The Father of Video Games

Ralph Baer was born in 1922 to a Jewish family. In 1938, he and his family immigrated to American just prior to the imprisonment of Jews in Germany. Ralph was largely self-taught because he had to work to help support his family.

He quit his job to study electronics at the National Radio Institute. He was able to earn a living repairing radios and installing antennas.

In 1943, Ralph was drafted and was assigned to military intelligence because of his language skills. He was also valuable in repairing mechanical and electronic devices.

Using his GI Bill, Ralph obtained a degree in Television Engineering. While working on his degree, he was able to learn from the pioneers in TV technology. Upon graduation, he spent a short time period working on medical products before he turned to military technology.

As the price of TV’s declined, Ralph thought about other uses of TV’s. He had seen how the military had adapted TV technologies for other purposes. He put together a proposal for creating a game which could be played on a TV. This was 1966. With a budget of $2,500 and the assistance of two engineers, Ralph was able to create the first video game system.

When he took the prototype to the Patent Office to do a demonstration, every patent examiner in the area wanted to play the game. With the game system patented, Ralph then started developing some of the first video games along with the first light gun peripheral.

In 2006 Ralph was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President George W. Bush. He passed away in 2006, at the age of 92.

Just imagine the contributions this one immigrant American made to our country and the rest of the world. The hatred of Jewish citizens in Germany led to the immigration of 27,370 to America in 1938. Many of those immigrants made important contributions to our society as featured in this series.

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“Video games don’t make me want to kill people in real life…Real life makes me want to kill people in video games.”  – Anonymous

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