Ralph Baer Papers :: Smithsonian Lemelson Center
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Screen of Baer video ping pong game Ralph H. Baer Papers,
1943-1953, 1966-1972, 1991, 2000-2006

Extent and Forms of Material: 3.5 cubic feet, including notes, papers, photographs, oversize diagrams and engineering blueprints, 1 book, 1⁄2” VHS video (3), CD-ROMs (4), 7 audio cassettes (11 boxes, 1 oversize folder)
Creator: Ralph H. Baer
Abstract: Pioneer of early videogame technology. German-born ordnance specialist, inventor, and engineer. Papers include autobiographical materials; firearms notes, manuscripts, and photographs; and videogame and television engineering notes, diagrams, schematics, and video documentation.
Repository: Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. archivescenter@si.edu 202-633-3270
Collection Number: AC0854
Processing Note: Series 2 processed by Alison L. Oswald, archivist, 2003; Series 3 processed by Tiffany Draut, 2008; Series 1 and 4 processed by Cory Bernat, March 2006; supervised by John Fleckner, archivist.
© 2006, 2008 by the Smithsonian Institution. All rights reserved.


Information for users of the collection

Conditions Governing Access: The collection is open for research use.
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use: Copyright held by the Smithsonian Institution.
Preferred Citation: [Title and date of item], Ralph H. Baer Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, box number X, folder number XX, digital file number XXXXXXXX


In-depth information about the collection

Administrative/biographical history
Scope and content
System of arrangement
Finding aids
Acquisition information
Related Materials
Existence and location of copies
Related artifacts
Access points
Container listing

Administrative/biographical history

Ralph H. Baer (1922- ) was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1938. A graduate of the National Radio Institute (1940), Baer worked as a radio technician in the New York City area servicing all types of home and auto radios. During World War II, Baer served in the United States Army, one year stateside, and two years in Europe. He was assigned to Military Intelligence and became an expert on military small arms. Baer returned to the United States with eighteen tons of foreign small arms for use in exhibits at Aberdeen, Maryland, Springfield, Massachusetts Armory and Ft. Riley, Kansas.

After the war, Baer attended the American Television Institute of Technology in Chicago, graduating with a BS in television engineering. In 1949, Baer joined a small electro medical equipment firm, Wappler, Inc., as their chief engineer. He designed and built surgical cutting machines, epilators, and low frequency pulse generating muscle-toning equipment. In 1951, Baer moved to Loral Electronics of Bronx, New York as a senior engineer designing power line carrier signaling equipment for IBM. During 1952-1956, Baer worked at Transitron, Inc., in New York City as a chief engineer and later as vice president. In 1956, Baer joined Sanders Associates in Nashua, New Hampshire building airborne radar components. He became manager of the Electronic Design Department at Sanders and eventually Division Manager and Chief Engineer for Equipment Design. Baer retired in 1987.

At Sanders in 1966, Baer began an independent project experimenting with ways for consumers to interact with standard home television sets. Development of interactive TV Game (TVG) ideas became a company-supported project continued by Baer and assisted by William H. Harrison and William T. Rusch (download the TV game chronology prepared by Ralph Baer in 2006). By mid-1967, ping pong videogames were played inside Sanders, patent disclosures were applied for, and hardware was designed. Baer and his associates called the devices they were developing “boxes” and numbered the various versions one through seven. In 1971, Magnavox became Sanders Associates’ first videogame licensee. Between 1972 and 1975, Magnavox produced and sold over 700,000 units of Odyssey, a set of games played on its television receivers. Atari became a licensee in 1976 after the first of many lawsuits won by Sanders in pursuit of patent infringements.

During his tenure at Sanders and thereafter, Baer has been a prolific inventor. His creations include many electronic toys and games and other consumer electronic products. Among the better known product based on Baer’s work are Milton Bradley’s Simon, Galoob’s Smarty Bear Video, and Kenner’s Laser Command. In 2004 President George W. Bush awarded Baer the National Medal of Technology.

Baer married Dena Whinston in 1952 and they had three children, James, Mark, and Nancy.

