Simon says. Red. Green. Blue. Yellow.
May 7, 2010 10:19 AM   Subscribe

Ralph Baer was just inducted into the United States Patent Office's National Inventors Hall of Fame. His favorite of his own inventions is the microcomputer controlled game Simon - a device almost as ubiquitous as Rubik's Cubes were in the 80's.

In 1966, Baer patented a revolutionary device - first video game system. The system was made commercially available in 1972 as the Magnavox Odyssey. The Odyssey system inlcuded an optical gun for shooting dots on the screen almost twenty years before Nintendo released Duck Hunt...

The best available interview with Ralph Baer is from Diehard Gamer. (He admits to losing the first two player game ever played.)
posted by cinemafiend (18 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
..and now I decided to search Metafilter for Ralph Baer. Several prior posts - one of which is excellent and less than three weeks old!
posted by cinemafiend at 10:23 AM on May 7, 2010

Odyssy2 was my first system. It was the only one with a keyboard and we figured it would be more of a home computer than a game. We were wrong, it was just a game. Still fun, though.
posted by rocket88 at 10:27 AM on May 7, 2010

And let's not forget that he was the original designer of the game we would later know as Pong, despite the fact that Bushnell and Atari often get the credit.
posted by hank_14 at 10:33 AM on May 7, 2010

Odyssey 2 was my first system as well. By the time I got ahold of it it was 15 years old.
posted by brundlefly at 10:34 AM on May 7, 2010

I remember inviting the people I worked with over to play Pong. We would have five or six people with multiple master's degrees sitting watching two of us play Pong, and thinking it was the neatest thing ever...

We were easy to please back then...
posted by HuronBob at 10:36 AM on May 7, 2010

My cousins owned an Odyssey2, and the only games I remember are Pick Axe Pete and a Pac-Man ripoff called K.C. Munchkin, which was only remarkable because, as I recall, you could program your own mazes.

I was very jealous.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:38 AM on May 7, 2010

My fellow Odyssey^2 owners! THE KEYBOARD IS THE KEY! Didn't you get the "Computer Intro!" cart? I'm fond of telling people that my first programming experience wasn't assembly, it was raw opcode. Sadly, the most creative thing I could extract out of that cartridge was a little green man walking across the screen.
posted by pashdown at 10:40 AM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am comforted by the fact that the father of video games has such a cuddly sounding name.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:43 AM on May 7, 2010

It's criminal that Simon is no longer manufactured in its original form. (The closest thing available appears to be this.) Sure, the electronics might seem rudimentary now, but it was the look and feel of the console--the circular body, the weight of the thing, the sounds, and the large, colorful buttons--that made it enjoyable.
posted by Prospero at 10:43 AM on May 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Simon: Many Are Called. Few Are Chosen.
posted by Iridic at 11:02 AM on May 7, 2010

Wow the Odyssey and Simon were invented by the same guy? How did I not know this? Two different uncles of mine -- the "cool younger uncle" on their respective side of the family -- had these (or at least had roommates who had them) -- I had no idea that I could thank one man for the many, many, many hours of post-toddler, pre-puberty fun.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:03 AM on May 7, 2010

I spent many hours playing Quest for the Rings.
posted by paulg at 11:16 AM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Best Christmas Ever in our childhood was the year we got Simon, Merlin, AND that Mattel Football game all at the same time. The next year we got the Sears version of PONG, and that was a close second.
posted by briank at 11:17 AM on May 7, 2010

My favorite was UFO!, a very addictive asteroids type game.
posted by rocket88 at 11:22 AM on May 7, 2010


Beep Boop
Beep Boop

Buzz Beep Boop
Buzz Beep Boop

Boop Buzz Beep Boop
Boop Buzz Beep Boop

Beep Boop Buzz Beep Boop
Beep Boop Buzz Beep Buzz

posted by bondcliff at 11:34 AM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had the original Odyssey--no beeping or booping, no sounds at all, no on-screen score. The "game cartridges" were nothing but jumpers, no actual programming or real circuitry, and graphics were provided by plastic sheets that were supposed to stick on the TV screen by static electricity, but really had to be taped on.

And we thus became the most popular house in the neighborhood. No one had ever seen such a thing, and we'd play for hours.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:56 AM on May 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Another original Odyssey person here -- the plastic sheets (yes, taped on more often than not) enabled one game that I loved as a tyke. One person would leave the room, while the other moved their white block around and "hid" it behind one of the many little haunted house illustrations on the screen (such as behind a cat, with only two tiny white transparent cats-eye dots letting the white block shine through.) Then the first person would come back in, and try to locate the hidden dot with their own dot.

Simple and stupid? Yes. Hours of fun for a three-year-old? Damn straight.
posted by davejay at 12:21 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I got to interview Mr. Baer for work a few years ago. It could not have been a more pleasant experience. We met at the very unassuming suburban home he and his wife had lived in for many years. He was incredibly welcoming and energetic and while we were setting up in his basement workroom, he was literally running up and down the stairs checking to make sure we had everything we needed. After the interview he showed us some of the prototype game systems built before the Odyssey and I got to play a few games of the Pong-predecessor, tennis, with him. I won. He is in his eighties, but it's still a highlight.
posted by lfhnsn at 3:01 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

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