Gerald “Jerry” Lawson , Video Game Pioneer

For Black History Month we are honoring Gerald “Jerry” Lawson

Gerald “Jerry” Lawson, video game pioneer created the first home video game system with interchangeable game cartridges. Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1940, Lawson at an early age took an interest in scientific hobbies. As early as high school he was repairing television sets for extra money before being coming a video game pioneer.

In the 70’s, Lawson was an engineering consultant at Fairchild Semiconductor in San Francisco. At that time he created the arcade game Demolition Derby. He soon became Chief Hardware Engineer which is where he led the development of Fairchild Channel F console. This design was for swappable game cartridges. His team learned how to move the ROM storage so it can be inserted and removed from a console unit.

 Before Lawson’s invention you were only able to different games by removing their cartridges and playing the games that were already built into the machines. Lawson made it possible for players to play a variety of games at home by using the removable cartridges.

The Channel F was not commercially successful, but the cartridge was picked up by console manufacturers.

Lawson along with Ron Jones the only two black members of the Homebrew Computer Club. This club is a group of early computer hobbyists which produced many industry legends including Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

In the 80’s Lawson founded Videosoft, a video game development company which made software for Atari 2600. After he closed Videosoft he started to take on consulting work.

In 2011, Lawson was honored by the International Game Developers Association for his innovative work for being a video game poineer. Unfortunately, he passed away the same year. �

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