Saturday, June 15, 2019

Ralph Baer Statue in Manchester, New Hampshire - 20th Century Americana

Earlier in May a new statue was unveiled in Manchester's Arms Park, on the banks of the Merrimack River.  It honors the inventor, Ralph Baer, who is considered the Father of all computer gaming. This statue is a friendly nod to Mr. Baer, and seems to invite you to sit down next to him to see what he is holding in his lap.  Which is just the kind of thing that Mr. Baer would have loved in life, since he enjoyed sharing his invention with everyone, especially children.

Ralph Baer was a former Sanders Associate employee (now BAE Systems) from 1956 to 1987 with a rags to riches story.  He was an immigrant who escaped the horrors of fascism and terror in Europe as a child, and became an engineer and hero to millions of computer gamers and technology users across the globe.  He held over 150 patents and created the first version of "Pong" and the game "Simon", as well as the first home video game console. While working at Sanders (BAE) he developed "The Brown Box", which was sold by Magnavox in the 1970s.

Born in Germany as Rudolf Heinrich Baer (1922 - 2014) his Jewish family fled in 1938 just two months before Kristallnacht.  He became a naturalized United States citizen and worked in a factory.  He later graduated from the National Radio Institute, and fought in World War II where he was assigned to military intelligence in London.  Through the G.I. Bill he earned a Bachelor of Science in Television Engineering.  After several other jobs he joined Sanders Associates (BAE Systems) in 1956. His projects included military applications, but through this technology he developed the concept of home video game consoles.  The rest is history!  His Brown Box was patented in 1973, jointly held by Baer and Sanders Associates.

Ralph Baer married Dena Whinston and they had three children.  He died in Manchester at his home in the North End on 6 December 2014.  He was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 2006 by President George W. Bush. He was inducted to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2010. Posthumously he was awarded the Pioneer Award by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences at the 2015 Game Developers Conference. Ralph Baer's lab was recreated at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, where he donated his papers and other artifacts. Baer was an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Life Fellow.

A local grassroots effort held an online Kickstarter campaign with support from BAE Systems and the Orbit Group to collect about $65,000 for the statue of Ralph Baer holding his "Brown Box", and for the statue's upkeep.  Names of donors are on the bricks below the statue.  Also, the Baer family has established a scholarship "The Ralph H. and Dena W. Baer Scholarship Fund" at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation for Manchester Central High School students planning to study a technology related field.  Gifts may be made to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

This is another post in my series of stories about 20th Century Americana, local history which I use as story starters and for helping with oral histories.  Most of these subjects bring back great memories to the people who lived through the 20th century, maybe even YOU!


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Ralph Baer Statue in Manchester, New Hampshire - 20th Century Americana", Nutfield Genealogy, posted June 15, 2019, ( accessed [access date]).

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