Most people get their gaming now through disks or digital downloads on systems like the iPad, or online stores for the PS3 and X-Box 360. Yet, if you’re as old or older then I am (22) then you’ve used a game cartridge. Those shaped pieces of plastic that held what was then considered top of the line programs. The oldschool days of Atari, Nintendo and Sega wouldn’t have been possible without Jerry Lawson (pictured left), the engineer that lead the Fairchild Channel F development team. Without his input in the creation of cartridges, the system of gaming he created wouldn’t be around today. Sadly, the man considered by many as important as the invention he created passed away this pass weekend.
Gerald A. Lawson (1940-2011)
Lawson was notable not only for being a rare African American electronic engineer in Silicon Valley, but also for leading the team that created the the Fairchild Channel F. Which hit the market in August 1976. It was the world’s first ROM cartridge-based video game console, a pioneer of it’s time. In an interview with the Mercury News earlier this year Lawson was asked why he made video games:
“The whole reason I did games was because people said, ‘You can’t do it,… “I’m one of the guys, if you tell me I can’t do something, I’ll turn around and do it.”
The IGDA honored Lawson’s contributions to his industry during an informal session at this year’s Game Developer’s Conference on March 4th, 2011. Lawson passed away this weekend at the age of 70 due to unknown circumstances, but Jerry did struggle with severe diabetes for years which may have been a factor. A true pioneer of his time he laid the stepping stones of what turned into the gaming of today. Without his contribution to the industry back in 1976 we might not be spending our weekends playing games with friends around the world.
Thank you sir for changing the playing field, evolving the way games were transported and sold but most importantly for being a man that genuinely cared about what he did. You will be missed by many and forgotten by none, thank you.