MANCHESTER — If your kid is using a video console to play a video game, you can thank Ralph Baer.
The late Manchester inventor who helped develop the world’s first video game console was honored Friday with a statue at Arms Park.
“They owe a debt of gratitude to Ralph Baer when playing Fortnite or a game on their phone,” Jon-Paul Dyson, an executive with The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y., said following the ceremony.
A statue unveiled Friday shows the inventor sitting on a bench holding the “Brown Box” he helped develop that became a prototype for the first video game console.
Speakers, including officials from the Smithsonian, remembered Baer’s work with video games and creating the Simon electronic memory game. Baer died in 2014 at age 92.
Baer, who held more than 150 patents, made several visits to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where his workshop went on display in its innovation wing. Baer also talked to kids, who saw examples of his work.
“He was a rock star to these kids,” said Arthur Molella, the founding director of the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.
A Los Angeles company, Metal Fabrication and Art, produced the 260-pound bronze statue, which was attached to an 8-foot bench purchased locally, according to John Clayton, executive director of the Manchester Historic Association, which served as the fiscal agent for the non-profit venture.
Baer worked at Sanders Associates, now BAE Systems, in Nashua from 1956 to 1987.
At his Canal Street office in Nashua, “he and a dedicated team of engineers began to investigate how to play video games on a television,” said John Kelly, director of the empower innovation at BAE Systems.
“Little did anyone know that this invention would help pave the way for the multi-billion dollar gaming industry that we see today,” Kelly told a crowd packed under a white tent by the Merrimack River.
Baer was a role model for employees as well.
“Ralph has truly influenced millions of people through his work,” Kelly said.
About $65,000 was raised for the statue, with money remaining for its upkeep.
Clayton called Baer “a true pioneer and creator of a technology that has changed the world in which we live.”
Mark Baer said his father “had that ability to combine technical prowess with artistic work.”
Dyson, whose museum received Baer’s papers and notes on inventions that researchers from around the world come to review, said a combination of creativity, tenacity and camaraderie fueled the recipe for Baer’s success.
“He had this gift for finding new ways of looking at things, but that was matched by a second thing that I think was really important, which was his tenacity,” Dyson said.
“He had this gift of bringing the best out of people whether they were colleagues whom he was working on an invention with or it was friends,” Dyson said.
As for parents’ feelings about video games, Dyson said afterward: “That’s an individual parent’s decision to credit Ralph or blame him.”
The Baer family established The Ralph H. and Dena W. Baer Scholarship Fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to benefit students from Manchester Central High School pursuing studies in technology-related fields. The fund will make its first awards in 2020.
Gifts can be made to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.