Thursday, September 01, 2011

Envisioning Video Games

When something new has swept the cultural landscape like a raging wildfire, it can be easy to forget its humble beginnings.

So it is with video games.

These days, video game consoles seem to be part of virtually every teen's electronic arsenal, along with a cell phone and a computer, but it was on this day 45 years ago that, while sitting at a bus stop, a man named Ralph Baer of Sanders Associates — a defense contractor in New Hampshire — authored a four–page document that established the principles for games that could be played on a television set.

In what seems to have foretold the enormous economic potential of video games, the first video game system, known as Magnavox Odyssey, was Sanders' most successful product, even though a significant portion of Sanders' staff treated video gaming with disdain.

It took six years before Odyssey was introduced on the market, beating Atari's Pong by three years, and public acceptance was modest initially.

But Baer, I suppose it could be said, has had the last laugh. Nearly 90, he has lived to see his inspiration become a billion–dollar industry.

Just something to think about the next time you're playing EA Sports Madden '12.