Title:
Game timer
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Disclosed is a game timer for restricting turn times and for timing turns of multiple players of a game. A number of players is entered into the game timer by a user. For each player, a game time and a turn time are entered by the user. For each player in sequence, the game timer executes a turn by decreasing the game time and turn time by one second increments starting when a start/stop button is pressed and ending when the game time or turn time for the player is decreased to zero or when the start/stop button is pressed again. Turns for each player are repeated until each players' game time is depleted. A global game time and a global turn time may be entered and stored for all players' game and turn times for easy setup of the game timer. The global game time and the global turn time may be modified, as necessary, for each player after the global times are entered.



Inventors:
Green, Donald L. (Weirton, WV, US)
Application Number:
09/779682
Publication Date:
10/25/2001
Filing Date:
02/08/2001
Assignee:
GREEN DONALD L.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
463/23
International Classes:
G04F1/00; (IPC1-7): A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
WHITE, CARMEN D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DONALD L. GREEN (WEIRTON, WV, US)
Claims:

We claim:



1. A method of timing player turns of a game using an electronic game timer, comprising the steps of: storing a number of players entered by a user; for each player, storing a game time entered by the user; for each player, storing a turn time entered by the user; for each player in sequence, executing a turn by decreasing the game time and the turn time by one second increments, starting the turn when a start/stop button is pressed and ending the turn when the game time for the player is decreased to zero, when the turn time for the player is decreased to zero, or when the start/stop button is pressed again, wherein if the player's turn is ended when the game time or the turn time decreases to zero, the next player's turn is started when the start/stop button is pressed, and if the player's turn is ended when the start/stop button is pressed, the next player's turn is immediately started; and repeating the step of executing a turn for each player until each player's game time is decreased to zero.

2. The method according to claim 1, further including the step of displaying the game time and the turn time on a display screen during the turn of the player.

3. The method according to claim 2, further including the step of displaying the game time for a previous player on the display screen during the turn of the player.

4. The method according to claim 1, further including the steps of: if a global game time is entered by the user, storing the global game time as the game time for each player; and if a global turn time is entered by the user, storing the global turn time as the turn time for each player.

5. The method according to claim 3, further including the steps of: if an individual game time for a player is entered by the user subsequent to entering the global game time, storing the individual game time as the game time for that player; and if an individual turn time for a player is entered by the user subsequent to entering the global turn time, storing the individual turn time as the turn time for that player.

6. The method according to claim 5, wherein the global game time, the global turn time, the individual game time for each player, and the individual turn time for each player are adjustable during the game by repeating the steps of storing the game time and the turn time.

7. The method according to claim 5, further including the step of indicating an end of a turn by activating an end-of-turn notification during each second of a predetermined amount of seconds at the end of the turn of the player.

8. The method according to claim 7, further including the steps of activating one of a plurality of modes selectable by the user, wherein one of the plurality of modes corresponds to each of the number of players, the global game time, the global turn time, the individual game time for each player, the individual turn time for each player, and the end-of-turn notification.

9. The method according to claim 5, further including the steps of: activating a mode that transfers the number of players, the game time for each player, and the turn time for each player to a memory location; and activating a mode that retrieves the number of players, the game time for each player, and the turn time for each player from the memory location for use during the game.

10. A game timer, comprising: a shell; a central processing unit attached to the shell and operable to store play information including a number of players, a game time for each player, and a turn time for each player; and at least one input device attached to the shell, electrically connected to the central processing unit, and operable by a user to provide the play information, wherein during setup, the central processing unit prompts the user to provide the play information, and during a game, the central processing unit executes a turn for each player in sequence upon operation of the at least one input device by the user when a player's turn has ended, and displays a player number, the game time for the player, and the turn time for the player for each turn.

11. The game timer according to claim 10, wherein the play information further includes a global game time, a global turn time, an individual game time for each player, and an individual turn time for each player.

