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Monday, December 8, 2014

'Father of video games' passes away

The man credited with inventing the first home video games, Ralph Baer, died on Saturday at age 92 at his home in Manchester, New Hampshire, a director at the Goodwin Funeral Home said today.

Baer, who fled his native Germany with his family in 1938 ahead of the Second World War, spent much of his career working on advanced radar systems for a defense company before turning his attention to interactive video games in the late 1960s.

Baer's first video game console, dubbed The Brown Box, made its debut in 1972, and was later licensed by Magnavox as the Odyssey game system. It included the game Table Tennis, a forerunner to Pong, which was one of the first video games to achieve mainstream popularity.

Baer also invented the iconic memory game Simon, a circular toy with four colored tiles that flashed in a pattern.

Baer continued working from his home workshop through the 2000s and was awarded a National Medal of Technology in 2006 by then-president George W. Bush.

Baer told PBS in a 2013 interview that inventing was what kept him going into old age. "All of my friends have died. What am I going to do? I need a challenge," he said. "I'm basically an artist. I'm no different than a painter who sits there and loves what he does."

Baer joined the US Army shortly after settling in New York City, serving from 1943 to 1946, much of the time as an intelligence officer in Europe, according to Baer's website. He was married in 1952 and had three children.

Baer wrote a book published in 2005 called "Videogames: In the Beginning" in which he staked his claim as the "inventor of home video games."

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said in a review of the book that he could "never thank Ralph enough for what he gave to me and everyone else."

The Brown Box is now on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., which houses a full collection of Baer's documents. The museum plans to make Baer's workshop part of a special exhibit on innovation next year.

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Tags:  Ralph Baer  video games  US  death  





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