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Ralph Baer, Video Game Pioneer and Pong Creator, Dies at 92

Father of Pong and one of the first video game innovators, Ralph Baer passed away this weekend at 92.

Ralph Baer, the man who laid the foundations for much of today's video game industry, passed away yesterday at his home in New Hampshire. He was 92 years old.

Originally the son of an immigrant Jewish family escaping Nazi persecution, Baer served in the US Army before going to school for Television Engineering. He ended up working for Sanders Associates, a defense contractor. Baer became interested in gaming technology that could work with a commercially available device like the television, and began secretly testing different ideas for a "TV Gaming Display."

Another idea was a tennis-like game between two players, called Table Tennis. Atari later published a version of the game as Pong, which was a major catalyst for a video game industry still in its infancy. 

After a number of iterations, Baer's eventual idea for a gaming device led to the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972. Another idea was a tennis-like game between two players, called Table Tennis. Atari later published a version of the game as Pong, which was a major catalyst for a video game industry still in its infancy. Magnavox later won a lawsuit against Atari, arguing that Pong had been lifted from Baer's work.

Baer went on to produce over 150 patents and dozens of games in his lifetime. President George W. Bush awarded him the National Medal of Technology in 2006 for his contributions to technology and the video game industry at large.

For a touching, memorable look at Baer's work and game philosophy from the man himself, see the short PBS Inventors' documentary below.

Published Dec. 7th 2014

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