Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A good one for the list

There is a list I keep in the back of my mind of people who have been directly responsible for my ability to make a living and/or do things I love to do. I can't list everyone on it of course but I try to keep some of the more important ones in mind. Some of the Top 10 include names everyone has heard:

Steve Jobs
Bill Gates
George Lucas
Jack Kirby
Walt Disney

Then there's a few who are somewhat less well-known outside their fields:

Les Paul (invented the Les Paul guitar)
John Knoll (creator of Photoshop, worked for George Lucas on Star Wars)
Nolan Bushnell (founder of Atari, responsible for making Pong happen)
Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of Donkey Kong, now the Big Guy at Nintendo)

Today I learned about a new guy who needs to go up top there with Jobs and Gates and Lucas. His name is Ralph Baer, and he's the actual inventor of the video game. G4 had a GameMakers episode about him which was on this morning as I got ready for work. I'd never heard of the guy before, so I was pleased to find out about him.

I was pretty surprised to find out that he did the actual inventing in September 1966 - when I was 10 months old, sheesh, and the same WEEK that Star Trek first went on the air. I didn't realize it was that far back; I put my first quarter into a Pong cabinet in 1973, at Don's restaurant in Livingston, NJ., and I guess I assumed that the game had been invented and marketed shortly before that, and created by Nolan Bushnell. It's kind of freaky to think that I'm about the same age as the concept of the video game.

He didn't stop there, either, he also invented Simon! So classic, you can still buy the damn thing new today! (Also this excellent t-shirt.)

I like having names and faces attached to the things that I love, and to try to have a connection in some way with these people, even if it's kinda tenuous. I've been able to meet a bunch of people who worked for Walt Disney and who knew Jack Kirby, for instance, and I actually got to meet Les Paul himself and tell him in person how much I appreciated his wonderful invention (and got my Les Paul autographed, too).

I'm gonna email Ralph and say thanks. I wonder if he ever met my grandpa, who was an electrical engineer and manager at New Jersey Bell? They were both in the same business at about the same time.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! You made MTV news!!

http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1534407/20060615/index.jhtml?headlines=true

3:48 PM  
Blogger Jeff Z said...

Heh that's cool! I passed that on to our IT guy, who was the one who did the fake Paulie voice. Made his day! :)

4:17 PM  

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