Tag Archives: Engineering

Jew of the Week: Rube Goldberg

Rube Goldberg Machine

Rube Goldberg

Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg (1883-1970) was born in San Francisco and began drawing at age 4. He was obsessed with the art, but discouraged by his parents who sent him to study engineering. After earning $100 per month designing sewer systems, Goldberg realized it wasn’t what he wanted to do in life, so he quit to pursue his dream. He earned $8 per week drawing for the San Francisco Chronicle, most of which was thrown out and never used. Mainly, his job was sweeping floors and filing morgue photos. But Goldberg persisted, and was soon discovered when editors found that issues with his drawings sold more copies. Shortly after, Goldberg became a household name with his nationally syndicated comics like Mike & Ike, Lala Palooza and Sideshow. He was now earning $100,000 per year! During World War II, Goldberg drew infamous and controversial political cartoons. Though such cartoons would later earn him the Pulitzer Prize, he was forced to change his children’s last names. Inspired by the tech boom, Goldberg started designing various contraptions and inventions. He realized that people always do things the hard way, and to spoof this, drew cartoons of incredibly complex machines performing the simplest tasks, “a symbol of man’s capacity for exerting maximum effort to achieve minimal results.” These beloved, world-famous contraptions would be known as ‘Rube Goldberg Machines’. Goldberg was also a sculptor, author and screenwriter, and the first cartoonist whose work was featured at the Smithsonian Institute. The international Reuben Award for best cartoonists is named after him.

Words of the Week

The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.
– Plato

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