U.S. President George W. Bush has announced the recipients of the 2004 National Medal of Technology awards, which "honors individuals who embody the spirit of American innovation and who have advanced the Nation's global competitiveness", and video game pioneer and Magnavox Odyssey inventor Ralph Bear is one of this year's honorees.
The award, which is America's highest honor for science and technology, goes to those who "have helped commercialize new technologies, create jobs, improve American productivity, and stimulate the Nation's economic growth and development", and was established by Congress in 1980.
Baer was working on ideas for using a TV set to play games as early as 1966, and invented a fully functional 'ping-pong' style electronic game in 1968. The Magnavox Odyssey version of this game inspired Nolan Bushnell to create Pong
, and Baer eventually licensed the 'ping-pong' patent to Atari and other companies to allow them to continue making Pong
. Baer then continued working with Coleco on its Telstar technology, and worked on the popular handheld electronic game Simon
, as well as holding over fifty U.S. patents on game-related innovations.
Previous honorees of the National Medal of Technology have included Segway inventor Dean Kamen, Dolby Labs founder Ray M. Dolby, 'father of the Internet' Vint Cerf, and Microsoft's Bill Gates. More information about the award is available on the National Medal of Technology website