Who invented video games? Of course, the answer is that the video games industry has become what it is today through a range of separate ideas, inventions and collaborations over the past four decades. However, if you’re looking for one place in time where it all started – look no further than the actions of Ralph Baer.
In 1966, the price of a simple television set had reduced significantly. Everyone from technology companies to the military were figuring out what new applications the television screen could have. However only Ralph Baer, an electrical engineer in the US, came up with the concept of playing games on a TV screen. In other words, he was the first man to conceive that a home video game console might be possible!
Baer wrote a four page proposal in support of his idea for a game that could be played on a TV screen and submitted it to his employers – Sanders Associates. They entrusted him with $2500 (a lot of money back then!) and the time of two other engineers to make his dream a reality. The team of three developed what has become known as the “Brown Box” video game system, which was wrapped in brown tape to give the impression of a wood veneer effect.
Despite the box generating excitement among many of his colleagues, Baer struggled to sell the premise of his early games console to television manufacturers – most of whom saw no value in it whatsoever. Little did they know that computer gaming would be a multi-billion dollar industry by 2018! Eventually Baer did find a buyer and the console was licensed to Magnavox in 1971. In 1972, it went on sale to the general public as the Magnavox Odyssey and sold over 340,000 units. Home video console gaming was born!
Ralph Baer also developed three of the earliest computer games – “Simon”, “Super Simon” & “Maniac” – and held over 150 patents relating to electronics and video gaming. In 2006 he received the US National Medal of Technology in recognition of his achievements.
Ralph Baer was born on 8th March 1922 and died on 6th December 2014.