Ralph Henry Baer, the German-born man who created the first commercial video game system, was recently honored with a town square in his name and a statue of his likeness in Manchester, New Hampshire, the city where he lived upon his death in 2014.
A Jewish family living in Germany during the rise of Adolf Hitler, the Baers came to the United States in 1938 seeking refuge from the Nazis. Ralph Baer served in the U.S. military during World War II then spent his career as an engineer at Sander’s Associates, a defense contractor in Nashua. There, he had an idea that would change society for future generations: that televisions could be used interactively to play electronic games.
In 1968, Baer created the “Brown Box,” a device that allowed interactivity between a user and images on a TV screen. The first multiplayer, multiprogram video game system, the “Box” came with games like ping-pong (the inspiration for Atari’s “Pong”), soccer, target shooting, and checkers. The prototype was licensed to Magnavox in 1972 and marketed as the Magnavox Odyssey Home Video Game System, the first commercially sold video game in the world. It paved the way for the multibillion-dollar gaming industry that followed, and Baer is known today as the father of video games.
Baer was a prolific inventor credited with many creations beyond the Odyssey, including the popular handheld interactive game Simon that hit the stores in 1978, in which players had to match the sounds and lights displayed by the device. If you’re a gaming fan, next time you are in Manchester stop by Baer Square, sit on the bench next to the statue overlooking the Merrimack River, and take a moment to thank the man who in invented the modern video game.
Know Before You Go
The bench and statue are in Baer Square within in Arms Park in downtown Manchester. The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.