My article “The Jewish Secrets of Video Game Guru Ralph Baer” appears in the Jewish Daily Forward. Here’s the lede:
Jewish inventor Ralph H. Baer’s workshop desk isn’t exactly messy, but the 180 items on it represent the sort of organized chaos that cliché prescribes for brilliant minds. On a shelf sits his 1978 invention Simon, the iconic game with red, yellow, blue and green buttons that calls upon players to follow increasingly difficult sound sequences. Tucked between books such as “Reference Data for Radio Engineers,” “The 1994 American International Toy Fair” and “Manual of Active Filter Design” are an eraser that states “I Never Make Big Mistakes,” several Batman toys and half a dozen Teddy bears. A Barbie doll leans back in her pink chair in front of a heart-shaped mirror.
And then there are the framed documents, including a 2004 National Medal of Technology and Innovation presented by President George W. Bush to Baer for “his groundbreaking and pioneering creation, development, and commercialization of interactive video games” and a 2010 certificate of induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Baer’s New Hampshire license plate (RBAER) hangs alongside certificates from the state and from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Such is the clutter in the re-creation of the workshop of Baer (1922-2014), known as the “father of videogames,” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., that one might easily miss another accessory, which sits on the desk among “1,001 Technical and Scientific Abbreviations” (1963), a white corded phone and the sort of magnifying visor used by jewelers and watchmakers.