The Father of the Video Game: The Ralph Baer Prototypes and Electronic Games
By the 1960s, millions of Americans had invested in televisions for their homes, and it soon became clear that this technology could be used for more that passively watching television shows. In 1966, while working for Sanders Associates Inc., engineer Ralph Baer began to investigate how to play games on a television. Between 1967 and 1969, he and colleagues Bill Harrison and Bill Rusch created several video game test units. This result was the “Brown Box,” a prototype for the first multiplayer, multiprogram video game system. Sanders licensed the system to Magnavox. In 1972, Magnavox released the design as the Magnavox Odyssey, paving the way for all video game systems that followed.
Ralph Baer donated his video game test units, production models, notes, and schematics to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 2006. His papers are kept in the Museum's Archives Center. In 2014, the Museum collected his workshop to become the landmark object for its Innovation Wing.
"The Father of the Video Game: The Ralph Baer Prototypes and Electronic Games - Introduction" showing 1 items.
- Ralph Baer is best known for developing the first video games, but he has accomplished more than that.
- In 1975, Baer, an engineer and inventor, started an independent consulting business and began to work in association with Marvin Glass & Associates in Chicago, the toy design firm responsible for some of the most successful American toys of the 20th century. Baer’s job was to develop electronic toys and games. The best-known result of this partnership was Simon.
- In light of Simon’s success, Baer was asked by Marvin Glass to create another electronic game that was similar in nature. The result was Maniac, which was released by Ideal Toy Company in 1979. It was a multiple-player, sound-based game that required quick reflexes and the ability to identify and recall tonal sequences (rather than merely repeating them as they had with Simon). In an oral history interview (audio copies available in the National Museum of American History’s Archives Center), Baer admitted that the game was “really hard to play. You have to want to play games to want to play Maniac.” This could be the reason that Maniac never matched the popularity of Simon.
- Currently not on view
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- Baer, Ralph H.
- Ideal Toy Company
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- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center