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.
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