Ralph Baer

Weirdly fitting for this week’s topic of video games and obsolete technology, Ralph Baer, originally born Rudolf Heinrich Baer in 1922, moved to the United States from Germany shortly before World War II. He served in the military for the U.S. and used the funding of the G.I. bill to get his Bachelors in Science in Television Engineering from the American Television Institute of Technology. After his graduation, he received a job at Sanders’ Associates, where he requested government funding to try to engineer a gaming console that was more compact and user-friendly. He succeeded, and what he called the “Brown Box” was conceived. The console was renamed the Magnavox Odyssey, featured games like table tennis, a game similar to pong in which two players move their character on the screen to hit a ball back and forth. The concept, although simple, gave Baer the nickname “Father of Video Games” for his contributions to the industry and the idea of gaming at home.

I thought that the idea of purposefully rejecting modernity and technology may play into Ralph Baer’s profile on Facebook. He is quoted as to saying “what I created got abominated,” meaning that his original idea in the system had become so commercialized and used as a means to an end that he rejected the nickname people give him and believes that the culture surrounding video games was not a good thing. On this other hand, His bown box laid the foundation for future games and he was rewarded for his work in the field with the National Medal of Technology for the applications of the technology he engineered.

Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/ralph.baer.39

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