A farewell to Ralph Baer

1922–2014

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Sa­lut­ing the fa­ther of videogames and Mag­navox Odyssey cre­ator

Ralph Baer, of­ten re­ferred to as the fa­ther of videogames, died aged 92 on De­cem­ber 6. Born in Ger­many as Ru­dolf Hein­rich Baer, his fam­ily fled to the US be­fore the Sec­ond World War and he went on to cre­ate the world’s first home videogame con­sole; ini­tially re­ferred to as the Brown Box, it was mar­keted as Mag­navox’s Odyssey in 1972. As well as lay­ing the foun­da­tions for mod­ern videogames, he cre­ated the first con­sole pe­riph­eral, a light­gun, and was a keen in­ven­tor.

“Ralph al­ways seemed to be ahead of other peo­ple,” re­mem­bers Amer­i­can Clas­sic Ar­cade Mu­seum cu­ra­tor Gary Vincent. “He took Duck Hunt on the NES and built a de­tec­tion unit that sat on the top of the tele­vi­sion. You threw Nerf balls at the screen in­stead of us­ing a gun. He was do­ing this in 1990, but now you look at things like Wii or Kinect… Ralph was ahead of his time.”

Baer re­ceived many awards, in­clud­ing the Game De­vel­op­ers Choice Pi­o­neer award and Amer­ica’s Na­tional Medal of Tech­nol­ogy. While he’s best known for his videogame work, he also cre­ated mem­ory toy Si­mon, and was in­ducted into the Na­tional In­ven­tors Hall Of Fame

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