Meet Ralph Baer, the Father of Video Games

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. 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. 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. 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”.

Baer began seeking a buyer for the system, turning to various television manufacturers who did not see interest in the unit. In 1971, it was licensed to Magnavox, and after being renamed Magnavox Odyssey, the console was released to the public in 1972. For a time it was Sanders’ most profitable line, selling approximately 300,000 units, though many in the company looked down on game development. 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. READ MORE