12. The game timer according to claim 10, wherein: the at least one input device includes a clock button, a pause button, a start/stop button, a mode button, a plus button, and a minus button, during setup, the clock button is operable to switch between entry of hours, minutes, and seconds, and during the game, the clock button is operable to switch the game time of the player from descending to accruing time, during setup, the pause button is operable to switch between the play information for each player, and during the game, the pause button is operable to pause the player's turn, during the game, the start/stop button is operable to begin the game and to stop the player's turn and immediately start the next player's turn; during setup and the game, the mode button is operable to switch between modes, and during setup, the plus button and the minus button are operable to increase and decrease, respectively, the hours, minutes, and seconds, and during the game, the plus button and the minus button are operable to increase and decrease, respectively, the sound of the game timer.

13. The game timer according to claim 10, the game timer further including a cover attachable to a shell of the game timer.

14. The game timer according to claim 10, the game timer further including a port that receives a connector to external start/stop switches.

15. The game timer according to claim 10, the game timer further including a computer port that receives a connector to a computer.

16. The game timer according to claim 10, the game timer further including at least a pair of batteries connected in parallel, wherein one battery is removable at a time without depleting power to the game timer.

17. The game timer according to claim 10, the game timer further including at least one solar cell.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/187,483, filed Mar. 7, 2000.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] 1. Field of the Invention

[0003] The present invention is directed to timers and, more particularly, to game timers.

[0004] 2. Description of Related Art

[0005] Chess players have been using timing devices in tournament play for many years. These timing devices limit game time between two players. These timing devices are both mechanical and electronic. However, due to their ability to only time two players, they are of no use to the general gaming public where more than two players are involved. This would include, but not be limited to, games such as Scrabble®, Monopoly®, cards, trivia and other board games. The mechanical chess clocks are also very inaccurate for timing games lasting only a few minutes. Furthermore, current chess clocks are very expensive due in part to a limited target market.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] It is an object of this invention to provide a method and apparatus for a game timer that is small, economical, and can track the times of multiple players of a game.

[0007] The present invention is a multi-player electronic game timer apparatus and method designed to incorporate the critical functions of mechanical chess clocks and many of the electronic chess clock functions, but eliminate the disadvantages and complexities and provide features previously not obtained.

[0008] The electronic game timer according to the present invention has a shell, a display, at least one button, and a central processing unit. During setup, a user enters time settings required for executing turns and completing a game for each player. During the game, the game timer executes a turn for each player in sequence and decreases the player's game time according to the duration of the turn. A turn is executed until the turn time or game time for that player is decreased to zero or a button is pressed to stop the turn. Turns are executed until all players' game times are decreased to zero.

[0009] The display may indicate an active player by number, the times associated with the active player, the mode of the game timer, and options selected for the game timer.

[0010] The game timer may be battery or solar cell operated. A cover may be included so that the components of the game timer may be covered when not in use. Ports may be provided to attach the game timer to external start/stop switches and/or a computer.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0011] FIG. 1 is a front view of a game timer according to the present invention;

[0012] FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustration of the game timer shown in FIG. 1;

[0013] FIG. 3 is a front view of a game timer with an open cover according to the present invention;

[0014] FIG. 4 is a front view of a display screen; and

[0015] FIG. 5 is a front view of another embodiment of a game timer according to the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0016] A complete understanding of the invention will be obtained from the following description when taken in connection with the accompanying drawing figures wherein like reference characters identify like parts throughout.

[0017] It is to be understood that the specific devices and processes illustrated in the attached drawings, and described in the following specification, are simply exemplary embodiments of the invention. Hence, specific dimensions and other physical characteristics related to the embodiments disclosed herein are not to be considered as limiting.

[0018] Referring to FIG. 1, a game timer 10 according to the present invention includes a shell 12 and at least one input device 14 (for example, a button). In a preferred embodiment, the game timer 10 also includes a display screen 16. The shell 12 houses all of the components of the game timer 10. The at least one input device 14 enables a user to provide input to the game timer 10. The display screen 16, preferably, a liquid crystal display (LCD), is attached to the shell 12. The game timer 10 preferably is small enough to fit in a shirt pocket and is rugged enough for use outdoors.

