Ralph Baer was sitting on a bench, waiting for a bus, on September 1, 1966 when an idea came to him: people should be able to use the screens on their televisions to play games. His “brown box” controller would become the original prototype for much of modern video gaming.
Baer was born in Germany and was forced to leave school at 13 because he was Jewish. His family escaped not long before the Kristallnacht rampage of Nazi riots that marked the beginning of the Holocaust. America, and the peace and calm of New Hampshire, provided them a home of refuge and safety. Baer died in his home in Manchester at the age of 92.
Now, his family has started the Ralph H. and Dena W. Baer Scholarship Fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to help students from Manchester Central High School who want to study in technology-related fields.
“This was an amazing home for him and my mom and an amazing place to grow up for us kids,” said the Baers’ son, Mark Baer. “Ralph and our mom Dena always wanted to pay it forward, and this is a great way to support the next generation of technologists.”
The scholarship was announced during the unveiling ceremony for the Ralph Baer Bench Statue and Plaza in Manchester’s Arms Park. The memorial depicts Baer, sitting on a bench, holding the now-iconic “brown box.”
“The Charitable Foundation is honored to steward the Baer family’s legacy, and to help the family provide opportunities to the next generation of innovative thinkers,” said Judy Burrows, Charitable Foundation director of student aid. The Foundation is the largest provider of publicly available scholarships in New Hampshire, awarding more than $6 million to more than 1,500 promising students each year.
Baer served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He went to college on the G.I. Bill, earning a degree in television engineering. He worked for Sanders Associates, now BAE Systems, before beginning an independent career. He held more than 150 patents, was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame, and received the National Medal of Technology.
Baer’s home workshop, prototypes, schematics and notes were donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where his workshop has been recreated and is on display. There are also displays commemorating his work at the Strong Museum in Rochester, NY and at the Millyard Museum in Manchester, NH.
Baer’s family is hoping to build the scholarship fund to help even more students. To contribute to the Ralph H. and Dena W. Baer Scholarship Fund, visit: give.nhcf.org/BaerScholarship
To learn more about applying for Charitable Foundation scholarships, visit: www.nhcf.org/scholarships
The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is New Hampshire’s statewide community foundation, founded in 1962 by and for the people of New Hampshire. The Foundation manages a growing collection of 2,000 funds created by generous individuals, families and businesses, and awards more than $40 million in grants and scholarships every year. The Foundation works with generous and visionary citizens to maximize the power of their giving, supports great work happening in our communities and leads and collaborates on high-impact initiatives. For more information, please visit www.nhcf.org or call 603-225-6641.