Photo of Ralph H. Baer

Ralph H. Baer

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Hardware

For his groundbreaking and pioneering creation, development and commercialization of interactive video games, which spawned related uses, applications, and mega-industries in both the entertainment and education realms.

Ralph Baer on the first video games

In the summer of 1966, Ralph H. Baer was waiting outside a Manhattan bus station when he was struck by an idea that so excited him, he immediately began writing it down. Across four pages in a yellow legal pad, Baer sketched out the specifics of his new invention. His employer was impressed with the idea and gave him $2,500 to create a prototype.

The project resulted in “the Brown Box,” a clunky machine covered in brown vinyl adhesive that allowed users to play ping pong on their television screens. In 1972, the Brown Box was released as the Magnavox Odyssey, the world’s first video game system. Baer had created an entirely new form of entertainment, one that has since become a $90-billion industry.

Baer continued inventing the rest of his life. By his death, he held over 150 patents in his name – including another popular gaming device, the popular electronic memory game Simon.

By Jake New