[0019] An input port 18, for example, a mono sound input port type that accepts a standard miniplug, may be included on the game timer 10 for connecting remote start and stop switches (not shown). This makes it possible for each player to have their own start/stop switches connected to the game timer 10.

[0020] A computer port 20, for example, a universal serial bus (USB), may be included on the game timer 10 for connecting the game timer 10 to a computer 22 (shown in FIG. 2). This makes it possible to save game settings and times to the computer 22. The saved settings and times may then be analyzed, for example, to examine times for opening moves or for particular moves during a competition.

[0021] Referring to FIG. 2, the electronic components of the game timer 10 include a central processing unit (CPU) 24, the display screen 16, and the at least one input device 14. The game timer 10 may also include a light 26 and a sound generator 28.

[0022] The electronic circuitry may be constructed in any conventional manner that is capable of performing the functions of the present invention. The CPU 24 preferably includes memory (not shown), a processor (not shown), and a clock (not shown) to generate periodic pulses. During setup of the game timer 10, the memory and processor are utilized to enter, process, and store information provided by the user through the at least one input device 14. During the game, the clock generates periodic pulses which are used by the processor, in conjunction with information stored in the digital memory, to determine and store players' game and turn times.

[0023] Software for running the game timer 10 may be developed in any conventional manner that is compatible with the electronic circuitry and is capable of performing the functions of the present invention.

[0024] The game timer 10 also includes a means (not shown) for providing power to the game timer 10. Means for providing power for running the game timer 10 may include batteries (not shown), an electrical plug connection (not shown), or solar cells 84. Preferably, at least two batteries, for example, two three volt batteries, connected in parallel power the game timer 10. In this embodiment, the LCD 16 requires a certain voltage, for example, 3V, to be fully lit. When the batteries drop below the certain voltage, the LCD 16 will get progressively dimmer. The game timer 10, on the other hand, requires a certain voltage less than the LCD 16 requires, for example, 2V. Thus, when the batteries begin to fail and the LCD 16 begins to dim, the game timer 10 will still have enough power to remain charged. Since the batteries are connected in parallel, each battery, one at a time, may be removed and replaced without losing any settings already in the game timer 10. If both batteries are removed at the same time, all settings (including those in memory) are lost.

[0025] FIG. 3 illustrates the game timer 10 with a cover 30. Preferably, the cover 30 is pivotably attached to the shell 12, for example, by a hinge 32. The cover 30 encloses the components within a space defined by the cover 30 and shell 12 to protect the game timer 10 when not in use.

[0026] A surface 34 of the cover 30 may include printed instructions 36 on how to use the game timer 10. The instructions 36 may be visible when the cover 30 is open and hidden when the cover 30 is closed.

[0027] The cover 30 and shell 12 may include means 38 to secure the cover 30 and shell 12 together when the cover 30 is closed. For example, the shell 12 may include tabs that engage slots on the cover 30 or the shell 12 may include ridges that engage a groove of the cover 30.

[0028] If solar cells 84 are used to provide power to the game timer 10, the cover 30 may be used as a switch to permit and prevent light to the solar cells 84. When the cover 30 is first opened, the solar cells 84 activate the game timer 10. To reset the game timer 10 (i.e., the game settings), the cover 30 is closed and reopened.

[0029] As shown in FIG. 4, the display screen 16 preferably defines distinct areas for displaying information digitally. A game time area 40 shows a game time for an active player and is preferably larger than other areas for convenient viewing. Preferably, the game time is displayed using five digits: one digit for hours 42 (up to 9 hours displayed), two digits for minutes 44 (up to 59 minutes displayed), and two digits for seconds 46 (up to 59 seconds displayed). The game time may be the accumulating or descending game time of the player, depending on the option selected.

[0030] A mode area 48 displays a number for a mode of the game timer and may be identified by the word MODE 50 on the display screen 16. The number, for example, from 0 to 7 for eight different modes, may be displayed near the word MODE 50.

[0031] A memory area 52 displays a letter to indicate that memory settings are selected and may be identified by the word MEMORY 54 on the display screen 16. The letter, for example, A or B, corresponding to the selected memory may be displayed near the word MEMORY 54.

