Ralph H. Baer, known by many as the father of video games, has died at the age of 92. A pioneer in the industry, Baer’s name is credited on more than 150 patents but perhaps his most well-known contribution came when he created the very first video game console for the home. Baer was born in Germany in 1922. His entire family fled to America in 1938 just weeks before Kristallnacht. Demonstrating the American dream, he worked in a small leather factory and studied radio and television repair before being drafted in World War II as an intelligence officer.
At the dawn of the television age in 1951, a young engineer named Ralph Baer approached executives at an electronics firm and suggested the radical idea of offering games on the bulky TV boxes. “And of course,” he said, “I got the regular reaction: ‘Who needs this?’ And nothing happened.” It took another 15 years before Mr. Baer, who died Dec. 6 at 92, developed a prototype that would make him the widely acknowledged father of video games. His design helped lay the groundwork for an industry that transformed the role of the television set and generated tens of billions of dollars last year. Mr. Baer “saw that there was this interesting device sitting in millions of American homes — but it was a one-way instrument,” said Arthur P. Molella, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. “He said, ‘Maybe there’s some way we can interact with this thing.’ ” A refugee from Nazi Germany, Mr. Baer had training in electronics as a teenager. He spent much of his early career developing surgical equipment, loudspeakers, circuit boards and other technology for industrial and military clients.