Scope and content

The Ralph Baer Papers include autobiographical materials and an extended oral history interview. The Papers also include materials about military small arms created by Baer during his World War II service. The largest portion of the collection documents Baer’s work on video games.

Series 1, Autobiographical Documents, 2000-2006, provides detailed documentation of Baer’s life. An unpublished autobiographical manuscript, One Inventor’s Odyssey: The Life Story of an Engineer and Inventor (463 pages), is found in hardcopy and, in several versions, as electronic text on a CD. Baer’s book, Videogames: In the Beginning, 2005 (Rolenta Press, 2005), draws on the manuscript and reproduces many of the documents in Series 4. David Allison, Chair and Curator of the Museum’s Division of Information Technology and Communications, was the principal interviewer in an April, 2003 oral history with Baer. Lasting approximately three hours, the interview focuses on Baer’s work with television video games but also touches on his life history, his other inventions, the invention process, and the legal complexity surrounding his inventions. There are original and reference audio tapes and an abstract and summary of the interview.

Series 2, WWII Small Arms Documents, 1943-1953, consists primarily of textual information and photographs gathered on European small arms during Baer’s military service. The information was used in preparing training courses for military intelligence schools in England and France. One folder of correspondence documents Baer’s efforts to publish some of his writings on machine guns and other arms.

Series 3, Hans Otto Mauksch materials, 1944-1964, consist primarily of textual documents and photographs describing the Military Intelligence group activities during World War II in Europe. Hans Otto Mauksch (1917-) and Ralph Baer were assigned to the Military Intelligence Training team (12th Reinforcement Depot) during World War II in Europe. Baer met Mauksch on the Mata Roa, a British freighter while traveling from New York to Liverpool in 1944.

Hans O. Mauksch was the leader of the Military Intelligence group in England and was the first to conceive of the idea of a military intelligence team to train troops on enemy subjects. Sent to Europe in February 1944, Mauksch led an effort to amass enemy weapons for the purposes of establishing a museum in Tidworth, England, to train officers and enlisted men to handle enemy weapons and to learn quickly their characteristics and capabilities. Ultimately, a small arms museum was established in France and then arms were shipped to the United States to establish small arms exhibits, particularly at Ft. Riley, Kansas.

Series 4, TV Game Documents, 1966-1972, consists of records created during Baer’s work on interactive television games at Sanders Associates. The records include notes, drawings, engineering schematics, laboratory notebooks, and administrative records created by Ralph Baer, William H. Harrison, and William T. Rusch. Baer retrieved these documents, with the assistance of David Winter, from a Chicago law firm years after they had been assembled for the various legal cases involving his television game inventions. Many of the documents are marked and stamped as trial exhibits. Rusch’s notebooks include work on an electric guitar pick-up and other non-television game inventions. They also contain ideas about a wide range of games that might be developed. Because these papers were badly disorganized, the archival staff arranged them in the current order.

The records in Series 4, Subseries 4, consist of copies of records in Subseries 1-3, apparently created before the originals were turned over to legal counsel. These documents are arranged as received from Ralph Baer. They may contain copies of some documents for which originals do not exist.

System of arrangement

Series 1: Autobiographical documents, 1991, 2000-2006
Subseries 1, Manuscript, Book and other documents, 2004-2006
Subseries 2, Other Media: CDs, VHS videos, periodical, 2000-2003
Series 2: WWII small arms documents, 1943-1953
Subseries 1, Correspondence, 1950-1953
Subseries 2, Writings and notes, 1943-1948
Subseries 3, Drawings and schematics, n.d.
Subseries 4, Manuals and encyclopedias, 1943
Subseries 5, Photographs, 1945
Series 3: Hans Otto Mauksch Materials, 1944-1964
Subseries 1, Personal background information, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1964
Subseries 2, Instructional materials, 1944-1946, undated
Subseries 3, Ft. Riley, Kansas, 1946, 1953
Series 4: TV Game documents, 1966-1972
Subseries 1, Working notes, diagrams and schematics, 1966-1971
Subseries 2, Administrative documents, 1966-1972
Subseries 3, Notebooks, 1966-1968
Subseries 4, TV game development documentation, 1966-1968

Finding aids

The appendix to Baer’s Videogames: In the Beginning (Series 1, box 5, folder 3), lists “TVG Activities” in chronological order, describes many documents and their significance, and provides page number references to notebooks created by Rusch and Harrison.

