Ralph Baer with SimonYou may not have heard the name Ralph Baer, but if you've ever played an Atari, an Xbox, a Playstation, a Wii, or any other home gaming console, you've been touched by his genius. It was Baer who, way back in 1966, began development on what would become 1971's Magnavox Odyssey — the first home videogame system.
By today's standards, the Odyssey was pretty primitive — it required two players (with no CPU, computer-controlled opponents were a technical impossibility) and the graphics were so crude Magnavox bundled the system with plastic TV overlays showing additional illustrations. But you have to start somewhere, and the Odyssey was a key step in what would become today's sophisticated multi-billion-dollar industry.
As if his legacy weren't already secure, Baer kept on tinkering in subsequent years, designing the first home light gun (a decade before the Nintendo Entertainment System's Duck Hunt game) and the electronic pattern-matching game Simon, which is almost as iconic an early-80s toy as Rubik's Cube.
So today, Yahoo! Games raises a glass in honor of one of gaming's true legends. Happy birthday, Mr. Baer, and thanks.