Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center Hosts Inventor of the Video Game in Special National Inventors’ Month Program

August 13, 2009
The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation’s celebration of National Inventors’ Month continues Aug. 15 at 11:30 a.m. when the center hosts Ralph Baer, commonly known as the father of the home video game. Baer will re-enact the first time he played his game Odyssey with his partner Bill Harrison and then answer questions from the audience about his life and work. The event takes place in Spark!Lab within the National Museum of American History at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W. 

Baer (b. 1922), a German-born inventor, began experimenting with ways for consumers to interact with standard home television sets in 1966 while working for Sanders Associates in Nashua, N.H. This work culminated in the game Odyssey, which was licensed by Magnavox in 1971 and Atari in 1976. Baer’s work also led to Milton Bradley’s Simon game, and in 2004 he was awarded the National Medal of Technology.

Baer’s participation is part of the Lemelson Center’s Innovative Lives series, which inspires young people to explore the interdisciplinary world of invention. By interacting with American inventors and entrepreneurs, young people learn firsthand about history, technology and science and develop an appreciation for problem-solving skills—including their own—so that they can see themselves as future inventors.

“The Lemelson Center shares the National Inventors’ Month aim to celebrate inventors such as Baer by highlighting their contributions,” said Arthur Molella, center director. “This installment of our Innovative Lives series is a great opportunity for visitors to hear the story behind something we are all familiar with—video games. But most people do not stop to think about how those games were invented.”

Online visitors to the center’s Facebook page have the opportunity to submit questions for Baer virtually, which may be incorporated into the program. Answers will be posted back to Facebook by Tuesday, Aug. 18. The center’s Facebook page may be accessed via Visitors to the museum will be able to play classic and contemporary video games in the center’s Spark!Lab following Baer’s presentation.

National Inventors’ Month takes place annually in August to celebrate invention and creativity and to positively promote the contributions inventors make to society. The month was initiated in 1998 by the United Inventors Association of the USA, the Academy of Applied Science and Inventors Digest magazine.

The center kicked off National Inventors’ Month Aug. 1 and 2 with a collaborative build of a record-breaking 8-foot-tall light bulb made entirely out of LEGO bricks. This event was hosted with LEGO Systems, Inc.

The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center is dedicated to exploring invention in history and encouraging inventive creativity in young people. The center is supported by The Lemelson Foundation, a private philanthropy established by one of the country’s most prolific inventors, Jerome Lemelson, and his family. The Lemelson Center is located in the National Museum of American History. For more information, visit