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The Brown Box, 1967–68

Patent holder:
Baer, Ralph H.
Inventor:
Baer, Ralph H.
Maker:
Baer, Ralph H.
Physical Description:
aluminum (overall material)
vinyl (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 4 1/4 in x 16 in x 12 1/2 in; 10.795 cm x 40.64 cm x 31.75 cm
Object Name:
video game system
Date made:
1967-1968
Subject:
Computers & Business Machines
Family & Social Life
Popular Entertainment
Baer
Related Publication:
Baer, Ralph H.. Videogames: In The Beginning
Credit Line:
Ralph H. Baer
ID Number:
2006.0102.04
Catalog number:
2006.0102.04
Accession number:
2006.0102
Description:
This machine paved the way for the video games of today.
In 1967, Ralph Baer and his colleagues at Sanders Associates, Inc. developed a prototype for the first multiplayer, multiprogram video game system. Since Sanders hoped to license the technology for a commercial venture, Baer understood that the games had to be fun or investors and consumers would not be interested. In an oral history interview (copies available in the Archives Center[hyperlink] at the National Museum of American History), Ralph Baer recalled, “The minute we played ping-pong, we knew we had a product. Before that we weren’t too sure.”
Originally called TV Game Unit #7, much like the "Pump Unit"[hyperlink] before it, it became far better known by its nickname, “The Brown Box.” The name comes from the brown wood-grain, self-adhesive vinyl used to make the prototype look more attractive to potential investors. The "Brown Box," though only a prototype, had basic features that most video games consoles still have today: two controls and a multigame program system.
The "Brown Box" could be programmed to play a variety of games by flipping the switches along the front of the unit, as can be seen in the picture. Program cards[hyperlink] were used to show which switches needed to be set for specific games. "Brown Box" games included ping-pong, checkers, four different sports games, target shooting with the use of a lightgun[hyperlink] and a golf putting game, which required the use of a special attachment[hyperlink]. Sanders licensed the "Brown Box" to Magnavox, which released the system as the Magnavox Odyssey[hyperlink] in 1972.
Location:
Currently not on view
See more items in:
Medicine and Science: Computers
Baer
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
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