R.I.P. Ralph Baer, Creator of the Gaming Console

The "Brown Box" prototype at display at the Smithsonian Institution

Should you find yourself buying a new Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, or other game console during this holiday season, take a moment to remember the late Ralph Baer, who recently passed away at the age of 92.

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In the late 1960s, Baer developed the first video-game console. The television had become a mainstream item, affordable for an increasing number of people, and Baer thought that its screen could just as easily serve purposes besides watching shows. “So I thought about it and said, ‘Maybe we could play games.’ Bingo,” he told Gamasutra in 2007. “And on the next day, in the morning, I sat down in my office and wrote that four-page paper [describing the system].”

His prototype, dubbed the “Brown Box” due to the color of the tape wrapping its outer shell, eventually evolved into the Magnavox Odyssey, released in 1972. (“Brown Box” probably wouldn’t have done well as a commercial name.) The rest, as they say, is history. Baer won the National Medal of Technology in 2006; in addition to other electronic toys, he also invented a “light gun” controller, the ancestor to devices such as the Nintendo Zapper.

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Image: George Hotelling/Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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