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12/07/2014 11:47 pm ET Updated Dec 09, 2014

Ralph H. Baer, 'Father Of Home Video Games,' Dead At 92

If you've ever spent a few hours in front of the television playing video games, hit the pause button and take a moment to thank Ralph Baer.

Baer, who developed the first home video game system, died on Saturday at the age of 92.

In the late 1960s, Baer developed a system known as the "Brown Box" while working for Sanders Associates, a New Hampshire-based defense contractor.

"People thought I was wasting my time and the company's money for that matter," said Baer on his 2010 induction in the National Inventors Hall of Fame. "There's no way anybody could have predicted how fast this industry would take off."

Here he is testing the device in 1969:

Licensed to Magnavox, Baer's invention was released in 1972 as the Odyssey -- and TV was forever changed from something we watch to something we can interact with. Within a few years, video game systems would find their way into millions of homes.

Along with the Brown Box, Baer invented the first light gun accessory. He's also the co-creator of the light-up memory games Simon and Super Simon.

Born to a Jewish family in southwestern Germany in 1922, Baer and his family fled the country in 1938 to escape the Nazis.

"My father, who had fought in the German army on two fronts in WWI, saw the writing on the wall and knew what was going to happen," Baer told Web2Carz.com in 2012.

The family moved to the Bronx, where Baer worked in a factory that made leather cases for manicure kits. There, The New York Times reports, Baer was already inventing: at the age of the 16, he created a device that would stitch five or six cases at once.

On his website, Baer wrote that he served in the U.S. Army for three years during WWII, working in military intelligence. After the war, he earned a bachelor's degree in television engineering at the American Television Institute of Technology in Chicago.

Baer told Gamasutra that he first had the idea of building something into the television that people could play with in 1951.

"I don't know that I thought about it as a game, but as something to fool with and to give you something to do with the television set other than watch stupid network programs," Baer said.

His bosses didn't like the idea.

“I got the regular reaction: ‘Who needs this?’ And nothing happened," he said, according to The Washington Post.

Baer finally got the chance to develop the idea 15 years later when a boss at Sanders recognized the potential of the device.

Baer has been called "the father of the video game" for his work. However, in a letter to the Pong Story website, Baer clarified that Atari founder Nolan Bushnell is the father of video arcade games for his 1969 creation, Computer Space.

"I came up with the concept of playing games on a standard TV set or TV monitor in September of 1966. The idea was to make an alternate, interactive use of tens of millions of home TV sets then in homes world-wide," Baer wrote. "The final equipment we built at Sanders Associates in 1967 (the “Brown Box”) was licensed to Magnavox in 1970 and appeared as the Odyssey 1TL200 on the market in the U.S. in May of 1972."

With 100,000 sold that year, he said the invention makes him "the father of home video games."

One his website, Baer wrote that he holds more than 150 U.S. and foreign patents. He was awarded The National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President George W. Bush in 2006, and in 2008 received the Game Developers Choice Pioneer Award.

"Had I listened to all those people 40 years ago who were telling me to stop the nonsense or made remarks like 'are you still screwing around with this stuff?' and hadn't proceeded, we might all not be here today," Baer said during the ceremony for the Pioneer Award, in remarks quoted by GameSpot. "Certainly things might have been different."

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