Gerald “Jerry” Lawson, one of the founding fathers of modern gaming, turns 82 today, and the interactive game Doodle honours him. Lawson led the team that created the first home video gaming system with swappable game cartridges. Three American guest artists and game designers, Momo Pixel, Lauren Brown, and Davionne Gooden, are featured in The Doodle.
On this day in 1940, Lawson was born in Brooklyn, New York.From a young age, he experimented with electronics, repairing televisions in his neighborhood and starting his own radio station out of recycled materials.Before departing early to begin his career in Palo Alto, California, he attended Queens College and City College of New York.At the time, the city and the area around it were known as “Silicon Valley” because so many new and creative tech companies started there.
Lawson joined Fairchild Semiconductor as an engineering consultant as soon as he arrived in California.Lawson was elevated to the position of Director of Engineering and Marketing in Fairchild’s video game division a few years later. In this position, he was in charge of the creation of the Fairchild Channel F system, where the letter “F” stood for “fun!”This was the first home video game system console with a pause menu, an 8-way digital joystick, and interchangeable game cartridges.Future gaming systems like the Atari, SNES, Dreamcast, and others were made possible by Channel F.
One of the first Black-owned video game production companies, VideoSoft was founded by Lawson after he left Fairchild in 1980. The organisation popularised the cartridge Lawson and his team produced by developing software for the Atari 2600. Despite the fact that they were shut down five years later, Lawson had established himself as a pioneer in the field and had worked as a consultant for several engineering and video game firms for the remainder of his career.
Lawson was honoured as an industry trailblazer in 2011 by the International Game Developers Association for his contributions to gaming. The Gerald A. Lawson Fund was established by the University of Southern California to assist underrepresented students who want to pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees in computer science or game design. The World Video Game Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York honours Lawson’s achievements.
Here’s to you, Jerry!
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