Ralph Baer (1922 – 2014)

Ralph Baer with some of his inventions (original image credit: The Museum of Computer History)

Ralph Baer with some of his inventions (original image credit: The Museum of Computer History)

Ralph Baer passed away at the age of 92 yesterday evening according to a report by the Examiner.

If you’re not sure who he is, Baer has been called the “Father of Video Games” because of his groundbreaking work in paving the way for the first consoles with the Magnavox Odyssey in ’72 beating the worldwide phenomenon of Atari’s Pong by three years. As a prolific inventor who was also responsible for Simon with Howard J. Morrison in 1978, Baer never really stopped inventing, working, and thinking of new things to create.

His life was full of exciting moments ranging from running three radio service stores in New York City in the early 40s, serving in the US Army and eventually assigned to Military Intelligence, participating in WW2, to ushering in inventions that would help redefine gaming for generations to come.

The Museum of Play also recounts an interesting bit of Ralph Baer’s history in talking about Teddy Ruxpin. In the mid-80s, Baer had also created “Smarty Bear” which went up against the talking bear phenomenon at the time, World of Wonders’ Teddy Ruxpin.

But while Teddy Ruxpin “read” books and moved his eyes and head with the help of a cassette tape, Baer’s Smarty Bear was geared to interact with actual videos on television as a sort of co-op partner in helping to solve puzzles and participate in his stories. It was technology that would find analogs in conjunction with other toys such as Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future in ’87-88 with toys that “shot back” at targets on screen.

He continued working, contributing, and thinking of new ways on creating more interactivity whether it was in coming up with talking books or talking toys. In 2005, Ralph Baer donated video game units and a huge cache of written material on his work to the Smithsonian and in 2006, received the National Medal of Technology from President George W. Bush in recognition of his lifelong work.

Baer’s legacy of genius has transcended generations, sharing countless moments of fun, learning, and inspiring curiosity in many, many others. His work kicked off the avalanche of innovation, rivalries, console wars, and spirited debates that would shape the video gaming world for decades to come. All because all of those years ago, one man put together a “Brown Box” to answer whether or not it was possible to take games to another level.

And kept going.

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