Video Games

by | May 28, 2009 08:00 PM ET

Marshall Brain

Behold, the video game console. Where did it come from? Meet Ralph Baer, born in Germany in 1922. His most famous invention is the first home video console called the Magnavox Odyssey. Although Baer began chewing on this idea while working for a defense company in New Hampshire, it wasn't until several years later that he began to seriously contemplate the notion. As a 29 year old engineer at a television company called Loral, Baer began cooking up games that could be played on a television set. After more experimentation and research, Baer was ready to apply his innovation to television sets around the world. When Baer licensed his innovations to Magnavox in 1971, the company immediately produced the Odyssey, which could be plugged directly into a television, although without sound. Within a few years, the Odyssey was catching on and the inevitable lawsuits began.

So how genius is this inventor? On the American Dream scale, he gets a three. Although his products were initially met with skepticism and litigation, he eventually won recognition and fame. And oh yeah, the National Medal of Technology in 2005. On the benefit to humanity scale, he gets a four. He's made millions of gamers happy. On the ripple effect scale, he gets a five. Video game technology has branched out from its original military application to a number of other industries from computer system development to virtual reality.

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