The idea for a video game console first came to Baer in 1951 when he was designing a television and proposing to add hardware to it for playing a game. This original idea was rejected, but it sprouted in his head for the next 15 years (by Ralph Baer).
In 1966, he was tasked with designing equipment for a defense contractor and the idea came to him. Within 24 hours, he had written a four-page article outlining his idea. Just to be clear, he was describing the very idea of what a video game is. Every turn in Forza, every bounty in Red Dead Redemption, every chocobo in Final Fantasy dates back to this article.
The lords of Baer’s defense contractors weren’t exactly keen on his idea, but they gave him time and money just to see where it would go. Over the next few years, Baer and a small team of engineers fleshed out their prototype, and in 1971 they managed to convince a skeptical team of Magnavox executives to mass-produce and market the fledgling console.
The 1972 launch of the Magnavox Odyssey did not shake the foundations of the world. It wasn’t a flop, but it didn’t change the nature of the entertainment industry like Atari and Nintendo. But it shone a light that others could follow.