[0032] An option area 56 displays letters or numbers corresponding to options selected for use during operation of the game timer 10. The letters or numbers may include an L for an LED flash option, an S for a sound option, a 4 for a four second end-of-turn notification option, and a 1 for a one second end-of-turn notification option.

[0033] A player area 58 displays a number indicating the active player and may be identified by the word PLAYER 60 on the display screen 16. The number, for example, from 1 to 8 for eight players, may be displayed near the word PLAYER 60.

[0034] A last player's game time area 62 displays an accumulated or used game time for the player prior to the active player and may be identified by the words LAST PLAYER TIME 64 on the display screen 16. The last player's game time, preferably, is displayed in the five digit format discussed above for the game time area 40.

[0035] A turn time remaining area 66 displays a turn time remaining for the active player and may be identified by the words TURN TIME 68 on the display screen 16. The turn time remaining may be displayed in a two digit format that indicates the hours left in the turn until less than one hour is remaining, then the minutes left until less than one minute is remaining, and then the seconds remaining.

[0036] When power is first supplied to the game timer 10, for example, when an on/off button 72 is pressed or the cover 30 is first opened to activate the solar cells 84, zeros are displayed in all positions on the display screen 16, except in the player area 58 where a one is displayed. To reset the game timer 10 to zero at any time, the power is removed and again supplied to the game timer 10, for example, pressing the on/off button 72 twice or closing and reopening the cover 30.

[0037] If an LCD 16 is used, the LCD 16 preferably is transparent, that is, the silver backing is mounted on a sliding cover plate that may be slid from under the LCD. In this configuration, the game timer 10 may be placed on an overhead projector and the displayed information may be projected onto a screen allowing an audience to view the information displayed on the display screen 16.

[0038] Shown in FIGS. 3 and 5, the at least one input device 14 may be a plurality of buttons, each having a different function. For example, the game timer may have a clock button 70, an on/off button 72, a pause (∥) button 74, a start/stop button 76, a plus (+) button 78, a minus (−) button 80, and a mode button 82.

[0039] The on/off button 72 is pressed and held for a predetermined period of time, for example, three seconds, to turn the game timer 10 on or off (i.e., to supply power or terminate power to the game timer 10). The requirement of holding the on/off button 72 for operation ensures that the game timer 10 will not be accidentally turned on or off, for example, during a game or during shipping. Pressing the on/off button 72 to turn the game timer 10 off, then on, resets the settings within the game timer 10 to zero. If solar cells 84 are used to power the game timer 10, the on/off button 72 is not necessary.

[0040] During setup of the game timer 10, desired times are set for each player's game time and turn time. When entering a time, the time is displayed on the display screen 16 with the hour, minutes, or seconds digits flashing to invite entry of the time. The clock button 70 is pressed to switch between entry of the hours, minutes, or seconds. During the game, game time remaining for the active player is displayed. The clock button 70 is pressed to toggle the displayed time between time remaining and time accruing.

[0041] During setup of the game timer 10, the pause button 74 is pressed to switch between players for entering the desired time settings for each player. During the game, the pause button 74 is pressed to stop the running of a player's turn. This action allows players to take a break from the game, for example, to eat or debate an incorrect move, and allows for the players' times to be modified during the game. Pressing the start/stop button 76 will resume the player's turn where the game timer 10 had been paused.

[0042] During the game, the start/stop button 76 is pressed to stop a player's turn and start the next player's turn. Upon the switch from one player to the next, the next player's turn starts immediately (i.e., there is no pause between players' turns). After the last pre-programmed player's turn, the game timer 10 cycles back to the first player. If a player's pre-programmed turn time or game time expires, the game timer 10 will pause until the start/stop button 76 is pressed again, at which time the next player's turn is begun.

[0043] During setup of the game timer 10, the mode button 82 is pressed to switch between modes. The plus and minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed to increase and decrease, respectively, the settings for the hours, minutes, and seconds. During the game, the mode button 82 is pressed to switch between modes when the game timer 10 is paused. The plus and minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed to increase and decrease, respectively, the volume of sound generated by the game timer 10.

