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Baer: As Technology Advances, 'We're Taking Everything For Granted'

As "creator of the very first video game console", Ralph Baer is one of the industry's greatest cultural icons -- and he says that today's tech creators fail to
As creator of the very first video game console, 1972's Magnavox Odyssey, Ralph Baer is one of the industry's greatest cultural icons. Today's game industry bears very little resemblance to the climate in which Baer built his creations, but the veteran still remembers where he came from. "When it takes $10 million to do a video game and a group of 75 to 100 people with all kinds of different qualifications -- guys that do sound, guys who do the graphics, guys who do nothing but worry about shadows or clouds -- it's a production like a movie today," he says. "There's no comparison with what I was doing." Baer is speaking first in a series of previously-unpublished interviews conducted by Tristan Donovan in 2009 for his recent book Replay: The History of Video Games that will be published on Gamasutra in the coming weeks. "Today if your company doesn't make a million, a billion dollars worth of business they're a non-entity. When we were in business in the '60s and '70s, if you were doing a million dollars it was a big deal. This is a totally different world," Baer adds. But Baer, also creator of the 1980s UFO-shaped Simon toy-game with the colored lights, says he's been learning too: "The choice of games I design nowadays aren't the same as I did in the Simon days. But when you look at progress, you've got to remember that everything in video games follows the development of semiconductor technology." Baer reflects on his early days of programming on an Apple with 16K of memory and another 16K on a plug-in card. "That was a big deal. That was utterly fantastic. People have no sense of where we are today in respect of where the world was 50 years ago. It's a totally different world." "You may think that you can appreciate the difference. Mentally you can appreciate it, but you really can't," he adds. "When I grew up they were still delivering milk in milk bottles, in glass bottles with a horse and wagon. Forty, 50 years later they're putting a guy on the moon... But there's no sense, no feeling for that -- we're taking everything for granted." The full Baer interview is now available on Gamasutra.

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