Baer fled Nazi Germany in the late 1930s, when he was just a teenager, and moved to New York City with his family. He fell in love with electronics by spending hours at the New York Public Library. After serving his adopted homeland during World War II as an intelligence agent, Baer studied television engineering on the G.I. Bill and embarked on a career that made use of his obsession with tinkering. Not content to simply follow the herd, Baer was a constant innovator. As Collectors Weekly explains,
While managing a military research lab of hundreds of technicians and engineers, Baer quietly commandeered a small former library space on the fifth floor of the company’s Canal Street building, where he secretly started what he called his own “skunk works.” When the pace of business allowed, he and a couple of tech designers he had selected to assist him worked sporadically on the idea of a game console that could work on unmodified TV sets. He also did some related work in his basement lab in his home. “Little by little, we got stuff on the screen,” he remembered. “Then we started thinking about what games to play.” That included the first-ever onscreen ping-pong game.
Baer passed away in 2014 after a long and incredible life. You can read more about him—and his contribution to your gaming addiction—over at Collector's Weekly.
Feature image: Smithsonian, via Collectors Weekly