As we sit back and watch the console war which looms over us, and the imminent release of the next generation of gaming, I though it would be a good time to take the Legacy of Gaming back to where it all begun. In a small house in West Germany in 1967, technical engineer, “Ralph Baer”, was constructing a small brown box. He did not know at the time of construction, just how influential that box would become, and why this key invention would create an industry that he himself would be labeled father of.
Ralph Baer’s self-titled “Brown Box” was histories first home console. Designed in 1967 in his own home, the Brown Box was able to play a very few simple games which existed at the time on arcade machines. In 1971, the Brown Box concept was picked up by the “Magnavox Corporation”, who quickly re-named, licensed and mass-produced it as the “Magnavox Odyssey”. While many in the company looked down upon the creation of video games, Baer remained positive and set to work creating visionary peripherals for his home made system. The Brown Box itself was designed with a joystick attached to a golf ball, which could be used with a real life putter. In the mid 70’s, Baer developed the first “Light Gun” for the Odyssey, a peripheral still used in the arcades today.
Baer didn’t confine himself to technology alone. In 1978 he created “Simon”, an electronic pattern matching game for the Odyssey that still sells well today. “Super Simon” was released a couple of years later by Baer at the same time as his second project, “Maniac.” Maniac was similar to Simon in that it involved pattern recognition, but instead of using counters and lights, Maniac involved the identification of tones and musical rhythms.
In most of my Legacy pieces I include sub-headings. Usually one involves the legacy that each person or company has left behind. In the case of Ralph Baer, I didn’t see the point. This man’s legacy is basically everything you’ve read up to now. The reason we play games, the reason this web site exists and the reason that a whole new generation of gaming is about to begin is this man. In 2006 Ralph Baer was awarded the “National Medal of Technology” by “George W. Bush” for his “ground-breaking and pioneering creation, development and commercialisation of interactive video games.” There is no-one else more deserving of this honour. Ralph Baer was one of the first people to create a console, a peripheral, motion control, video games and interactive media. He rightly deserves the title of the “Father of Video Games”.
Though the media of gaming is still young it has grown immeasurably since the time of Baer’s Brown Box. Just looking at the difference between the games he created, and the games that exist today will display that. However, none of those advancements would have been possible if not for the founder, if not for their father. So on this I think every casual gamer, hard-core gamer, console fan boy and avid collector can agree, Ralph Baer, thank you for giving us gaming, we will all do our best to preserve this great industry and take the legacy you leave behind further than you could ever have imagined.
In an interview with “Guinness World Records“, the father of gaming was asked what the most important aspect of gaming was to him. He replied,
“To me, the answer always was fun – the same kind you derive from board games or card games – but it has clearly moved beyond these limiting applications. Besides, one person’s fun is another person’s horror story, So, I must conclude that many game players look not so much for fun as for something else like immersion into an artificial world – and there is nothing wrong with that.” – Ralph Baer
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