Gerald A Lawson
Gerald Anderson "Jerry" Lawson (December 1, 1940 – April 9, 2011) was an American electronic engineer known for his work in designing the Fairchild Channel F video game console. Fairchild released the Fairchild Video Entertainment System (VES) in 1976. While there had been previous game consoles that used cartridges, either the cartridges had no information and served the same function as flipping switches (the Odyssey) or the console itself was empty (Coleco Telstar) and the cartridge contained all of the game components. The VES, however, contained a programmable microprocessor so its cartridges only needed a single ROM chip to store microprocessor instructions. Thus propelling the iconic video game cartridge we are familiar with today.
During development of the Channel F in the early-mid 1970s, Lawson was Chief Hardware Engineer and director of engineering and marketing for Fairchild Semiconductor's video game division. He also founded and ran Videosoft, a video game development company which made software for the Atari 2600 in the early 1980s, as the Atari 2600 had displaced the Channel F as the top system in the market. RCA and Atari soon released their own cartridge-based consoles, the RCA Studio II and the Atari 2600 (originally branded as the Atari Video Computer System), respectively.
Lawson along with Ron Jones were the sole black members of the Homebrew Computer Club, a group of early computer hobbyists which would produce a number of industry legends, including Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Lawson also produced one of the earliest arcade games, Demolition Derby, which debuted in a southern California pizzeria shortly after Pong. Lawson later worked with the Stanford mentor program and was preparing to write a book on his career.
In March 2011, Lawson was honored as an industry pioneer by the International Game Developers Association. One month later, he died of complications from diabetes. At the time of his death, he resided in Santa Clara, California.