[0044] The game timer 10 has two areas of operation: setup and play. During setup, a user enters information required to run the game timer 10 during play (i.e., during the game). During the game, the game timer 10 executes turns for each player based on the information entered in the setup. Several modes may be available to the user for setup and play. Preferably, seven modes (modes 1-7) are available to enter information for use during play, and one mode (mode 0) is available for play.

[0045] Mode 1 allows the number of players to be entered into the game timer 10. The mode 82 button is pressed until the number 1 is displayed on the display screen 16 to indicate mode 1, for example, near the word MODE 50. The plus and minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed to increase and decrease, respectively, the number of desired players. The number of players is shown on the display screen 16, for example, near the word PLAYER 60. Once the desired number of players is entered, the mode button 82 is pressed to change the game timer 10 to another mode.

[0046] Mode 2 allows a global game time applicable to all players to be entered into the game timer 10 and is intended as a quick method of setup since most players will be allowed a similar game time. The mode button 82 is pressed until the number 2 is displayed on the display screen 16, for example, near the word MODE 50.

[0047] Once in mode 2, the hours digit 42 flashes inviting the user to enter or modify the hours. The plus or minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed to increase or decrease, respectively, the number of hours. The clock button 70 is pressed to confirm the hour setting and switch to the minutes setting. Next, the minutes digits 44 flash inviting the user to enter or modify the minutes. The plus or minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed to increase or decrease, respectively, the number of minutes. The clock button 70 is pressed to confirm the minutes setting and switch to the seconds setting. Next, the seconds digits 46 flash inviting the user to enter or modify the seconds. The plus or minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed to increase or decrease, respectively, the number of seconds. The clock button 70 is pressed to confirm the seconds setting and switch to the hours setting, at which point the cycle begins again. If the plus and minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed at the same time, any flashing digit(s) will be reset to zero.

[0048] Once the desired global game time has been entered, the mode button 82 is pressed to save the global game time as the game time for each player and switch to another mode. If a global game time is entered (i.e., the global game time is something other than zero), the global game time is used as each player's game time unless an individual game time is subsequently entered or modified in mode 3. In other words, if individual game times have been entered in mode 3 and then a global game time is entered, the global game time overwrites all of the individual game times as the game times for each player.

[0049] Mode 3 allows the entry or modification of game times for each player. In other words, an individual game time may be entered which, for that player, overrides the global game time previously set in mode 2. The mode button 82 is pressed until the number 3 is displayed on the display screen 16, for example, near the word MODE 50.

[0050] Once in mode 3, player 1 is identified in the player area 58 on the display screen 16. The hours digit 42 flashes inviting the user to enter or modify the hours for player 1. If a global game time has been entered in mode 2, the hours of the global game time are flashed. The plus or minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed to increase or decrease, respectively, the number of hours. The clock button 70 is pressed to confirm the hours setting and switch to the minutes setting. Next, the minutes digits 44 flash inviting the user to enter or modify the minutes. If a global game time has been entered in mode 2, the minutes of the global game time are flashed. The plus or minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed to increase or decrease, respectively, the number of minutes. The clock button 70 is pressed to confirm the minutes setting and switch to the seconds setting. Next, the seconds digits 46 flash inviting the user to enter or modify the seconds. If a global game time has been entered in mode 2, the seconds of the global game time are flashed. The plus or minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed to increase or decrease, respectively, the number of seconds. The clock button 70 is pressed to confirm the seconds setting and switch to the hours setting (the hours as entered or modified above are displayed), at which point the cycle begins again. If the plus and minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed at the same time, any flashing digit(s) will be reset to zero.

[0051] Once the desired individual game time has been entered, the pause button 74 is pressed to switch to player 2. Subsequent presses of the pause button 74 will scroll through each player's settings. The hours digit 42 flashes and the steps are repeated until the individual game times have been entered or modified, as desired, for each player entered in mode 1. Individual game times do not need to be entered. That is, the global game time entered in mode 2 may be left as the game time for any player.

