After Hours

A remembrance of Jerry Lawson, video game pioneer

Gerald "Jerry" Lawson, the inventor of the first cartridge-based consumer video game system and an early stand-up arcade machine, passed away on April 9, 2011.

Gerald "Jerry" Lawson, the father of cartridge video games, passed away on April 9, 2011. Lawson invented the Fairchild Channel F, the first cartridge-based consumer video game system, which predated Atari by a year. If things had been a little different Lawson and Fairchild Semiconductor would have been household names (well, beyond just geek households). In addition to creating the home video game cartridge, Lawson also created one of the first coin operated video games, Demolition Derby, in his garage.

Lawson was also one of the original members of the Homebrew Computer Club, along with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. If you aren't familiar with the Homebrew Computer Club, I recommend reading Steve Levy's Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution.

Until recently, Lawson's contributions to the geek world weren't very widely known. This changed in 2006 when Vintage Computing and Gaming published an interview with Lawson in which he discusses the first computer he ever used, being at the beginning of arcade games, why he thinks there are so few black people working in engineering, and more. In addition, in March 2011, Lawson was honored by the International Game Developers Association.

It has been said that we stand on the shoulders of giants -- Jerry Lawson was one of those giants. The geek community has suffered a great loss.

7 comments
tdrane
tdrane

Wikipedia has seven lines on the man, and a billion on the game..... the priorities are off a bit, IMO...........

cldean
cldean

I'd like to add something important to me; Mr. Lawson was the only African American member of the Homebrew Computer Club. His contributions belong to all, but are cherished specially to a few.

pericles1
pericles1

Is there an effort to document (video, otherwise) this geeks greatest generation. There is an old African saying, when an elder dies, a library disappears.

seanferd
seanferd

closer to the time he passed away. I'll see if I can find it.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

There should be, it would be a great aid in learning what not to do. I heard a story about after an earthquake power was going to be cut off to a damaged building until two old engineers said that wasn???t a good idea. It seems that there were three jet turbines with 50,000 gallons of JP-4 on the roof whose purpose was to generate power in the event of a power outage. These three turbines were arranged in such a way that they would start-up simultaneously and that the thrust would go straight up. The old engineers said that if any part of the mechanism was damaged by the earthquake that it could be that only one or two of the turbines would start. With only one or two operational there were fairly good odds that the turbines would produce torque and stress the already damaged building. In fact, the building could collapse and that the working turbine(s) would probably ignite the 50,000 gallons of JP-4 on the way down. If it wasn???t for these old engineers, a disaster would have been compounded.

Editor's Picks