How Video Games Invaded The Home TV Set – Chapter 13

Hard Times In The Defense Electronics Business

In the late 1960s and early seventies, the defense electronics industry began to contract drastically as congress progressively reduced spending on military electronic system. At the worst part of that decline in business, Sanders Associates went from close to 10,000 employees to barely more than 4,500. It was a traumatic time for everyone involved in defense electronics. Needless to say, there were a lot of depressed characters at Sanders during those years … the walking wounded. I was one of them.

I quit the equipment design division and left it to be run by one of my department managers. I then ran the Flexprint operation for a year where we made sophisticated multi layer printed circuit boards. Switched to become the chief engineer of our Electreo Optics division.

With all of these changes, my mood didn’t improve substantially. While in this blue funk, I decided to have a long delayed, minor operation done: My main objective was simply getting away from the daily grind for awhile … the hard way to do that!

The operation was routine, the recovery slow, painful but uneventful. While I was still in the hospital, I had a visit from several Sanders co-workers, including Lou Etlinger, our corporate director of patents. First off, they presented me with an enlarged photocopy of the first $100,000 check from Magnavox … our first TV game license income! This was a welcome piece of tangible evidence of success. Our long struggle to get the TV game business to show some return on investment was starting to pay off.

Miraculously, my depression evaporated – instantly – as if someone had flipped a switch, never to bother me again … which tells you something about the root cause of long lasting depressions.

In addition to the copy of that check, the guys gave me two volumes of reprints of a an article taken from newspapers across the nation. Most of them had stories about Ralph Baer, the father of video games, and showed my mug and a TV screen displaying those three magic blips and the line down the middle … ping-pong. That sure lifted my mood.

Now we are into April of 1972.

Odyssey Makes Its Entrance!

Edit Page