[0052] Mode 4 allows a global turn time applicable to all players to be entered into the game timer 10 and is intended as a quick method of setup since most players will be allowed a similar turn time. The mode button 82 is pressed until the number 4 is displayed on the display screen 16, for example, near the word MODE 50.

[0053] Once in mode 4, the global turn time for all players will be displayed on the display screen 16. The hours digit 42 flashes inviting the user to enter or modify the hours. The plus or minus buttons, 78, 80 are pressed to increase or decrease, respectively, the number of hours. The clock button 70 is pressed to confirm the hours setting and switch to the minutes setting. Next, the minutes digits 44 flash inviting the user to enter or modify the minutes. The plus or minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed to increase or decrease, respectively, the number of minutes. The clock button 70 is pressed to confirm the minutes setting and switch to the seconds setting. Next, the seconds digits 46 flash inviting the user to enter or modify the seconds. The plus or minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed to increase or decrease, respectively, the number of seconds. The clock button 70 is pressed to confirm the seconds setting and switch to the hours setting, at which point the cycle begins again. If the plus and minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed at the same time, any flashing digit(s) are reset to zero. The turn time applicable to all players may be set to zero, in which case the turn time is unlimited.

[0054] Once the desired global turn time has been entered, the mode button 82 is pressed to save the global turn time as the turn time for each player and switch to another mode. If a global turn time is entered (i.e., the global turn time is something other than zero), the global turn time is used as each player's turn time unless an individual turn time is subsequently entered or modified in mode 5. In other words, if individual turn times have been entered in mode 5 and then a global turn time is entered, the global turn time overwrites all of the individual turn times as the turn times for each player.

[0055] Mode 5 allows the entry or modification of turn times for each player. In other words, an individual turn time may be entered which, for that player, overrides the global turn time previously set in mode 4. The mode button 82 is pressed until the number 5 is displayed on the display screen 16, for example, near the word MODE 50.

[0056] Once in mode 5, player 1 is identified in the player area 58 on the display screen 16. The hours digit 42 flashes inviting the user to enter or modify the hours for player 1. If a global turn time has been entered in mode 4, the hours of the global turn time are flashed. The plus or minus buttons, 78, 80 are pressed to increase or decrease, respectively, the number of hours. The clock button 70 is pressed to confirm the hours setting and switch to the minutes setting. Next, the minutes digits 44 flash inviting the user to enter or modify the minutes. If a global turn time has been entered in mode 4, the minutes of the global turn time are flashed. The plus or minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed to increase or decrease, respectively, the number of minutes. The clock button 70 is pressed to confirm the minutes setting and switch to the seconds setting. Next, the seconds digits 46 flash inviting the user to enter or modify the seconds. If a global turn time has been entered in mode 4, the seconds of the global turn time are flashed. The plus or minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed to increase or decrease, respectively, the number of seconds. The clock button 70 is pressed to confirm the seconds setting and switch to the hours setting (the hours as entered or modified above are displayed), at which point the cycle begins again. If the plus and minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed at the same time, any flashing digit(s) will be reset to zero.

[0057] Once the desired individual turn time has been entered, the pause button 74 is pressed to switch to player 2. Subsequent presses of the pause button 74 will scroll through each player's settings. The hours digit 42 flashes and the steps are repeated until the individual turn times have been entered or modified, as desired, for each player entered in mode 1. Individual turn times do not need to be entered. That is, the global turn time entered in mode 4 may be left as the turn time for any player.

[0058] Mode 6 allows game settings (number of players and game and turn times) to be saved into memory locations, for example, A and B. The mode button 82 is pressed until the number 6 is displayed on the display screen 16, for example, near the word MODE 50.

[0059] Once in mode 6, the letter A will be displayed on the display screen 16, for example, near the word MEMORY 54, to indicate that memory A is selected. The plus and minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed to switch between the memories, for example, to toggle from memory A to memory B and back.