Acquisition information

Donated by Ralph H. Baer, 2003, 2006, 2007; and Larry Mauksch, 2007.

Related Materials

Additional materials about Ralph Baer are located at The Strong Brian Sutton-Smith Library & Archives of Play at: http://www.icheg.org/collections/library-archival


The Archives Center continues to add to this collection. Ralph Baer donated materials in 2006 and 2007 and Larry Mauksch donated materials in 2007.

Existence and location of copies

Digital surrogates of documents in Series 4, TV Game Documents, 1966-1972, are linked to the container list in the online version of this finding aid.

Related artifacts

The Division of Information Technology and Communications holds artifacts related to this collection including early video game prototypes and TV Game products. Accession number 2006.0102

• TV Game Unit #1 (TVG#1); 1966; vacuum tube spot generator with Heathkit IG-62 Generator (see item 2)
• Heathkit IG-62; used with TVG #1 (see item 1)
• TV Game Unit #2 (TVG #2), aka the “Pump Unit,” 1967; large aluminum chassis with wooden “pump” handle
• TV Game Unit #7 (TVG#7), aka “Brown Box,” 1967/1968; prototype for Magnvox Odyssey (see item 8);
• Cardboard program cards for use with Brown Box (see item 4)
• Lightgun, 1967/1968; game accessory for Brown Box (see item 4)
• TV Game Unit #8, 1968; “de/dt” (velocity responsive) ballgame chassis for use with Brown Box (see item 4)
• Magnavox Odyssey (Model ITL200) video game unit, 1972; with all accessories in the original carton
• Milton-Bradley Company SIMON handheld microprocessor-control game, 1978
• Ideal Toy Company MANIAC microprocessor-control game, 1979, in original box with game instructions
• Golf Game accessory, 1968; golf ball mounted on joystick handle for use with Brown Box (see item 4)

Access points

Ralph H. Baer
William L. Harrison
William T. Rusch
Sanders Associates, Inc.

World War, 1939-1945
Machine guns
Television history
Video games
Engineering diagrams
Patent suits

Container listing

A chronological list of the following documents is available.

Box Folder    
5   Series 1: Autobiographical documents, 1991, 2000-2006  
  1 One Inventor’s Odyssey: The Life Story of an Engineer and Inventor unpublished manuscript (hardcopy), 2006 (folder a: page 1-211)  
  2 Unpublished manuscript (hardcopy), 2006 (folder b: page 212-463)  
  3 Videogames: In the Beginning, 2005 (Rolenta Press, 2005)  
  4 “Summary of Chassis/Boxes/Models,” chart, lists of images, “RHB Firsts”  
  O/S Fldr. 1 TV Game time line, 1962-1974 (photocopy) Image(s)


“The Story of Computer Games”undated
Total Running Time: 51:00
OV 854.1 (VHS format)
RV 854.1 (VHS format)


“Playing the Game,” WMUR Channel 9 in New Hampshire, air date May 24, 2000
Total Running Time: 02:57
OV 854.2 (VHS format)
RV 854.2 (VHS format)
  6 One Inventor’s Odyssey and additional photographs on CD-ROMs (3 versions)  
  7 Electronic Gaming Monthly, article on Ralph Baer, p.168  
  8 Ralph Baer Oral History, April 22-23, 2003 (abstract and summary, 16 p.)  
10 OTC 854.1 Ralph Baer Oral History, April 22-23, 2003 (original audio tapes)  
  OTC 854.2 Ralph Baer Oral History, April 22-23, 2003 (original)  
  OTC 854.3 Ralph Baer Oral History, April 22-23, 2003 (original)  
  OTC 854.4 Ralph Baer Oral History, April 22-23, 2003 (original)  
  RTC 854.1 Ralph Baer Oral History, April 22-23, 2003 (reference audio tapes)  
  RTC 854.2 Ralph Baer Oral History, April 22-23, 2003 (reference)  
  RTC 854.3 Ralph Baer Oral History, April 22-23, 2003 (reference)  
6 43

