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.

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