By Andrew Dodson on December 8, 2014 at 2:54am
On Dec. 6 2014, at the age of 92, Ralph Baer, the man widely regarded as the inventor of the video game, passed away.
Baer led an incredibly interesting life. Born in Germany, his family left for Holland just a couple of months before the Kristallnacht attacks against Jewish families in Germany and from there, they moved to the United States where Baer would eventually get a job in radio electronics. After serving in WWII as US military intelligence, he used the GI Bill to get a degree in the relatively new field of television engineering.
While working in this new field, Baer developed and held over 100 patents for new technology - one of the most interesting being something simply known as "The Brown Box" in 1969. This device would eventually be licensed and sold as the Magnavox Odyssey, which literally laid the groundwork for the video games we have today. Here is a short video of Ralph Baer testing "The Brown Box" in 1969:
The first Atari system arrived on the scene five years later.
Could I project how far this thing was going to go? The answer's obviously no. Nobody realized, even at that time, that we were on this geometric curve ... that would go straight up to heaven. It was unforeseeable; it was fantastic. I'm glad it happened. And if I hadn't had started it, someone else would have." Ralph Baer, Salt Late Tribune
Besides being responsible for the first video game console, Ralph Baer is also credited as the inventor of the light gun, another early video game staple.
In 2006, Baer was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President George W. Bush and in 2010, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
While not being directly involved in game development in recent years, Baer criticized all of the violence in video games today. He felt like a lot of games today had destroyed his original vision for video games - a vision where games were fun, social experiences and not as single-player oriented.
In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribute, Ralph Baer summed up his great invention with this: "All I did was come up with what I thought was a fun idea that was the result of a little box that was attached to a television set. It just grew and grew and grew."
And it will keep on growing. Player Theory thanks Ralph Baer for his invention and contributions to the development of the video games that we have today. This is man that not only invented a new technology, but is also responsible for creating a new form of art that humanity had never experienced before. The industry has lost it's original pioneer, and he will be sorely missed.
Ralph Baer Wiki Salt Lake Tribune Interview