[0060] Once the desired memory is displayed on the display screen 16, the number 1 is displayed in the player area 58 to indicate player 1. The current settings saved in the memory for player 1 are also displayed: player 1's game time displayed in the game time area 40 and player 1's turn time displayed in the last player's time area 62 in order to show the turn time in hours, minutes, and seconds. The pause button 74 is pressed to switch between players to see the various settings for each player in the memory.

[0061] If no information has been saved into the memory, then all digits displayed will be zero. The clock button 70 is pressed to copy all of the present game settings (set in modes 1-5 either during setup of the game timer or if a game has commenced, the remaining play times from mode 0) and save them in the memory location. If information has been saved in the memory, the information will be overwritten by the present game settings when the clock button 70 is pressed.

[0062] To start a game using settings stored in one of the memories, the desired memory is selected by pressing the plus and minus buttons 78, 80. Once the desired memory is indicated on the display screen 16, the start/stop button 76 is pressed to transfer the settings from the selected memory to the game memory. When memory A or memory B is selected, the information from that memory is copied into the game memory and any adjustments made in modes 1-5 will not affect what is stored in memory A and memory B.

[0063] While in any of modes 1-5, if memory A or B is selected, then the settings saved in memory A or B, respectively, for that mode will be displayed on the display screen 16. Additionally, an A or B will be displayed on the display screen 16 to indicate that memory A or B, respectively, settings are currently being used. However, if any settings are adjusted in modes 1-5, then the A or B indication will no longer be displayed. The pause button 74 is pressed to scroll through the saved settings for each player.

[0064] In modes 2-5, if memory A or memory B is selected, modification of the selected setting is accomplished as discussed above for each mode. A modification affects only the game memory and does not alter the settings saved in memories A and B saved in mode 6. Only going back to mode 6 and selecting the desired memory A or B and pressing the clock button 70 will save any adjustments made in other modes.

[0065] Turning the game timer 10 power off and on clears all the game settings to zero, but does not affect any settings saved in memory A or memory B. A reset button (not shown) on a back of the game timer 10 is pressed to clear all settings in the game timer 10, including memory A and memory B. Pressing the reset button, when the game timer 10 is on or off, also causes a test routine to execute. The test routine briefly tests the light 26, the LCD (display screen 16), and the sound generator 28. Preferably, the reset button is recessed within an opening in the shell which is accessible by placing a thin rod (for example, a pin or a pencil tip) into the opening. This ensures that the reset button will not be accidentally pressed.

[0066] Mode 7 allows various game options to be turned on or off. The mode button 82 is pressed until the number 7 is displayed on the display screen 16, for example, near the word MODE 50.

[0067] Once in mode 7, the pause button 74 is pressed repeatedly to scroll through the available options. An indicator, for example, a letter or number, is displayed on the display screen 16 in the option area 56 to indicate an available option or combination of options. When a desired option (or combination of options) is displayed, the mode button 82 is pressed to select the option and switch to another mode.

[0068] Game options may include visual (light) or audible cues that indicate an end of a turn is near. Preferably, a letter “L” is used for a flash light option. The light 26 flashed may be a light emitting diode (LED), for example. The letter “S” is used to indicate when sound is turned on. Sound is emitted from the sound generator 28. For the sound, the plus or minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed to increase or decrease, respectively, the volume. A beep will sound to demonstrate the selected volume. The light and sound options may be turned on independently of each other or used together.

[0069] If the light and/or sound options are selected, the game timer 10 will flash a light and/or beep each second of the last seconds of a turn. The user may select between various configurations of light flashes and beeps. For example, the number 4 may be available for selection. When 4 is selected, the game timer 10 will flash a light and/or beep for each second of the last four seconds of a turn. Likewise, the number 1 may be available and, if selected, the game timer 10 will beep and/or flash a light for the last one second of a turn.

[0070] For example, the following options may be available and displayed for the user to select:

[0071] L S 4—the LED and sound will function briefly each second of the last four seconds of the turn;

[0072] L S 1—the LED and sound will function briefly the last second of the turn;

[0073] L 4—the LED will function briefly each second of the last four seconds of the turn; and

[0074] L 1—the LED will function briefly the last second of the turn.

