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Biography: Meet Inventor Ralph H. Baer

Ralph H. Baer

Ralph H. Baer, betting known as the “Father of Video Games”, is one of the most admirable people in the industry. He’s carved out from one of the roughest times in history and has made a name for himself despite it all. Through his trials, he has mastered the art of inventing newer technology and advancements. One of those happens to be part of the video game industry.

Baer was born on March 8, 1922 in Germany. Because of his Jewish ancestry, growing up during this time was really difficult. When we was just 11 years old, he was expelled from his school and forced to enroll in an all-Jewish school instead. By the age of 16, things got worse. His family escaped the country just two months before Kristallnacht, a tragic event in November of 1938 where a coordination of attacks where made against the Jews in Nazi Germany. They headed to America, their new home with brighter opportunities for his future.

Baer at Work

Baer started out working at a factory for a paycheck of $12 a week. He was intelligent though, and self-taught himself the things he wanted to learn. He ended up graduating from the National Radio Institute as a radio service technician in 1940. After being drafted in 1943 to fight during World World II, he came back to finish his education. In 1949, he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Television Engineering from the American Television Institute of Technology.

After schooling, Baer went right to work as chief engineer for Wappler, Inc. His job was to design and build medical equipment like surgical cutting machines and epilators. In 1951, he landed a position with Loral Electronics as their senior engineer. He kept himself busy with his designs with building power line carrier signaling equipment for the company IBM. It wasn’t long before he moved jobs once again, this time to Transitron, Inc where he became their chief engineer and then vice-president.

Brown Box

He finally found his niche when he joined the Sanders Associate company in 1956. It was during him time with this company that he started working on the “Brown Box” system in 1966. The development resulted in several prototypes before it was licensed in 1971 as the Magnavox. Before being officially released in 1972, it was renamed to a familiar sound we know all too well – the Magnavox Odyssey. The Odyssey was a success, being the most profitable item in the company for a very long time.

Baer didn’t stop his idea there, though. He went on to create the first peripheral for video game consoles — the light gun. He created this along with a game that could be used with the system. These gems were included with the game expansion pack for the Odyssey, being named the “Shooting Gallery”. In 1978 and 1979, he continued to develop games and ended up being part of the creation of three very popular ones — Simon, Super Simon, and Maniac.

National Medal of Technology

Because of Baer’s sheer intelligence and inventions, he has earned many notable awards. In 2006, he was presented with the National Medal of Technology by Former President George W. Bush. The Pioneer Award for 2008 at the Developer’s Choice Awards was given to him as well. Most recently, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame on April 1st, 2010.

You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the man. He’s been through an incredible journey during his lifetime. From struggles in regards to his ancestry to climbing corporate ladders, he’s accomplished many achievements. He’s given the gaming community a lot to be thankful for as well as the Sanders Associates company. Although he retired from there in 1987, he has not retired from the spotlight.

Next Biography: Bungie's Martin O'Donnell

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