What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

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Journeys

How a Refugee from the Nazis Became the Father of Video Games

Ralph Baer's Life Is a Classic Tale of Scrappiness and Perseverance

Molella Lead Art WIMTBA

By Arthur Molella
December 11, 2015

It’s perhaps fitting that the man recognized as the father of the video game, that quintessential American invention, was a refugee from Hitler’s Germany, whose personal story converged with America’s at a critical time in the nation’s history.

“I had the misfortune of being born in a horrendous situation,” Ralph Baer told the Computer History Museum, of his birth to Jewish parents in 1922 in southwestern Germany. When the Nazis came to power, Baer was still a young child. They …

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Artifacts

The Electric Guitar’s Long, Strange Trip

From Its Gentle 16th-Century Acoustic Origins to the Souped-Up ‘Frankenstein’

Frankenstein, Van Halen, electric guitar, Frank 2

By Monica M. Smith
February 10, 2015

I remember the first time I saw Eddie Van Halen on MTV, the way he played two hands on the fingerboard during his short “Jump” guitar solo. I loved his cool “Frankenstein” guitar, so named because he cobbled together a variety of guitar parts and decorated his creation with colored tape and paint. Even as a 13-year-old who grew up primarily listening to, and playing, classical music, I felt compelled to run out and buy his band’s “1984” LP at …

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Journeys

The Path to Mars Goes From Lebanon to Pasadena

Growing Up in the Middle East, I Loved John Wayne and Gazing at the Stars. I Came to America Believing Nothing Was Impossible.

Charles Elachi and colleagues at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

By Charles Elachi
September 22, 2014

“Only the United States could do this.” Those words were uttered by the head of a foreign space agency who was one of my VIP guests at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, on August 5, 2012, the night the long-awaited Mars Curiosity rover landed successfully on the Red Planet. I’ll never forget hearing him say those words…

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