Creator of world’s first video game console dies at 92

Ralph Baer shows the pingpong video game he designed at his Manchester, N.H., home in 2005.

Ralph Baer, the inventor who has been hailed as the father of video games for building the world’s gaming console, died on Saturday, December 6, 2014, at his New Hampshire home.

Baer remained active until age 92 at his Manchester workshop and has more than 150 patents under his belt including the “Brown Box,” his monumental creation sold as the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972.

The German-born engineer showed off the home console’s first game in a 1969 video. His prototype could handle two opponents playing pingpong on a small television set.

Magnavox sold about 330,000 units over the years, but it also ignited a patent infringement battle with Atari over the creation of “Pong.” The company settled with a $700,000 payout from Atari in 1974.

Baer’s first Brown Box is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution.

Magnavox released at least 27 games for the console the year of its big debut, including Baseball, Basketball and Prehistoric Gallery, which required Baer’s own Light Gun device.

Five years after the system’s release, the Associated Press described Baer’s work as responsible for keeping “millions of otherwise rational Americans staying up late.”

Baer’s started his career as a radio technician after escaping Nazi Germany with his Jewish family in 1938. He then served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Unlike the rest of his troop, Baer apparently missed the mission to Normandy after falling sick with pneumonia and being hospitalized, his close friend Leonard Herman told the Daily News.

“The man was just incredible. He had such an innocent youth to him. It was like you were with a big kid,” Herman said.

His invention paved the way for a multi-billion dollar video game industry, but modern games weren’t for him.

“He was amazed by what they could do, but he didn’t play them,” Herman added.

Baer continued to engineer toys and games long after Odyssey, one of his most well-known products being Simon, a popular memory game in the 1990s.

In 2006, President George W. Bush honored Baer with a National Medal of Technology for his game development.

Baer is survived by three children and four grandchildren.

Photo credit: Pulse ng


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