Ralph Baer Interview, December 4, 1991 (raw footage)
Total Running Time: 41:09
OV 854.3 (VHS format)
RV 854.3 (VHS format)

    SERIES 2: WWII SMALL ARMS, 1943-1953  
1 1 Subseries 1: Correspondence, 1950-1953  
    Subseries 2: Writings & Notes, 1943-1948  
  2 Machine Guns: A Resume of Their History and Characteristics, 1946  
  3 Basic Weapons, 1886-1920s  
  4 World War I Heavy Machine Guns  
  5 Post World War I Light Machine Guns  
  6 The German Line, 1920-1945  
  7 Machine Guns, manuscript  
  8 Multiple Shot Arms, by Mark Dineley  
  9 Various notes and questions for Mark Dineley, 1945  
  10 A Brief History on the Development of the Submachine Gun, 1943  
  11 Aircraft Machine Guns, n.d.  
  12 The Machine Gun The Period of Recognition, 1943, by Lt. Col. Calvin Goddard  
  13 Outline of the Development of the Modern Bolt Operated Service Rifle, 1945  
  14 Semi-Automatic Rifle notes, n.d.  
  15 The Story of the Tommy Gun, 1948  
  16 German Weapons Information  
  17 Italian Weapons Information  
  18 Notes on inventors of various firearms, n.d.  
3 1 Japanese Weapons Information, n.d.  
  2 British War Office technical weapons information, n.d.  
    German Weapons Information, Specifically Infantry, n.d.  
    Course Material  
    Subseries 3: Drawings & Schematic, No Date  
2 1 Rifle Actions, n.d.  
  O/S Fldr. 1 Schematic charts of machine guns, n.d.  
    Subseries 4: Manuals & Encyclopedia, 1943  
2 2 Basic Manual on Small Arms, 1943  
  3 Basic Manual on Small Arms, 1943  
  4 Ian V. Hogg and John Week, Military Small Arms of the 20th Century. A Comprehensive Illustrated Encyclopedia of the World’s Small Caliber Firearms (DBI Books, sixth edition, no date)  
    Subseries 5: Photographs, 1945  
4 1 Light machine guns  
  2 Submachine guns  
  3 Automatic pistols  
  4 Rifles  
    Subseries 1, Personal background information, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1964  
11 1 War Department identification card, photographs, certificate of service, citations, correspondence  
9 9 Yank Magazine (British), 1944 November 5  
  10 The Guidon newspaper, 1946 June 28 (original)  
    Subseries 2, Instructional materials, 1944-1946, n.d.  
  2 Pistols and revolvers; submachine guns; rifles; machine guns; and semiautomatic rifles; n.d.  
    A Brief Outline of the Development of the Modern Bolt Operated Service Rifle, n.d.  
    Equipment and Arms of the German Armed Forces, Part I Enemy Small Arms, 1945  
  3 Drawings and Ballistics of Military Ammunition, 1944  
    A Short History of the Development of the Modern Machine Gun, n.d.  
    Military Intelligence School, German Psychology and background of the Weimar Republic, circa 1945  
    Course in foreign small arms by Hans Otto Mauksch and Ralph H. Baer, n.d.  
  4 A Summary of Enemy and Allied Bolt Operated Rifles (partial list), n.d.  
  5 A Summary of Enemy and Allied Bolt Operated Rifles (partial list), n.d.  
    Subseries 3, Ft. Riley, Kansas, 1946, 1953  
  6 Inventory of small arms exihibit, 1946 June 24  
    The Guidon, 1946 June 28 (reference copy)  
    Issue slip from Instrument and Weapons pool, 1953 June 17  
  7 Photographs, 1946  
    SERIES 4: TV GAMES, 1966-1972  
    Subseries 1: Working Notes, Diagrams and Schematics, 1966-1971  
6 1 “Original Schematic, TV Game,” September 6, 1966 Image(s)
