Today’s interactive game Doodle celebrates the 82nd birthday of Gerald “Jerry” Lawson, one of the fathers of modern gaming who led the team that developed the first home video gaming system with interchangeable game cartridges.
Lawson was born in Brooklyn, New York on this day in 1940. He tinkered with electronics from an early age, repairing televisions around his neighborhood and creating his own radio station using recycled parts.
He attended Queens College and City College of New York before departing early to start his career in Palo Alto, California.
At the time, the city and its surrounding region had become known as “Silicon Valley” due to the explosion of new, innovative tech companies starting up in the area.
Upon arriving in California, Lawson joined Fairchild Semiconductor as an engineering consultant. A few years later, Lawson was promoted to Director of Engineering and Marketing of Fairchild’s video game department where he led the development of the Fairchild Channel F system (the “F” stood for fun!). This was the first home video game system console that featured interchangeable game cartridges, an 8-way digital joystick and a pause menu. The Channel F paved the way for future gaming systems like the Atari, SNES, Dreamcast and more.
In 1980, Lawson left Fairchild to start his own company, VideoSoft—one of the earliest Black-owned video game development companies. The company created software for the Atari 2600, which popularized the cartridge Lawson and his team developed. Although they closed five years later, Lawson had solidified himself as a pioneer in the industry and continued to consult multiple engineering and video game companies throughout the rest of his career.
In 2011, the International Game Developers Association recognized Lawson as an industry trailblazer for his contributions to gaming. The University of Southern California also created the Gerald A. Lawson Fund to support underrepresented students who wish to pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees in game design or computer science. Lawson’s achievements are memorialized at the World Video Game Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York.
Here’s to you, Jerry!
Special thanks to Jerry Lawson’s children, Anderson and Karen Lawson, for their collaboration on this project. Below they share their thoughts on today’s Doodle and their father’s legacy.
Gerald Anderson Lawson was an engineer, always curious, critical in his thinking, and logical in how he solved problems. He challenged us to extend beyond our limits and encouraged young people to pursue careers in science and technology.
As a child in the 1940’s, he was inspired by George Washington Carver. That inspiration provided the spark that ignited his desire to pursue a career in electronics. He loved what he did and did what he loved. Considering the obvious challenges for African-Americans at the time, his professional achievements were quite remarkable.
Due to a crash in the video game market, our father’s story became a footnote in video-game history. However, over the past few years, there have been numerous awards, scholarships, and media that have recognized him. Our family is eternally grateful to those who have worked tirelessly to bring his story to the public.
Today, we celebrate what would’ve been Dad’s 82nd birthday with the world. We would like to thank Google for working with us to share our father’s story in this Doodle. May his story continue to inspire numerous young people around the globe to achieve something remarkable.
Dad, you were our provider, motivator, teacher, inventor, mentor and friend. We are incredibly proud of you and miss you. The planet knows your story and you will never be forgotten!
Happy Birthday, Pop! We love you!
Pictured: Gerald “Jerry” Lawson
Credit: The Lawson Family