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Ralph H. Baer

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Title: Ralph H. Baer  
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Subject: Simon (game), History of video games, Pong, Video game industry, 2014
Collection: 1922 Births, 2014 Deaths, American Electrical Engineers, American Entertainment Industry Businesspeople, American Inventors, American Mechanical Engineers, American Military Personnel of World War II, American People of German-Jewish Descent, American Technology Chief Executives, American Technology Company Founders, American Toy Industry Businesspeople, Businesspeople from New Hampshire, Disease-Related Deaths in New Hampshire, German Jews Who Emigrated to the United States to Escape Nazism, History of Video Games, Ieee Edison Medal Recipients, Jewish Emigrants from Nazi Germany to the United States, Jewish Engineers, Jewish Inventors, National Medal of Technology Recipients, People from Südwestpfalz, People from the Palatinate (Region), People in the Video Game Industry, United States Army Soldiers
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Ralph H. Baer

Ralph H. Baer
Baer in June 2009
Born Rudolf Heinrich Baer
(1922-03-08)March 8, 1922
Rodalben, Palatinate, Germany
Died December 6, 2014(2014-12-06) (aged 92)
Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S.
Occupation Inventor, video game developer, engineer
Spouse(s) Dena Whinston (1952–2006; her death)
Children James, Mark, Nancy
Website .com.ralphbaerwww

Ralph Henry Baer (born Rudolf Heinrich Baer; March 8, 1922 – December 6, 2014) was a German-born American video game developer, inventor, and engineer, and was known as "The Father of Video Games" due to his many contributions to games and the video game industry in the latter half of the 20th century.[1]

Born in Germany, he and his family fled to the United States before the outbreak of World War II, where he changed his name and later served the American war effort. Afterwards, he pursued work in electronics, and in the 1960s, came up with the idea of playing games on television screens. He would go on to develop and patent several hardware prototypes, including what would become the first home video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey, and other consoles and consumer game units. In 2004, he was awarded the National Medal of Technology for "his groundbreaking and pioneering creation, development and commercialization of interactive video games, which spawned related uses, applications, and mega-industries in both the entertainment and education realms".[2]


  • Life 1
    • Family and death 1.1
  • Inventions 2
  • Awards 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Baer was born in 1922 to Lotte (Kirschbaum) and Leo Baer,[3] a Jewish family living in Germany, and was originally named Rudolf Heinrich Baer. At age 11, he was expelled from school because of his ancestry and had to go to an all-Jewish school. His father worked in a shoe factory in Pirmasens at the time. Baer's family, fearing increasing persecution, moved from Germany to New York City in 1938 two months prior to Kristallnacht while Baer was a teenager. Baer would later become a naturalized United States citizen.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]

In the United States, he was self-taught and worked in a factory for a weekly wage of twelve dollars; upon seeing an advertisement at a bus station for education in the budding electronics field, he quit his job to study in the field.[12] He graduated from the National Radio Institute as a radio service technician in 1940. In 1943 he was drafted to fight in World War II and assigned to military intelligence at the United States Army headquarters in London.[13] With his secondary education funded by the G.I. Bill, Baer graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Television Engineering (unique at the time) from the American Television Institute of Technology in Chicago in 1949.[12][14][15]

In 1949, Baer went to work as chief engineer for a small electro-medical equipment firm, Wappler, Inc., where he designed and built surgical cutting machines, epilators, and low frequency pulse generating muscle-toning equipment. In 1951, Baer went to work as a senior engineer for Loral Electronics in Bronx, New York, where he designed power line carrier signaling equipment for IBM. From 1952 to 1956, he worked at Transitron, Inc., in New York City as a chief engineer and later as vice president.[16]

He started his own company before joining defense contractor Sanders Associates in Nashua, New Hampshire (now part of BAE Systems Inc.) in 1956, where he stayed until retiring in 1987.[16] Baer's primary responsibility at Sanders was overseeing about 500 engineers in the development of electronic systems for military applications.[17] However, out of this work came the concept of a home video game console; he would go on to create the basis for the first commercial units, among several other patented advances in video games and electronic toys.[18] As he approached retirement, Baer partnered with Bob Pelovitz of Acsiom, LLC, and they invented and marketed toy and game ideas from 1983 until Baer's death.[19]