  2 Notes and Diagrams, December 1966 and undated, including “DMV Spec-Schematic #1,” “MOD IG-62 Block Diagram,” “MOD IG-62 Outputs” Image(s)
  3 “Some Proposed Basic Circuits,” January 2, 1967
“TVTY ­ NDB,” January 2, 1967
  4 “Discussion with R. Solomon, Future Planning-TV Gaming,” February 11, 1967 Image(s)
  5 “List of Possible Games” and Untitled Diagram of Joystick, February 12, 1967 Image(s)
  6 “Layout for Gun Electronics in Pocket Radio Shell,” February 19, 1967 Image(s)
  7 “Second Experiment: Creating various hues from background and screen symbols,” February 1967 Image(s)
  8 Notes and Diagrams, May 2-31, 1967, including “TV Sync Notes,” “TV Gaming Techniques,” “To Produce Moveable Dot,” and “Car Race” Image(s)
  9 “TVG 1st Game,” “2nd Game,” “3rd Game,” “4th Game,” “5th Game,” May 16-17, 1967
“Mo-W.H.,” undated
  10 Notes, Diagrams, Schematics, May 15, 1967-June 16, 1967, including “Color Receiver,” “Remote Unit,” “Target Game” Image(s)
  11 Notes and Diagrams, June 1-June 7, 1967
“Switching Functions,” and untitled documents
  12 “Schematics of TVG Game Unit #3, completed August 2, 1967”
Three versions: August 2; July 7; July 13, 1967
9 1 “Schematic for early May start of TV Game #2,” May 15, 1967 Image(s)
  2 “TV Game #2 Updated Schematic,” June 14, 1967 Image(s)
6 13 “Cludge” Notes and Schematic “John Mason’s Original Idea” June, 1967
“Random Pulse Gens,” Notes, June 8, 1967
  14 Notes and Diagrams, July 7-24, 1967, including “Target Shooting,” “Test of Resistance Vrs Light” Image(s)
  15 Notes and Diagrams, August 2- September 7, 1967, including “Chroma Channel” Block Diagram, “One Transistor,” “Rifle Electronics” Image(s)
9 3 “To add color to TV Game #3,” Schematic, September 12, 1967 Image(s)
6 16 Undated Schematics, undated Image(s)
  17 Notes and Diagrams, October 10-31, 1967 and undated, including “TVG Available Functions,” “Utilizing Integrated Ckts,” “Modulator Economizing,” “Target Shooting,” “Dot Disappearance” Image(s)
  18 Notes and Diagrams, November 1-29, 1967 and undated, including “Rifle Electronics,” “Low Free Circulator Movement of Dot,” “Method of Voltage Control of Delay Multivibrators,” “Black Dot for Golf Putting” Image(s)
9 4 “Game Unit #4 Rusch’s Slicer Circuits as ball and paddle generators,” November, 1967 (2 versions) Image(s)
  O/S Fldr. 1 Untitled Notes, approximately, November, 1967 Image(s)
9 5 Block Diagram, undated
Updated Block Diagram, June 14, 1967 (2 versions)
Untitled Block Diagram, December 12, 1967 (3 versions)
6 19 Notes and Diagrams, December 1-20, 1967 and undated, including “Pool or Billiards Game,” “Hockey,” “Wall Bounce” Image(s)
  O/S Fldr. 1 “Rusch describes various games, 4 fold-out sheets,” December 4, 1967 Image(s)
9 6 Two Untitled Schematics, December 22, 1967 (2 versions of each) Image(s)
6 20 Untitled Notes and Diagrams, December 26, 1967-January 12, 1968 Image(s)
  21 Notes and Schematics (and copies), January 17-26, 1968 and undated, including “Low Freq Multivibrator,” “Spot Gen,” “Gun Electronics” Image(s)
9 7 “TV Game Unit #4 Ball & Paddle Slicer Circuits adapted for cable,” January 26, 1968 (4 versions) Images(s)
6 22 Untitled Diagrams, approximately January-February 20, 1968 Image(s)
  23 Notes and Diagrams, August 11-October 8, 1968 and undated, including “Spot size change” and “DMV Voltage Controlled” Image(s)
  24 “TVG” diagrams, October 24, 1968 Image(s)
