This Jewish refugee and World War II vet made modern video games possible

Ralph H. Baer was a refugee of Nazi Germany and a World War II vet working for a defense contractor when he made the first video game console.

1200px-Ralph-baer-brown-box-prototype

Ralph Baer’s “Brown Box” prototype would become the Magnavox Odyssey. Photo: George Hotelling via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0

Baer was born in Germany in 1922 but his family fled in 1938 through Holland to the U.S. as the Third Reich rose to power. He trained through correspondence courses to repair radios before being drafted into the U.S. Army.

He became a military intelligence soldier and was sent to Europe for two years. During his deployment, he collected a number of German weapons and metal detectors. Once he finished studying the metal detectors the Germans were using, he began turning them into radios for his friends. The 18 tons of small arms he collected were sent back to the states to become museum pieces.

Baer returned to America after the war and went to school on the G.I. Bill. While working as a engineer on guided weapons for a defense contractor, Baer conceived of a box that would plug into a normal T.V. and let people play games together. One of his bosses liked the idea and gave Baer some money and two engineers to work with.

Original-Simon-light-game

Baer would later invent the SIMON electronic game. Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia/Hempdiddy

They called their device the “Brown Box” until Magnavox bought it and named it the Odyssey. The Odyssey was the first true video game console and allowed two players to play card, board, and other games on their home T.V.

A number of companies would go on to make more marketable and successful consoles. The popular game Pong, along with many others, was ruled to be infringing on Baer’s patent after Baer’s employer bought it and sued other companies.

Baer continued inventing after the Odyssey. Light guns, like those used in Nintendo’s Duck Hunt, are his invention. He created SIMON, the popular ’80s electronic game where players match sequences of colored lights. The Navy used a submarine tracking radar that Baer invented, and users of talking doormats and greeting cards have him to thank.

Ralph-baer-Jewish-refugee-world-war-II-vet

Photo: White House Eric Draper

Baer was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President George W. Bush in 2006 and was admitted to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2010. He died in Dec. 2014.

TOP ARTICLES
This is the latest version of the M9 service pistol

The M9A3 offers a bigger magazine, a user-friendly grip, and a host of improvements based on lessons learned from over three decades of service.

This is what the DoD has planned for a zombie apocalypse

It does touch on many of the pop culture elements of zombie lore, but it breaks things down to become applicable to most situations that would similar to an actual outbreak.

Some dirtbags messed with an Iwo Jima memorial — and Marines caught 'em on film

Officials say an Iwo Jima memorial in Fall River was doused with the contents of a fire extinguisher last weekend. Police are investigating

Vets are going to get a new ID card, and they'll be ready for use next month

The new identification card will provide employers looking to hire veterans with an easier way to verify an employee's military service.

This is the story behind the rise and fall of the Islamic State group

The Islamic State group, responsible for some of the worst atrocities perpetrated against civilians in recent history, appears on the verge of collapse.

Now the Iraqi army is going after the Kurdish forces who helped beat ISIS

Iraqi federal and Kurdish forces exchanged fire on Oct. 20, capping a dramatic week that saw the Kurds hand over territory across Northern Iraq.

This Kurdish female militia refuses to stop its hunt for ISIS terrorists

A Kurdish female militia, after helping free the city of Raqqa, said it will continue the fight to liberate women from the extremists’ brutal rule.

The US just sent nearly 1M bombs and missiles to Guam — here's why

Hint: There's this guy a few thousand miles away who's threatening to lob a nuke in their direction.

This is what the 400 US troops in Somalia are actually up to

The US has quadrupled its military presence in Somalia after Al-Shabab killed nearly 300 civilians in two truck bombings. Half of them are special ops troops.

The war between the US Army and Magpul is heating up over ice

Magpul officials are calling foul on the Army's claim that its rifle magazines don't work in the cold — and they say they can prove it.