement

Series I: Mattel Electronics handheld games, 1973-1980 and n.d.

Series II: Video games, 1983-1999

Custodial History

The Mark B. Lesser papers were donated to The Strong in November 2019 as a gift of Mark Lesser. The papers were accessioned by The Strong under Object ID 119.3686 and were received from Lesser in one box, along with several published video games and game prototypes.

Related Materials

Along with these professional papers, Mark Lesser donated several prototypes [Mattel Football handheld game (Object ID 119.3684), Atari 2600 Lord of the Rings cartridge (Object ID 119.3683), and Nintendo Drac’s Night Out cartridge (Object ID 119.3682)] and published video games (Sega Genesis NHL series) to The Strong.

Processed by

Julia Novakovic, February 2021
Finding Aid to the Mark B. Lesser Papers, 1973-1999
Julia Novakovic
25 February 2021
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.423.1886 (Fax)