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Obituary: Ralph Baer

Electronics pioneer who fathered the console passes away

Ralph Baer, who pioneered a number of devices, systems and patents which played key roles in the development of home gaming, has passed away aged 92.

Baer's most famous achievement was the creation of the machine which was sold to the public in 1972 as the Magnavox Odyssey - a device for playing games at home in the living room via the television, or what we'd now call a console. The very first of its kind, the Odyssey used interchangeable printed circuit boards to switch games and offered users a variety of different coloured gel overlays for the TV screen to simulate colour graphics. 27 Games were released for the Odyssey, which sold 333,000 units worldwide and began a trend which still stands at the very core of our industry.

Baer also designed the world's first game peripheral to work with the Odyssey, creating a simple light rifle for a game called Shooting Gallery. He also created a putting game which used a golf ball on a joystick, designed to be hit with a club, which was never released, and the electronic memory game Simon.

During his youth, Baer lived in Germany. Forced to flee the Nazi party just two months before Kristallnacht, Baer lived briefly in the Netherlands before finding refuge in America, where he graduated as a radio technician. Drafted into the US army in 1943 as a part of the intelligence service, Baer contracted pneumonia shortly before the D-Day landings, completing a correspondence course in algebra from his hospital bed instead.

An expert in small arms, he also brought home massive amounts of foreign weaponry to the US after the war, staging several public exhibitions with it. He also went on to work on the US space program, designing launch mechanisms for rockets, before creating the Brown Box which would become the Odyssey. He held over 150 patents and had been recognised by the US presidency for his contribution to science, technology and entertainment.

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