  25 “TVG List of Games” Notes, 6 pages, October 26, 1968 Image(s)
9 8 “Schematic for TV Game Unit #6,” November 17, 1968, and undated (6 versions) Image(s)
6 26 Notes and Diagrams, January 2; undated; May 29, 1969, including “Game Sequence” Image(s)
  27 Schematics, August 21, 1969 and undated, including “Spot Gen,” “Summing Amp Modulator & FR Osc.,” “Primary Flip Flop,” “Secondary Flip Flop,” “Joystick Amps,” “Chroma Gen.,” “Rifle Electronics” Image(s)
  O/S Fldr. 1 Untitled Block Diagram, undated
TVG Schematic (5 versions), January 20, 1969 and undated
6 28 Notes and Schematics, June 10-August 24, 1971 and undated, including “Game Truth Table,” “Chroma Gen for Magnavox” Image(s)
  O/S Fldr. 1 Unidentified block diagram, No date Image(s)
    Subseries 2: Administrative Documents, 1966-1972  
  29 “Disclosure Document,” September 1, 1966 Image(s)
  30 “Low Cost TV Data Entry Devices-Funding For,” Memorandum, December 20, 1966
“Operation of Color TV Set” (4 copies), January 4, 1967
  31 Patent Disclosure Sheet and Description of TV Gaming Device Draft, January, 1968  
  32 Patent Disclosure Sheet and Detailed Description form, February 2, 1968 Image(s)
  33 “Misc. Ideas for T.V.G.,” Company Memorandum (2 copies), May 10, 1967 Image(s)
  34 “Summary of Major Games,” June, 1967 Image(s)
  35 Price List, October, 1967
Cost Estimate, January 17, 1968
Power Requirements, Undated
  36 “TVG Cost Summary,” Undated
“TVG-DigBox Estimate,” March 1969
“Price/Parts for Hockey ADD ON for TVG,” May 26, 1969 (2 versions)
  37 Proposal for Anticipated IR&D Programs and cost estimate FY 68, June, 1967 Image(s)
  38 Independent Research and Development Plan, September 15 and November 7, 1967
Special Sales Order, October 4, 1967
  39 Independent R&D Program Monthly Status Reports, November 1967, January 1968, August 1968 Image(s)
  40 Sanders Electrical Parts Lists, July 1967-March 1971 Image(s)
  41 Parts order forms, May, 1967-February, 1968
Purchase Orders, October 10, 1968, January 6, 1969, December 12, 1972
“Stroblite” price list, Undated
  42 “TV Game Data in Chronological Order,” folder with lawsuit identification stickers Image(s)
    Subseries 3: Notebooks, 1966-1968  
7 1 Sanders Associates Engineering Notebook, authored by William Rusch, October 1966-October 1967 Image(s)
  2 Sanders Associates Engineering Notebook, authored by William Rusch, October 1967-November 1967 Image(s)
  3 Sanders Associates Engineering Notebook, authored by William Rusch, November 1967-March 1968 Image(s)
  4 “Engineers’ Notebook,” September 11, 1966-October 5, 1967, authored by William Harrison Image(s)
    Subseries 4: TV Game Development Documentation, 1966-1968  
8 1 Vol. I, Tab 1, TVG Concept Stage, 9/1/66 - 2/6/67  
  2 Vol. I, Tab 2, Technology Investigation Stage, 2/11/67 - 5/16/67  
  3 Vol. I, Box #1 Phase, 5/23/67 ­ 6/17/67  
  4 Vol. I, Box #2 Phase, 6/15/67 ­ 7/21/67  
  5 Vol. I, Box #3 Phase, 7/28/67 ­ 9/29/67  
  6 Vol. I, Box #4 Phase, 9/29/67 ­ 11/20/67  
  7 TV Game Development, Vol. II, Box #5, 11/20/67 ­ 9/68 (folder a)  
  8 Vol. II, Box #5, 11/20/67 ­ 9/68 (folder b)  
  9 Vol. II, Box #6, 9/6/69 ­ 12/9/68  
  10 Vol. II, Brown Box #7, 12/10/68 ­ 8/21/69  
  11 Vol. II, TVG Development, Support to Magnavox, 1971  
  12 TV Game Development, Vol. IV, Licensing Program Files, 1969-1970  



Last Update: 23 May 2011

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