Ralph Baer Inventor Portrait Interview
The father of video games confesses all about his influential career, and what he thinks about gaming today, in this fascinating video interview.
How can you measure the impact of Ralph Baer on the video game world? You can’t. Without Baer and his fine contributions, which span a hard-working forty plus years, the PlayStation’s, Wii’s, and Xbox 360’s you and I happily play on today probably wouldn’t exist.
I’m being serious-business here. *Puts on serious-business hat* When your two major credits are inventing the famous video table tennis game, Pong – before it was later copied by Atari and then called Pong – plus the Magnavox Odyssey, the first recorded video game console, then there shouldn’t be any doubt about your importance in the history of gaming as a foundation for our favorite pastime.
Ralph Baer started out in 1949 as a chief engineer for a small medical equipment firm, moving on to become an electronics journeyman of sorts working for several businesses,which finally in 1966, landed him the lead design job for the Odyssey. In a time of You-Can-Only-Play-Pong hardware (we’re talking early 1970s here), the Odyssey kicked off the trend of offering users more gaming possibilities via individual cartridges – it even had the first-ever commercial Light Gun game.
Later consoles, such as the Atari 2600 and the Intellivision by Mattel, would surpass the Odyssey as the 8-bit phase of video game console landscape started up and unfortunately crapped out due to the North American industry crash in 1983, but Baer kept inventing his heart out. In fact, in 1978 Baer prototyped a simple pattern-matching game called Simon, which, obviously, became a smash hit and a pop culture symbol of the 80s. Check your attic or garage – I bet my pet rock Lucy you have one stored away somewhere.
Today, Ralph Baer stands as a legend of the video game industry. Winner of many rightly deserved honors, including a National Medal of Technology in 2006, and a good sum of his hardware prototypes and documents belonging now to the Smithsonian in Washtington D.C. But as to what Mr. Baer thinks of his long time spent tinkering away on electronics and video games as they currently stand? He recently gave his thoughts on the two as part of a video series focused on inventors by photographer David Friedman.
It’s a very warm conversation (albeit a little cantankerous when it comes to his thoughts on smart phones, hint: he’s not too fond of them) involving Baer, and if you’re truly a fan of video games, this video should interest you greatly. I mean, you’ve already wasted like more than five minutes reading my blabbering nonsense, how is three more going to hurt? Exactly! Go ahead and push play, you silly goose.
Even at 90 years old – Happy Birthday by the way sir – Ralph Baer keeps on inventing. What a guy.