December 08, 2014

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle:

A place to discuss the sports stories that aren't making news, share links that aren't quite front-page material, and diagram plays on your hand. Remember to count to five Mississippi before commenting in anger.

posted by huddle to general at 06:00 AM - 7 comments

The league needs to tell the Chargeros to stop wearing those yellow gloves. I thought there were flags being thrown on almost every Patriots running play.

posted by beaverboard at 12:42 PM on December 08

Ottawa Senators fire head coach Paul MacLean

posted by tommytrump at 05:35 PM on December 08

The league needs to tell the Chargeros

Oye, pinche guey, se llaman Los Cargadores.

posted by LionIndex at 08:47 PM on December 08

You might not recognize the name "Ralph Baer", but the chances are he might well have had an impact on your life. You see, Ralph Baer, who died yesterday at age 92, was the inventor of the video game. He took an idea that might have some usefulness and turned it into the multi-billion dollar video game industry of today.

I met Ralph Baer for the first time in 1969, when I was given an assignment to work in the information systems division of Sanders Associates in Nashua, NH. There we worked on systems that adapted user-interactive displays for use in defense and industrial applications. My particular system was for the data reduction system for the DC-10 flight test program at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, CA. In order to test the displays to make sure there were no empty spots (CRT displays that were raster scanned were the technology of the time. The pixel style display of today had not been invented yet.) and that the display moved evenly with the controls (keyboard commands usually, the mouse had not been invented yet, either.) a simple program had been set up. Think of 2 vertical lines, one at each side of the display, but not quite at the extremity. In the vertical center of each line is a small opening. In front of each line is a vertical bar that may be moved vertically and horizontally. There is also a bright dot that at the beginning of the test program is moving randomly. When the dot is contacted by one of the movable bars it changes direction. The dot also changes direction whenever it hits the top or bottom limit of the display area or hits the stationary vertical bar. Should the dot enter the opening in either stationary bar, the event is recorded.

If the above sounds familiar, it is the game "Pong". Needless to say that we engineers who worked in the lab were quite enthusiastic in our testing, and when we couldn't get the noontime cribbage game going, the game was the substitute. Mr. Baer really did not expect the game to turn out to what it came to be. The whole idea was to develop the interactive display into a useful tool, which we certainly did. The thing that triggered the gaming use was that Mr. Baer set up a display with controls in the patent office during the patenting process. The patent office employees couldn't resist it, so the patent was drawn broadly enough that Sanders Associates, later Lockheed-Sanders, and now BAE Systems, made money every time a video game system was sold. The intellectual copyrights ran out in the late 1990s, but they kept the company in good shape during the occasional lulls in defense procurement.

To Mr. Ralph Baer I owe a debt for the years of employment at Sanders/Lockheed/BAE Systems. Because of him, and a lot of others like him, I earned a good salary, was able to put a few bucks away, and I am now comfortably retired. The rest of you owe him a debt for letting you waste so much of your lives with the various versions of Madden, NHL, NBA, NCAA, and the rest.

posted by Howard_T at 11:47 PM on December 08

Thanks, Howard, that was pretty damned awesome.

posted by wfrazerjr at 12:09 AM on December 09

Great story Howard. Reminds me a bit of the tales of Atari optimization in Racing the Beam. Even though I ostensibly work in the same field, it's all way beyond me.

posted by yerfatma at 09:48 AM on December 09

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