Baer was a Life Senior Member of

  • Ralph Baer Consultants
  • Ralph Baer's US patents
  • Videogames: In The BeginningInformation about Ralph Baer's book
  • Ralph H. Baer Papers, 1943–1953, 1966–1972, 2006 – Ralph Baer's prototypes and documentation housed at the Smithsonian Lemelson Center.
  • The Dot Eaters entry on Baer and the history of the Odyssey console
  • A Ralph Baer biography
  • Ralph H. Baer profile at The Escapist magazine.
  • "The Right to Baer Games – An Interview with Ralph Baer, the Father of Video Games" – From GamaSutra and the March 2007 edition of Game Developer magazine.
  • – Information about Ralph Baer and his invention "Video Ping-Pong"'
  • Podcast Interview Ralph Baer on "We Talk Games." [Timecode, 01:05:58]
  • History of Video Games with documents and videos of Baers Inventions
  • 1 Hour Skype Video Interview Ralph Baer Interview for Scene World Magazine
  • Ralph Baer's workshop, icon of American innovation blog post from National Museum of American History
  • Ralph Baer: The inventor I knew from National Museum of American History blog

External links

Further reading

  1. ^ a b Hatfield, Daemon (December 20, 2007). "GDC 2008: Ralph Baer Receiving Pioneer Award". Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  2. ^ "The National Medal of Technology and Innovation 2004 Laureates". 2004. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Ralph H. Baer". Union Leader. 
  4. ^ Plunkett, Luke (May 3, 2011). "The Father Of Video Games Fled The Nazis, Fought Them Then Took All Their Guns".  
  5. ^ Karras, Steve (October 19, 2012). "Ralph Baer: The Father of the Video Game".  
  6. ^ Edwards, Benj (March 23, 2007). "The Right to Baer Games – An Interview with Ralph Baer, the Father of Video Games".  
  7. ^ "Icons: Ralph Baer".  
  8. ^ Dillon, Roberto (2011). The Golden Age of Video Games: The Birth of a Multi-billion Dollar Industry. Taylor & Francis Group.  
  9. ^ Wolf, Mark J.P. (2001). The Medium of the Video Game. University of Texas Press.  
  10. ^ Kent, Steven (2001). Ultimate History of Video Games. Random House.  
  11. ^ Loh, Jules (February 6, 1977). "Inventor Has Deep Impact on U.S. Life". Eugene Register-Guard. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Marino-Nachison, David (December 7, 2014). "Ralph H. Baer, a father of video gaming, dies at 92".  
  13. ^ a b c Burrowes, Declan (July 13, 2013). "Baer's Odyssey: Meet the serial inventor who built the world’s first game console".  
  14. ^ Cf. Wolverton, Mark, "The Father of Video Games", American Heritage Invention and Technology magazine, Fall 2009 issue.
  15. ^ American Television Institute,; accessed December 7, 2014.
  16. ^ a b Smithsonian Institution, "Administrative/biographical history", Ralph H. Baer Papers, The Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation;; accessed December 7, 2014.
  17. ^ a b c Martin, Douglas (December 7, 2014). "Ralph H. Baer, Inventor of First System for Home Video Games, Is Dead at 92".  
  18. ^ Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Greig De Peuter (2003). Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing. McGill–Queen's University Press.  
  19. ^ Sheffield, Brandon (June 23, 2008). "Paris GDC: Baer On The Industry's Birth, Preserving History".  
  20. ^ "NEWSLETTER: A House Journal of IEEE Kerala Section". April–June 2006. Archived from the original on August 21, 2009. Retrieved April 17, 2007. 
  21. ^ Pretz, Kathy (November 25, 2014). "Son’s Quest to Get Father of Video Games Elevated to IEEE Fellow".  
  22. ^ Graft, Kris (December 7, 2014). "Ralph Baer, 'father of video games', passes away".  
  23. ^ a b Griffiths, Devin (2013). Virtual Ascendance: Video Games and the Remaking of Reality. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. 
  24. ^ Edwards, Benj (March 23, 2007). "The Right to Baer Games – An Interview with Ralph Baer, the Father of Video Games".  
  25. ^ a b c "The Father of the Video Game: The Ralph Baer Prototypes and Electronic Games".  
  26. ^ Horiuchi, Vince (November 7, 2011). "Ralph Baer, the Father of Video Games, reflects on his career".  
  27. ^ Barton, Mat; Loguidice, Bill (January 9, 2009). "The History Of Pong: Avoid Missing Game to Start Industry".  
  28. ^ Vendel, Curt; Goldberg, Marty (2012). Atari Inc.: Business Is Fun. Syzygy Press. p. 26.  
  29. ^ Clark, Don (December 8, 2014). "Ralph Baer, a Pioneer of Videogames, Is Remembered".  
  30. ^ "Ralph Baer game designs". Retrieved October 12, 2012. 
  31. ^ Tim Walsh (2005). Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them. Andrews McMeel Publishing.  
  32. ^ "Maniac Electronic Game, 1979".  
  33. ^ David Friedman (photographer) (2013-03-07). Video Games | INVENTORS | PBS Digital Studios — Ralph Baer.  
  34. ^ Plunkett, Luke (December 7, 2014). "The Father Of Video Games, Ralph Baer, Has Passed Away".  
  35. ^ "Wrap-Up: G4's G-Phoria Video Game Awards". Gamasutra. July 28, 2005. Retrieved April 18, 2007. 
  36. ^ "IEEE Masaru Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award Recipients". IEEE. Retrieved May 2, 2008. 
  37. ^ "Recipients of the 2014 Medals and Awards".  
  38. ^ Cork, Jeff (January 9, 2015). "Ralph Baer, Al Alcorn To Receive AIAS Pioneer Awards".  
  39. ^ Crecente, Brian (February 6, 2015). "Game industry pauses to say thanks to the father of gaming".  
  40. ^ "President George W. Bush Presents….". White House Archives. February 2006. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  41. ^ Carless, Simon (November 17, 2005). "Game Pioneer Ralph Baer Wins National Medal".  
  42. ^ Brooks, David (April 7, 2010). "N.H. brain behind GPS in hall of fame".  


