The Panoramic World of Ralph H. Baer

May 17th, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Ralph Baer holds a Simon toy in his basement, May 2012Two days ago, I flew up to New Hampshire to visit Ralph H. Baer, the Father of Video Games, at his home in Manchester.

During my brief stay, Baer was a gracious host and a gentleman to the highest degree. We discussed life, philosophy, WWII, video games, and more. Best of all, he showed me an archive of his inventions that he keeps in his basement.

I made the trip because Baer, along with two associates, invented home video games in 1967. That work culminated in the Magnavox Odyssey, the world’s first commercial video game console, in 1972.

Baer, who turned 90 in March, has also been a freelance toy and game developer since the late 1970s. His biggest hit in that field is no doubt Simon, a toy which you might know by its iconic saucer shape and playful electronic melodies.

After examining some of his creations, I challenged him to a game of Ping Pong on a replica of the Brown Box (the 1968 video game prototype that inspired the Odyssey). We didn’t keep score, but his hands are surprisingly nimble. By the way, he’s a very good driver too. Even at 90, his mind seems twice as sharp as someone one third his age.

Yesterday morning, just before I left to fly home, I took the following panoramic shots around Ralph’s house with my Sony camera. He gave me permission to publish these images, so I thought you might enjoy them.

The geometry in each photo is warped because the camera flattens about 180 degrees of perspective into a rectangular image. Still, I love the effect. Here they are:

Ralph Baer's OfficeRalph’s office, where he writes and checks his email. He likes Macs.
Ralph Baer's Basement Electronics LabRalph’s basement lab, where he has worked on his inventions for over 50 years.
Ralph Baer's Basement Toy DisplayRalph’s main basement. To the right sits his shelved display of toy inventions.

Overall, it was an amazing trip. I am not the first journalist, nor will I be the last, to visit him. But I still feel lucky that I had a chance to explore the world of a renowned inventor up close.

Some time in the future, I will write about the visit in more detail. But for now, I thought you might enjoy checking out these photos.

7 Responses to “The Panoramic World of Ralph H. Baer”

  1. V Says:

    Awesome! The man’s a legend and anyone who has ever enjoyed a video game owes him a huge debt of gratitude.

  2. PWP Says:

    Fantastic trip and I love those pictures! The man is a treasure!

  3. Arlandi Says:

    we owe a lot to this man!!

  4. Zoyous Says:

    Awesome! I hope you’ve got a book of all these interviews in the works.

  5. Geoff V. Says:

    Very cool. Those pics are priceless.

  6. synchead Says:

    Great stuff! These pioneers need to be celebrated. He is a key designer of what has made up our modern social ui environment. Anytime, you can provide insight into the people who alone or as part of a team created the new paradigm whether it be in gaming, networking, os or PC, it’s great and should be documented.

  7. nick cihlar Says:

    Ralph is a very cordial person to me who wrote back and forth with me via e-mailing. He also gave me an autographed picture of himself. I have highly recognized him when I think of video games in general or when I have anything to do with Pong. I just am glad that Jesus (God) has blessed him to be kind and with his skills to develop T.V. games as he first called them.

    I plan to write a book about the history of all electronic games and maybe the Good Lord willing as I know Him, will allow me to interview Ralph! I want my book to be Christian and (with good morals) to only write about ethical and acceptable games. Pong will surely be included for its excitability, simplicity, and the fact that it spawned the whole home video game industry, not even by choice, said Ralph in his fascinating book, Videogames: In the Beginning which I am blessed to own to this day. I believe and know that people including the young, from kids to adults should be aware of the healthy games as well as what games to avoid due to their… (do not want to say here) out of respect for others!!) Hee, hee. Ralph, you are quite a nice guy and I honor you. I have also told many about you and how you are nice to e-mail me, including my grandma, C.C. She was somewhat interested in hearing about you Ralph. Do you use social media or does someone use it for you? I hope to get in touch with you soon if okay, Ralph. Again, it is nice knowing you and my relative B. said that while studying electrical engineering he heard about you in inventing video games!! That made my day, Ralph. Lastly, I have a friend named S. who is working on his own computer game while I would love to develop a simple Pong-like game. Pong. You know, Ralph, I marveled a lot about how you were (able) to dream up this concept of TV gaming when you said back in……..1958 that 60 million U.S. people were watching boring broadcast TV!! What a wonder. I’m proud of you and I wonder what I would be doing in place of playing my video games. Ok. That’s it. 🙂

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