A tribute to Ralph Henry Baer – Father of home video games
A glimpse into the life of legends
What constitutes to being a legend?
Every era sparked a legend, a celebrated artist, a thought leader, an iconic politician or an innovative leader. Albert Einstein is the most celebrated scientist of his time, Socrates is the most celebrated philosopher of his time who spelt out life changing philosophy. It is their innovation; novelty and work ethic that made them stand out as legends. To live among the legends, you have to walk the path of struggle and be ready to face failures.
If legends and thought leaders in every arena are celebrated, why is that the creator of video game consoles not given the respect that he deserves. I thought it is important to focus attention to this often overlooked genius because, in our recent time of selfish, self-indulged consumerism, we have forgotten to pay tribute to the father of home video games “Ralph H. Baer.”
A brief history of the life of father of home video games
Ralph H. Baer was born on 8th March 1922 to a Jewish family in Germany. Born to a non-aristocrat ancestry he was expelled from his school. Ralph had a turbulent and upsetting childhood, he faced rejection because of his lineage and at a time Germany was hostile towards Jews. In the year 1938, Baer family moved to New York, luckily two months prior to the incident of Kristallnacht.
Struggle – Cliched yet true!
Like Henry Ford or any other phenomenon, Baer was self-taught and worked in factories for meagre wages. During this period he struggled and managed to graduate from National Radio Institute before he was taken as a recruit with Military intelligence team of United States Army headquartered in London. A glimpse of how life was tossing the father of home video games around.
Later, after completing his service at the military, young Ralph joined as American Television Institute of Technology as a student of Bachelor of Science degree in Television Engineering. Mr. Baer knew his calling was different from his contemporaries who continued mainstream career choices. Baer has been said to be fascinated by Radio, technology and had a knack at continuously building stuff.
As if destiny was written in stones
As a child, he always dreamt of being extremely proficient and his inner calling was vague. He was constantly on a move, migrating from Germany to New York due to a threat to his life, and also was exposed to Military discipline and practice.
In the grand scheme of things, he was being prepared for a life that will be remembered and lead to a spurt of one of the major form of entertainment, i.e Video games. Everything fit the puzzle he became a person he always aspired to be, later turning him into the father of home video games.
Moreover, “the father of home video games”, a title that would be ascribed to Ralph was unknown to him. By the year 1960’s, Television became a household name and common form of entertainment. Ralph believed that passive activity of watching TV can be changed. He wanted to introduce a system that integrates home entertainment into a more active form of engagement. He came to develop an electronic game device that could play video games on television; it was named as “Brown Box.”
Brown Box – The perfect formula for evolution of video games
Consoles like Playstation, Xbox, Switch etc and game titles such as Grand theft Auto, Call of Duty, Assassin creeds etc rakes in millions of dollars which have evolved from their ancestor “Brown Box.” It was developed by Ralph and his colleagues who worked at Sanders Associate Inc.
Interestingly; the name brown box is derived from its appearance, which contained brown wooden box and self-adhesive vinyl, making it look commercially viable for investors.
Before making it public, a game box was supplied with a 4 page description that provided instruction on how the “Brown Box” worked and games it played.
Consequently, this prototype was trademarked as Magnavox before it was made available to consumers. Brown box had pre-installed games such as Ping Pong, Checkers, Couple of sports game, target shooting game using the light-gun and golf putting game using an accessory like current gen like Motion controller.
As a result, Ralph H. Baer created an innovation that has shaped the video game industry into billion dollar industry. This prodigious man was an engineer, army personnel, a radio operator, a game developer, a technological architect, considering his versatility he is truly a genius.
Lets create a wave, lets celebrate this epic moment for times to come
So, as I belong to this beautiful industry, it saddens me to witness the ever-growing ignorance that spreads globally. His achievements are overlooked, his creation is unappreciated and this simply means gross disrespect for this legend. Let’s put the word out, voice it to the community about the awesomeness of this man.
Why isn’t he celebrated like the greatest inventors? Do I think he is better than Thomas Edison or Abraham Lincoln? No, they were epic in there domain, a comparison of personalities is like comparing apple to oranges. Why doesn’t google put up his doodle on his birthday? Why doesn’t Sony, Microsoft or any other well-known name acknowledge his contribution?
It is high time, we step out of our house of ignorance and show some love and respect for the man who gave gamers a hobby. A hobby that we are passionately in love with, a hobby that inspired the creation of an industry, a hobby that became a profession to many?
Sadly, no-one cares!!
More importantly, if we do not emphasise his contribution, then it will lead to saturation in the video game industry. In recent times, we have witnessed this disease plaguing AAA title game developers. Repetitive churning out the same game with a different skin.
The phat gamer is extremely pissed at the world for their blatant ignorance; it is impertinent that we move a petition for an official recognition of this messiah. We have to lobby his birthday to congressman of every democratic country on this planet.
If your country is run by a dictator, you better tell him about this genius. Let us take the protest to the streets, hold placards higher than Eiffel tower, scream, yell and fight for the rights and recognition this man deserve.
Share this post, pass it like it’s a hot coal and let the ignorant world wake out of its ignorant bliss.