Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Ralph Baer Innovative Lives Presentation

Collection ID:
Baer, Ralph H., 1922-2014
Harrison, William
Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.
Physical Description:
0.15 Cubic feet
1 box

Scope and Contents note
Scope and Contents note
In a moderated conversation about his life and work, Baer reenacts, with his partner William Harrison, the first time he played "Oddyssey", the first home video game for the consumer market, which he invented, and answers questions from the audience.

Divided into 3 series: Series 1, Original video (born digital); Series 2, Master videos; and Series 3, Reference videos..

Biographical/Historical note
Biographical/Historical note
Ralph H. Baer (1922-2014) was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1938. A graduate of the National Radio Institute (1940), Baer worked as a radio technician in the New York City area, servicing all types of home and auto radios. During World War II, Baer served in the United States Army, one year stateside, and two years in Europe. He was assigned to Military Intelligence and became an expert on military small arms. Baer returned to the United States with eighteen tons of foreign small arms for use in exhibits at Aberdeen, Maryland; Springfield, Massachusetts Armory; and Ft. Riley, Kansas.
After the war, Baer attended the American Television Institute of Technology in Chicago, graduating with a BS in television engineering. In 1949, Baer joined a small electro medical equipment firm, Wappler, Inc., as their chief engineer. He designed and built surgical cutting machines, epilators, and low frequency pulse generating muscle-toning equipment. In 1951, Baer moved to Loral Electronics of Bronx, New York as a senior engineer, designing power line carrier signaling equipment for IBM. During 1952-1956, Baer worked at Transitron, Inc., in New York City as a chief engineer and later as vice president. In 1956, Baer joined Sanders Associates in Nashua, New Hampshire building airborne radar components. He became manager of the Electronic Design Department at Sanders and eventually Division Manager and Chief Engineer for Equipment Design. Baer retired in 1987.
At Sanders in 1966, Baer began an independent project experimenting with ways for consumers to interact with standard home television sets. Development of interactive TV Game (TVG) ideas became a company-supported project continued by Baer and assisted by William H. Harrison and William T. Rusch (download the TV Game chronology prepared by Ralph Baer in 2006). By mid-1967, ping pong videogames were played inside Sanders, patent disclosures were applied for, and hardware was designed. Baer and his associates called the devices they were developing "boxes" and numbered the various versions one through seven. In 1971, Magnavox became Sanders Associates's first videogame licensee. Between 1972 and 1975, Magnavox produced and sold over 700,000 units of Odyssey, a set of games played on its television receivers. Atari became a licensee in 1976 after the first of many lawsuits won by Sanders in pursuit of patent infringements.
During his tenure at Sanders and thereafter, Baer was a prolific inventor. His creations included many electronic toys and games and other consumer electronic products. Among the better known products based on Baer's work are Milton Bradley's Simon, Galoob's Smarty Bear Video, and Kenner's Laser Command. In 2004 President George W. Bush awarded Baer the National Medal of Technology.
Baer married Dena Whinston in 1952 and they had three children, James, Mark, and Nancy. Ralph Baer died on December 6, 2014, at the age of 92.

NMAH Staff
Immediate Source of Acquisiton
Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.
Custodial History
Created by the Lemelson Center, National Museum of American History, for its "Innovative Lives" program. Collection transferred to the Archives Center from the Lemelson Center in 2009.
Processing Information
Collection unprocessed.

Using the Collection
Restrictions on Access
Unrestricted research access on site by appointment.
Preferred Citation
Ralph Baer Innovative Lives Presentation, August 15, 2009, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions. Copyright held by the Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Games Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
DVDs Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Inventors -- 20th century Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Inventions -- 20th century Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Video games Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Toys -- 20th century Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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