The Pump Unit, 1967


The first video games were played on this machine.

With the use of changing screen color and moving dots, TV Game Unit #2 allowed two players to compete against each other in seven different games. These games included a variety of chase games, a target-shooting game, and games that required the wooden handle attached to the unit’s lower right hand corner (see photograph). The handle was moved up and down, like a pump, in the course of certain games. In honor of this unusual game play, TV Game Unit #2 was rechristened “The Pump Unit.”

Baer and his team demonstrated the "Pump Unit" to Sanders senior management on June 15, 1967. The presentation was successful and now the team had a new goal: to turn this technology into a commercially viable product. After a few years and numerous test and advancements, Baer and his team delivered the “Brown Box,”[hyperlink] a prototype for the first multiplayer, multiprogram video game system. It would be licensed to Magnavox, who released the system as the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972.

Like all the Ralph Baer prototypes, the "Pump Unit" was later used as evidence in many patent infringement cases. It still bears many of the court exhibit labels left over from these trials, as can be seen from the photograph.

Date Made: 1967

Patent Holder: Baer, Ralph H.Inventor: Baer, Ralph H.

Location: Currently not on view

See more items in: Medicine and Science: Computers, Popular Entertainment, Baer, Family & Social Life, Computers & Business Machines


Exhibition Location:

Related Publication: Baer, Ralph H.. Videogames: In The Beginning

Credit Line: Ralph H. Baer

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2006.0102.03Accession Number: 2006.0102Catalog Number: 2006.0102.03

Object Name: game chassis

Physical Description: aluminum (overall material)wood (handle material)Measurements: overall: 6 1/2 in x 19 in x 14 in; 16.51 cm x 48.26 cm x 35.56 cm


Record Id: nmah_1301996

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