By Jeff Neuenschwander / December 7th, 2014
The world of gaming is in mourning today as the inventor of the home game console, Ralph Baer, has passed away. News from New Hampshire reveals that Mr. Baer died peacefully in his sleep last night. He was 92.
While he was known in later life for his gaming inventions, Ralph Baer’s early life was quite remarkable. He was born in Germany in 1922 to James Baer and Lucy Linard in Rodalben, Palatinate. Because of his Jewish ancestry, he was forced out of German schools in 1933 by the Nazi government. In 1938, he, his parents, and his sister escaped from Nazi Germany almost two months before Kristallnacht, a series of attacks against Jewish citizens on November 9th and 10th of that year.
Arriving in New York City, Baer worked in a factory as he taught himself. In 1943, he would be drafted into the US Army and assigned to military intelligence headquartered in London, England. After the war, he graduated from the American Television Institute of Technology in Chicago with a Bachelor of Science degree. For the next few years, he would work for a few companies as an engineer developing medical devices and equipment for IBM before being hired by defense contractor Sanders Associates (which, as of 1986, is part of BAE Systems).
In 1966, Baer started working on playing games on a television. From this came the “Brown Box,” first completed in 1968. The “Brown Box” would go through a number of different prototypes — a number of which you can find at the Smithsonian Institution — before it was licensed to Magnavox to become the Odyssey, the first home video console. Baer’s contributions to gaming would also include working on the Odyssey 2 as well as the electronic game Simon.
All in all, Baer’s work includes over 150 patents in his name and had earned him numerous awards. In 2006, he received the National Medal of Technology from President George W. Bush. In 2008, he received the Developers Choice “Pioneer” award from the Game Developers Conference. In 2010, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. And earlier this year, he was awarded the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Edison Medal, which is awarded “for a career of meritorious achievement in electrical science, electrical engineering or the electrical arts.”
Ralph Baer is survived by his family (including his three kids James, Mark, and Nancy) and the millions of people he helped, inspired, and entertained.
Father of Video GamesMagnavoxOdysseyRalph Baer