Ralph Baer, the late Manchester inventor who led the team that created the first home video game (Magnavox Odyssey) while working for a Nashua defense contractor, already has his home office in the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. Now a gaming museum, The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y., has snagged its own bit of Baer paraphernalia: A desk.
It will be unveiled June 9 as part of an exhibit called eGameRevolution. Baer, who died last year at age 02, previously donated a host of material, including include original diagrams, schematics, engineering notes, and patents to the museum’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games.
Baer led development of what became Odyssey while working at Sanders Associates (now BAE Systems) in Nashua in the 1960s. I wrote several stories about him while working at the Nashua Telegraph, which is why I have the above photo, taken by Telegraph photographer Don Himsel. It shows the two of us a decade ago (check my hair!) playing Pong on a “brown box,” the initial version of his game, in the basement of his Manchester home, before the Smithsonian snagged much of his material for posterity.
Baer did plenty after leaving Sanders in the 1980s, most notably inventing Simon, an electronic memory game that swept the nation. He kept inventing and developing until the end and was worried about the Smithsonian taking his workshop because it left him nowhere to work, even though he was over 90 and getting ill. His family had to build him another workshop upstairs.
If you want to learn more, check this piece I wrote last fall when BAE Systems unveiled a plaque honoring Baer.