New Hampshire: The Birthplace Of Video Games. Really.

Feb 27, 2013

In 1966, while working for Sanders, a defense contractor in Nashua that is today a part of BAE Systems, Ralph Baer began secretly working on his invention. He didn't have a name for it at the time so it was hard to sell to his superiors. No one knew what a "video game" was.

Ralph Baer, 1972, next to the Magnavox Odyssey.
Credit Courtesy of Ralph Baer


Baer, a Jewish immigrant from Germany (he signs 'three' with his thumb), taught himself radio and television engineering with correspondence courses before landing the job at Sanders, where he became department head.

After a few years of diverting resources in his department to his side project, he finally had a prototype to show the company's board of directors. Most were nonplussed by the contraption, but a few signaled their support. Once the patent office clerk began playing the video games Baer had created, he had to call the whole office into the room to try it out. Sanders didn't have the manufacturing facilities to mass produce the device so they ended up licensing it to Magnavox.

By the mid 70s the Magnavox Odyssey was the company's top seller and Baer was getting his back patted by people who claimed they had supported him from the very beginning.

Soon after they were embroiled in a famous patent dispute with Atari which they later won.

Baer designed many famous electronic toys as well. Simon and its various permutations were among the most popular. He believes its sales benefited from a certain movie about alien spacecraft with bright lights and tonal communication which was released about the same year.

Today, nearing his 91st birthday, he lives in his quiet Manchester home, still inventing. He's also spending his time visiting schools and getting young kids interested STEM education.

Baer in his lab with his inventions.
Credit Courtesy of Ralph Baer