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Ralph H. Baer papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 2013.baer
The Ralph H. Baer papers include correspondence, game designs, drawings, notes, reference materials, photographs, product descriptions, schematics, electronic components, and manuals utilized by Ralph H. Baer throughout his lengthy career in the toy and game industry. The materials in this collection range from 1968 through 2010, with the bulk of the papers dated 1975-1998. Highlights within these papers include information on “TV Games” (Baer’s terminology at the inception of videogames), the electronic game “Simon,” and extensive documentation of Baer’s work on electronic toys and games as the proprietor of Ralph H. Baer Consultants. There are also digital video files and draft chapters of Baer’s autobiography. Additional scope and content information can be found within the contents list of this finding aid.

The Ralph H. Baer papers have been arranged into seven series, five of which have been further divided into subseries. The physical materials are housed in eleven archival document boxes and one audiovisual storage box; there are also a series of digital-only files located on The Strong’s network. The labeling of folders or objects in this collection was often taken directly from Baer’s original folder or object names, where applicable.


  • 1968 - 2010
  • Majority of material found within 1975 - 1998


Conditions Governing Access

VHS tapes in Series VII are only available on-site at this time. The VHS tapes in this collection will need to be acclimated to the temperature of the room they will be viewed in prior to watching (about two hours).

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library. Though the donor has not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, he has given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes


11.5 Linear Feet (11 document boxes, 1 AV storage box)

525 Megabytes (Digital files) : Accessible on-site at The Strong.


The Ralph H. Baer papers are a compilation of correspondence, game designs, drawings, notes, reference materials, photographs, product descriptions, digital videos, schematics, electronic components, and manuals utilized by Ralph H. Baer throughout his lengthy career in the toy and game industry. The bulk of the materials are from 1975 through 1998.

Biographical Note

Ralph H. Baer was born in 1922 in Germany. He and his family immigrated to New York, New York in 1938. Baer used part of his factory wages to enroll in a correspondence course in radio repair from the National Radio Institute. He became a radio service technician upon his course completion in 1940. Baer ran several repair shops, fixing both radios and early television sets. He was drafted in 1943 by the United States Army and served in the military intelligence division during World War II.

Upon his return to the United States, Baer attended the American Television Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois. In 1949, he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Television Engineering. For the next seven years, Baer worked as an engineer at several electronics firms on projects ranging from electro-medical equipment to television receivers. He joined Sanders Associates in Nashua, New Hampshire, in 1956. At Sanders, Baer built airborne radar components, clandestine radio equipment, and high-density circuit boards, among other products. He also began work on the first home video game systems, known at Sanders as “TV Games,” culminating in 1972’s Magnavox Odyssey game console; this is commonly referred to as the first commercial video game console. Baer operated the research and development groups at Sanders, developing video-based training systems, advanced video game technology, and interactive video game systems.

Baer founded Ralph H. Baer Consultants in the mid-1970s, later collaborating with design firms like Marvin Glass & Associates, Smith Engineering, and Phil Orbanes Productions. He continued to provide independent research and development services to Sanders Associates for the next two decades. In 2006, Baer received the National Medal of Technology. Four years later, he was inducted into the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame for his pioneering work with television technologies and video games. Baer passed away at his home in Manchester, New Hampshire, on December 6, 2014.

System of Arrangement

Series I: Baer at Sanders Associates, 1971-2009

Subseries A: TV Games
Subseries B: Various electronic product development
Subseries C: Independent research and development reports

Series II: Baer partnership with Marvin Glass & Associates, 1968-2009

Subseries A: Simon
Subseries B: Maniac
Subseries C: Computer Perfection
Subseries D: Various electronic toy and game development

Series III: Baer partnership with Smith Engineering, 1978-1997

Subseries A: Slow Scan Television (SSTV)
Subseries B: Smarty Bear
Subseries C: Television Interface Modulator (TIM)
Subseries D: Various electronic toy and game development

Series IV: Baer partnership with Phil Orbanes Productions, 1987-2000

Subseries A: Sounds Like Fun recordable books
Subseries B: Various electronic toy and game development

Series V: Ralph H. Baer Consultants toy and game files, 1979-2006

Series VI: Baer autobiographical digital files, 2006-2010

Subseries A: Digital video archive
Subseries B: Autobiographical text documents

Series VII: Baer audiovisual materials, 1974-2004 and n.d.

Custodial History Note

The Ralph H. Baer papers were donated to The Strong in five accession lots. The first was in June 2007 (107.1616), with the second in August 2007 (107.2619). The first lot pertained specifically to the electronic game “Simon.” The second lot related to the development of electronic games “Maniac” and “Computer Perfection.” The papers were accessioned by The Strong under Activity ID numbers 9478 and 9534, respectively. The third and fourth accession lots were gifted to The Strong in October 2010 (110.12375) and December 2010 (110.14386), courtesy of Ralph H. Baer. These two lots of papers, related to various game developments throughout his career, were accessioned by The Strong under Activity ID numbers 10729 and 10805. Additional videotapes were donated by Mark Baer as a gift of the Ralph Baer Trust in honor of Ralph and Dena Baer in April 2020 under Object ID 119.2591 (Activity ID 13872)..

Related Materials

The Archives Center of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. also houses a collection of papers from Baer. Researchers can access the Guide to the Ralph H. Baer Papers, 1943-2015 via the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives.

Revision Note

This document was updated to denote the passing of Ralph H. Baer in 2014 and the addition of related materials in 2020. A/V materials were also added in January 2022.

Processed by

Julia Novakovic, April 2013; orig. finding aid completed in May 2013.


Finding Aid to the Ralph H. Baer Papers, 1968-2010
Julia Novakovic
30 April 2013
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.423.1886 (Fax)