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.
- This ordinary piece of test equipment played an important role in video game history.
- In 1966, while working for Sanders Associates, Inc., engineer Ralph Baer began to look into new ways to use television, focusing specifically on interactive games. Baer had received his bachelor’s in television engineering and was familiar with television test equipment that could meet his needs while keeping cost down. This Heathkit IG-62 Color Bar and Dot Generator, which was used to adjust television sets, provided the key circuitry needed to create an image on a television screen. This allowed Baer and his colleagues to devote their time and attention to develop a way for anyone to be able to move that image.
- In 1967, Baer created the first of several video game test units. Called TVG#1 or TV Game Unit #1, the device, when used with an alignment generator like the Heathkit IG-62, produced a dot on the television screen that could be manually controlled by the user. Once they were able to interact with the television, Baer and his team could design increasingly sophisticated interfaces and programs.
- Currently not on view
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- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center