As you fire up your PS4 and Xbox One this holiday season, take a moment to remember the man who helped kick off the entire videogame revolution.
Ralph Baer, who developed the first console videogame system in the late 1960s, has passed away at the age of 92. Baer is most famous for creating the “Brown Box,” a console eventually licensed and sold as the Magnavox Odyssey, which hit store shelves in 1972. He also created a “light gun” controller for a shooting game (which inspired products like the NES’s Duck Hunt), which is believed to be the first videogame peripheral.
Baer’s product helped create the entire videogame industry, which is valued at nearly $100 billion these days for those keeping count, and proved the home videogame concept was a viable market. Sure, the industry went through a crash or two back in those days, but there wouldn’t have been an industry to crash without the “Brown Box.”
The legendary inventor also received the National Medal of Technology from President George W. Bush and a 2008 Game Developers Choice Pioneer Award, and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Baer is also well known for inventing the Simon pattern-matching toy, first released in the late 1970s.
Despite the fame, Baer opened up about his legacy as the “father of videogames” in an interview at Ironic Sans in 2012 and actually seemed somewhat remorseful about how the industry has evolved from a family activity to a one-player affair. Baer intended games to be something to bring people together, and you really have to commend that goal, even if things evolved so much further than he could've imagined:
“Yeah. I did a bit. What I thought I unleashed was a family game. If you’ll stop to consider for a second, what’s the ping pong game? You can’t play ping pong with yourself. It was meant to be played by two people. And we had four-handed ping pong and hockey games early on, also. I always thought of it as a family game. And it just sort of degenerated into a one player type thing which was never in my mind.”
Check out a video interview with Baer, circa 2012, below — and play some games with friends and family: