Tag Archives: Video Games

Jews of the Week: Philips Family

Gerald and Anton Philips

Gerald Leonard Frederik Philips (1858-1942) was born in the Netherlands, the son of a wealthy Dutch-Jewish financier (who was the first cousin of Karl Marx). In 1891, inspired by the recent invention of the light bulb, he decided to open his own light bulb and electronics company. His father purchased an abandoned factory where they set up shop and started producing carbon-filament lamps under the Philips brand the following year. The company did poorly, and nearly went bankrupt before younger brother Anton Frederik Philips (1874-1951) joined the business. A great salesman, with terrific innovations of his own, Anton quickly changed the company’s fortunes. Philips got another boost during World War I, when it filled the void left by the embargo on German electronics. By the 1920s, Philips had become a large corporation, and would soon establish the model for future electronics multinationals. After making their own vacuum tubes and radios, Philips’ introduced a new type of electric razor, the wildly popular Philishave. (It was invented by lead engineer and fellow Jew Alexandre Horowitz.) During the Holocaust, the family fled to the United States and ran the business from there. One son, Frits Philips, remained behind, and spent several months in an internment camp. He would save the lives of 382 Jews that he employed in his factory, convincing the Nazis that they would assist the war effort. In 1963, Philips introduced the compact audio cassette, revolutionizing the world of music forever. They did it again less then a decade later with the first home video cassette recorder. In the 1980s, Philips developed the LaserDisc, and together with Sony, brought about the age of the CD. Similarly, in 1997 Philips and Sony developed the Blu-ray disc. Today, Philips is still the world’s largest lighting manufacturer, employing over 100,000 people, with revenues of nearly €25 billion. In 2012, Greenpeace ranked Philips first among energy companies and tenth among electronics companies for their green initiatives and commitment to sustainability. This is very much in line with Gerald and Anton Philips’ original vision. The brothers were noted philanthropists, and supported many educational and social programs in their native Netherlands.

Words of the Week

Incidentally, Europe owes the Jews no small thanks for making people think more logically and for establishing cleanlier intellectual habits – nobody more so than the Germans, who are a lamentably déraisonnable race who to this day are still in need of having their “heads washed” first. Wherever the Jews have won influence they have taught men to make finer distinctions, more rigorous inferences, and to write in a more luminous and cleanly fashion; their task was ever to bring a people “to listen to raison.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

A 1968 Philips audio cassette recorder; a Philips Magnavox video recorder; Philishave rotary razor; and an early LaserDisc player model

Jew of the Week: Ralph H. Baer

The Father of Video Game Consoles

Ralph Baer, Video Game Console Inventor

Ralph Baer, Video Game Console Inventor

If any one person can be credited with sparking the video game industry, it is Ralph Baer. Born in Germany in 1922, Baer was expelled from school at age 11 because he was Jewish. Fearing violent anti-Semitism, the Baer family fled to America before the onset of the Holocaust. Instead of going to school, Ralph worked in a factory for 12 dollars a week, but made sure to learn on his own. During World War II he served as an intelligence officer based in London, stationed in France. After returning home Baer was among only a handful of people to earn a Bachelor of Science in television engineering, and worked for several electronics companies (including IBM) before joining Sanders Associates, a defense contractor which builds electronics for the military. It was there that Ralph Baer began developing a gaming system in 1966. The prototype was complete by 1968, and in 1972 was released by Magnavox as the first ever home video game console, known as the Odyssey.

Magnavox Odyssey

Magnavox Odyssey

Shortly after, Baer also developed the first peripheral device to a video game console, the famous ‘light gun’. This gun technology has been used in some of the most popular video games ever since. Today, video games make up an incredible $25 billlion industry, with nearly 70% of all households owning consoles. Baer continued to develop electronic games (he invented the popular handheld memory game Simon) and home consoles until retiring in 1987. He was recently inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and has received, among many other awards, the National Medal of Technology for his “groundbreaking and pioneering creation, development and commercialization of interactive video games.”

Update: Sadly, Ralph Baer passed away on December 6, 2014.

Words of the Week

Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.
– George Carlin