Gaming Grandfather Ralph Baer

September 19, 2006

Although common consensus has it that the first ever video game was “Tennis for Two,” an oscilloscope-based analog video game developed in 1958 by William Higinbothom, an engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory, recent web chatter suggests that game pioneer Ralph Baer had working concepts for TV-based games as early as 1951:

In the early 1950s, television sets were quickly gaining popularity. As Baer worked on technology for these devices he began to dream of opportunities in this budding marketplace. He thought it would be fun to add some kind of interactive, game-playing element to TV sets and mentioned it to his superiors at Loral in 1951, but few showed any interest.

Fifteen years later, though, Baer found himself thinking more seriously about the concept. He began drawing up plans for a chase game that would be playable on a TV screen. He demonstrated a working prototype to his Sanders superiors in October of 1966, and they agreed to fund further research. A few months later, one of Baer’s associates created a “light-gun” that allowed players to shoot the TV screen. This, plus Baer’s game idea, began to get others excited about the possibilities. (mit.edu)

Last year, Mr. Baer, who is rightly credited as the inventor of console gaming, received the US National Medal of Technology. Congratulations, Ralph!

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