[0075] In this example, if no option is displayed in the option area 56, neither the LED nor the sound will function during the end of a turn.

[0076] Mode 0 is the active game mode. In mode 0, the start/stop button 76 starts or stops the counting of time. The pause button 74 pauses the game timer 10 when first pressed and switches between players for subsequent presses. If the game timer 10 has been paused, the mode button 82 switches between modes (the same as in other modes). Otherwise, the mode button 82 has no effect. This ensures that the mode is not accidentally switched during a player's turn. The clock button 70 toggles game time displayed from game time remaining (count-down) to game time accrued (count-up). Lastly, the plus and minus buttons 78, 80 increase or decrease, respectively, the volume of the sound generated by the game timer 10.

[0077] Once the settings have been entered in modes 1-7, the mode button 82 is pressed until the number 0 is displayed on the display screen 16, for example, near the word MODE 50. When first entering mode 0, player 1 settings are displayed.

[0078] Starting with player 1, the start/stop button 76 is pressed once to start player 1's turn. The game time remaining is displayed on the display screen 16 and decreases in one second increments. The clock button 70 is pressed at any time to switch from showing the game time remaining to the game time accrued (accruing in one second increments).

[0079] The turn time remaining for player 1 is displayed on the display screen 16, in hours, minutes, or seconds, for example, near the words TURN TIME 68. The turn time will initially display hours and decrease in one hour increments until less than one hour remains, at which time the turn time will be displayed in minutes and decrease in one minute increments. When less than one minute remains, the turn time remaining will be displayed in seconds and decrease in one second increments. If the light and/or sound option is turned on, the game timer 10 will flash a light 26 and/or beep 28 for the selected remaining seconds of the turn.

[0080] The start/stop button 76 is pressed once again to stop player 1's turn. The game time left for player 1 is displayed on the display screen 16 near the words LAST PLAYER TIME 64. At the same time, the game time remaining and the turn time remaining for the next player, for example, player 2 or the next player that has time remaining, is displayed in the appropriate areas and immediately begins to increase or decrease in one second increments.

[0081] If a turn time counts down to zero before the start/stop button 76 is pressed, the game timer 10 will pause. The start/stop button 76 is pressed to switch to the next player and continue. Alternatively, the other players may penalize the player whose turn time expired by removing him from the game. When the game timer 10 is paused, the plus and minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed at the same time to reset the player's game time to zero. Any players with zero game time remaining are omitted from the cycle.

[0082] If a player decides to quit the game and wants to be removed from the game timer 10, the pause button 74 is pressed to pause the game timer 10. While the desired player is selected, the plus and minus buttons 78, 80 are pressed at the same time. That player's game time is set to zero. Thus, the player will be skipped in future cycles. The start/stop button 76 is pressed to continue the game timer 10 for the next player.

[0083] If it is decided to modify a player's game time, for example, if the player has made an error, the pause button 74 is pressed to pause the game timer 10. The mode button 82 is pressed until mode 3 (for adjusting individual game time) is displayed. That player's game time is, preferably, automatically displayed and is adjusted (see discussion on mode 3 operation). The pause button 74 may be used to scroll to another player's game time, or to the desired player if that player's time is not automatically displayed. The mode button 82 is pressed again until mode 0 is displayed. Preferably, that player's turn is re-displayed, otherwise, the pause button is pressed until the player's settings are displayed. The game time left, as adjusted, for that player is now displayed. The start/stop button 76 is pressed once to start the selected player's turn. The game time remaining again decreases at one second increments.

[0084] The game timer 10 may have an auto display off feature that is activated after a predetermined amount of time, for example, ten minutes, has passed since either a turn or game time has been depleted and no further activity has elapsed or the pause button 74 has been pressed in mode 0. After the predetermined time has elapsed, the display screen 16 turns off. The CPU 24 also powers down (to a low power state), but no information is lost. Any button on the game timer 10 is pressed to reactivate the display screen 16 and CPU 24.

[0085] It will be understood by those skilled in the art that while the foregoing description sets forth in detail preferred embodiments of the present invention, modifications, additions, and changes might be made thereto without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.