Long before there was a Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360 or Nintendo Wii, there was the Magnavox Odyssey, the world’s first home videogame console. But the story of videogames predates the Odyssey by six years. It begins in 1966 when a television engineer named Ralph H. Baer sat down at a New York bus station and entered history.
Videogames: In The Beginning is Ralph H. Baer’s account of how today’s $11-billion per year videogame industry began. A meticulous note keeper, Baer presents in his own words the real story of what led to the Odyssey… and beyond.
But he doesn’t end there. In this book Baer also examines other products that he has worked on such as Simon, the most popular electronic toy ever created. He also discusses his pioneering work into early forms of CD-ROMs and digital imagery.
Whether you are a student of videogame design, a game player, or a fan of inventions and history, you are sure to find Baer’s history fascinating and informative.
"This work could be the definitive history of the engineering of the videogame. But more than that, it offers a glimpse into the challenges faced by the earliest innovators."-David Crane, co-founder Activision and creator of Pitfall! one of the most successful videogames of all time
"It’s great that there’s finally a book that reveals why we game developers (from all over the world) owe our careers to Ralph Baer. I feel very fortunate that our industry is not too old to give us a chance to learn about his experiences first hand, and also it gives us a chance to appreciate his first steps, that have now generated billions of hours of fun entertainment for people."-David Perry, President of Shiny Entertainment, Inc.
"Videogame pioneer and Odyssey inventor Ralph Baer tells all in amazing detail, staking his claim as the inventor of consumer videogames. A fascinating read for the extreme videophile."-Eugene Jarvis, Videogame Designer: Defender, Cruisin USA
"I can never thank Ralph enough for what he gave to me and everyone else."-Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers
In the late 1950s, I quit my job as a VP for engineering at Transitron, Inc, a Manchester, New Hampshire electronics design, development and manufacturing operation. With almost 20 years of electronics engineering experience under my belt at that time, I joined Sanders Associates Inc., in Nashua, New Hampshire. There I soon became the manager of the Equipment Design Division. Sanders was then a large R&D and production company. We worked almost exclusively on advanced defense-electronics programs such as airborne radar countermeasure and antisubmarine warfare electronics. For many years, Sanders was the largest employer in the State of New Hampshire. The corporation became a Lockheed company in the mid-1980s and later, it would be a Lockheed-Martin company. In 2001, Sanders Associates was absorbed by BAE as a subsidiary.
During the 1960s and 1970s I was officially the company's Chief Engineer for Equipment Design. There were as many as 500 engineers, technicians, and support personnel in my division at one time or another. I was a busy guy. We were involved in many CRT display programs that delivered what then passed for high resolution graphics. None of the work in my division, or in the rest of the company for that matter, involved development of broadcast television technology or other forms of raster-scan displays. The display systems we had bought or built were of the stroke-writing, also called vector, types. More on that later.
At the time there were roughly forty million TV sets in U.S. homes alone, to say nothing of many additional millions of TV sets in the rest of the world. They were literally begging to be used for something other than watching commercial television broadcasts! Thoughts about playing games using an ordinary TV set began to percolate in my mind again, shades of my earlier desire to include some form of game into the TV set I designed at Loral in 1951. That idea had been nixed by my boss at the time, Sam Lackoff, Loral's chief engineer.
During a business trip for Sanders to New York City in 1966 I found myself waiting for another Sanders engineer at a bus terminal; he was going to join me for a meeting with a client. I took advantage of my free time and jotted down some notes on the subject of using ordinary home TV sets for the purpose of playing games. I have a distinct image in my mind of sitting on a cement step outside the bus terminal, enjoying a nice warm, sunny summer day, occasionally looking out at the passing traffic, waiting for my associate to show up and scribbling notes on a small pad. It was "Eureka" time…but of course I didn't know that then. The concept of playing games on an ordinary TV set had bubbled up once again from my subconscious and I got that exciting feeling of "being on to something," a feeling that is so familiar to me.