For my generation, the greatest Odyssey of all time isn’t the one from ancient Greece.
It’s the one that came out of Manchester, New Hampshire, where home video games were born.
That’s about as far from Silicon Valley as you get in this country, but it’s where, in the late 1960s, an engineer called Ralph Baer and colleagues had been testing how they might make the television set interactive.
Baer created a system that could be attached to a TV to play electronic ping-pong, volleyball, football, and more.
Originally known as the Brown Box, Baer licensed the system to Magnavox and it’s released in 1972 as the Odyssey, the first home video game system.
As Baer’s website recalls, this new system got plenty of attention, including from a fellow engineer named Nolan Bushnell.
After seeing the Odyssey in action, he and his colleagues wanted to make a self-contained system that had its own screen and took quarters from players.
Pong then became the first arcade game, and you see what all of this has now led to.
Baer kept working and inventing in Manchester until his death in 2014.
I saw him once at an event where, in his nineties, he trounced an eight year old at Odyssey ping pong, it was wild.
Tomorrow the city of Manchester is paying tribute to this gaming pioneer by unveiling a statue of Ralph Baer at a city park.
It’ll be called Baer Square.
What an odyssey his life turned out to be.
Since we talked about TV and video games, let’s also talk a little about exercise, but only a little.
This weekend in a place called the Maritime Republic of Eastport – part of Annapolis – there’s something called the Bridge Run.
It would take longer to tell the story of the race than it would to run it, because it’s .05K long.
That’s one-twentieth of a kilometer.
The race was once called “the least challenging athletic event ever conceived.”
The Father of the Video Game: The Ralph Baer Prototypes and Electronic Games (Smithsonian Museum of American History)
Tomorrow Ralph Baer gets his own park in Manchester NH (GraniteGeek)
World’s Least Challenging Athletic Event Ever (The Travel 100)