Celebrating innovator Ralph Baer on his 100th birthday

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Mark and James Baer took part in a community celebration on May 21 for their dad, Ralph Baer, the “father of the video game.” Photo/Jason Palmer

MANCHESTER, NH – More than 100 people – and at least three friendly dogs – crowded under a popup tent set up in Arms Park Saturday afternoon to celebrate video-game pioneer Ralph Baer’s 100th birthday and to rededicate a statue there in his honor.

“It was a fabulous turnout!” said organizer Kelley Muir. 

The event featured speeches from Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, BAE’s Kerry Creeden, Robert Pelovitz, Art Molella of the Smithsonian American History Museum, Julie Demers of NH Tech Alliance, and Heather McGrail, who is president of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. Also speaking was Mark Baer, son of the inventor and a trustee of the Baer Family Trust. 

Ralph Baer is the inventor of the so-called Brown Box, licensed to Magnavox in the early 1970s and sold as the Odyssey, the first commercial home-video game console. Baer had more than 150 patents to his name. In 2021, the global video-game market value was $178 billion, according to Statista.

Photo Gallery/Jason Palmer

Pelovitz, a former colleague of Baer’s, said Baer believed inventing was the easy part of the process. “The hard part was selling it,” Pelovitz said in remarks he offered at the event.

Baer’s home office was moved to Washington, DC, and is now preserved and on display at the American History Museum. Art Molella, founding director of the Lemelson Center there, spoke about Baer’s roots, his arrival in America as an immigrant fleeing from Adolph Hitler’s reign of terror. 

Queen City Chamber of Commerce head Heather McGrail said it’s important to remember that innovation and New Hampshire are “synonymous.”

The Arms Park event was part of a year-long celebration of Baer’s life and work, in collaboration with the SEE Science Center. Originally, the event was supposed to feature several food trucks, but they all canceled citing staffing and supply-chain issues, as well as concern about the weekend’s heat, Muir said.

The party continued at the SEE Science Center, with presentations, speeches, an art-show reception, and a demonstration by FIRST Robotics Team 6763.

“I’m excited to get back to the museum to play and get the kids involved,” Muir said at the end of the Arms Park portion of the day. 

The event also featured the dedication of a plaque, which will be set in place later in the summer.

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