I just read that Ralph Baer passed away this week. Some people won’t recognize his name so let me start at the beginning….
As we approach the holiday season many of us are hoping that Santa will leave us something very special under the tree…perhaps a new coat, a bicycle, or a nice watch. Others might be hoping for a brand new, state of the art, game system! If we find one, we will joyfully tear it open, quickly get it operational and let the fun begin!! In this day of playing games on our mobile devices, PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo Wii U, we might forget that there was once a day when there were no computer games….hard to believe but true.
If you wanted to play a game you hauled out and set up your board game on the coffee table….something like chess, Risk or Clue. If you had a lot of time on your hands you started Monopoly. All that came to a sudden end in 1971 when an engineer for a defense contractor had an inspiration and thought it would be a great idea if you made some sort of electronic game box that you hooked up to your television. You could then play all sorts of games on it….sports, action, or the old fashioned board games…right on your living room television. He tooled around with the idea for a short while, got some financial backing, and produced the very first game console that he named the it ‘Brown Box’. He approached Magnavox with his invention and before you know it….the Magnavox Odyssey was born and hit the shelves in 1972. It was the very first commercially available game console and sold over 100,000 units in its first year. It was a simple system with primitive graphics by today’s standards, but the public loved it.
Imitation as they say is the greatest form of flattery and before long many other manufacturers were producing similar game consoles and the rest as they say is history….but Ralph Baer’s Odyssey was the very first one. Ralph passed way in his home in Manchester, New Hampshire….he was 92 years old….we owe him a lot.