Mr. Baer will be remembered for his role in the development of Magnavox Odyssey, the first commercial digital game console. Its 1972 release predated the Atari Pong by several months.
When the home console industry exploded in the mid-seventies, companies like Atari and later Mattel and Nintendo found that elements of basic console design had been patented by Magnovox, leading to a string of law suits, which the Odyssey manufacturer won. Baer was no doubt confident that his innovation would be recognised. An earlier visit to a patent examiner’s office to describe the device descended into one long gaming session. “I set up a small television set and my game console,” Mr. Baer once said. “Within 15 minutes, every examiner on the floor of that building was in that office wanting to play the game.”
Later, Baer created a “light gun” which would allow Odyssey users to shoot onscreen objects; the first use of the technology in home machines and one of the first instances of a video game peripheral sold separately from its orignal console. In 1978, he designed the handheld electronic game Simon, a version of the popular “simon says” game, requiring players to recall and repeat a lengthening series of coloured button flashes. It was a smash hit and variants are still sold today.