See also

On February 13, 2006, Baer was awarded the [40][41] On April 1, 2010, Baer was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the United States Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C.[42]

In addition to being considered "The Father of Video Games", Baer was recognized as a pioneer in the video game field. His accolades include the G-Phoria Legend Award (2005),[35] the IEEE Masaru Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award (2008),[36] the Game Developers Conference Developers Choice "Pioneer" award (2008),[1] and the IEEE Edison Medal (2014).[37] Baer was posthumously given the Pioneer Award by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences at the 2015 Game Developers Conference.[38][39]

Baer (left) receives the George W. Bush (right) in 2006


In 2006, Baer donated hardware prototypes and documents to the Smithsonian Institution.[25] He continued to tinker in electronics after the death of his wife through at least 2013.[33] By the time of his death, Baer had over 150 patents in his name;[34] in addition to those related to video games, he had patents for electronic greeting cards and for tracking systems for submarines.[17]

Baer is also credited with co-developing three popular electronic games.[30] Baer, along with Howard J. Morrison, developed Simon (1978) and its sequel Super Simon (1979) for Milton Bradley, electronic pattern-matching games that were immensely popular through the late 1990s. The US patent for Simon, Pat No. 4,207,087 was obtained in 1980 by patent counsel for Marvin Glass and Associates, Robert J. Schneider, a managing partner with the firm of Mason, Kolehmainen, Rathburn and Wyss. Schneider is currently Co-Chair of the Intellectual Property Department of Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP.[31] Baer also developed a similar pattern-matching game "Maniac" for the Ideal Toy Company (1979) on his own, though the game was not as popular as Simon; Baer considered that Maniac was "really hard to play" and thus not as popular as his earlier game.[32]

Baer is credited with developing the pattern-matching game Simon.

The success of the Odyssey led to competition from other companies, in particular [29]

Baer began seeking a buyer for the system, turning to various television manufacturers who did not see interest in the unit.[12] In 1971, it was licensed to Magnavox, and after being renamed Magnavox Odyssey, the console was released to the public in 1972.[25] For a time it was Sanders' most profitable line, selling approximately 300,000 units, though many in the company looked down on game development.[12] Baer is credited for creating the first light gun and game for home television use, sold grouped with a game expansion pack for the Odyssey, and collectively known as the Shooting Gallery. The light gun itself was the first peripheral for a video game console.[26]

The commercially-released version of the Magnavox Odyssey

Baer was considered to be the inventor of video games, specifically at the concept of the home video game console. In 1966, while an employee at Sanders, Baer started to explore the possibility of playing games on television screens. He first got the idea while working at Loral in 1951, another electronics company, however, they wanted nothing to do with it at the time.[23] In a 2007 interview, Baer said that he recognized that the price reduction of owning a television set at the time had opened a large potential market for other applications, considering that various military groups had identified ways of using television for their purposes.[24] Upon coming up with the idea of creating a game using the television screen, he wrote a four-page proposal with which he was able to convince one of his supervisors to allow him to proceed. He was given US$2,500 and the time of two other engineers, Bill Harrison and Bill Rusch. They developed the "Brown Box" console video game system, so named because of the brown tape in which they wrapped the units to simulate wood veneer.[12][17][25] Baer recounted that in an early meeting with a patent examiner and his attorney to patent one of the prototypes, he had set up the prototype on a television in the examiner's office and "within 15 minutes, every examiner on the floor of that building was in that office wanting to play the game".[12]

The "Brown Box" prototype at display at the Smithsonian Institution


Baer married Dena Whinston in 1952; she died in 2006. They had three children during their marriage, and at the time of Baer's death, he had four grandchildren.[12] Baer died at his home in Manchester, New Hampshire on December 6, 2014, according to family and friends close to him.[12][22]

Family and death


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