Video Game Innovator Dies at 70

By

Perhaps you’ve never once heard the name Gerald A. Lawson, but if you play video games, then you know his technology.

Mr. Lawson, an innovator in the gaming industry, passed away at the age of 70 over the weekend. Gerald – or Jerry as he is known – paved the way for modern video games. A self-taught engineer, Mr. Lawson was the one who changed the way gamers gamed.

As an employee at Fairchild Semiconductor, Lawson pioneered the Channel F, the first video game console that used interchangeable cartridges. The technology, which predates the Atari system by a year, set the standard for how games are played today.

“Jerry was an amazing personality,” said family friend David Erhart, who broke the news of Lawson’s death Monday on the Digital Press website. “He created part of the videogame industry history in Silicon Valley and it was always a pleasure to hear his stories about back in the day.”

Lawson started his tenure with Fairchild when the company launched “freelance engineering.”

“They wanted somebody to be able to go around and help customers with designs. I was available, and they knew I was an apps guy,” said Lawson in an interview with Vintage Computing, 2009

Lawson said that he actually found most modern games appalling.

“They're all scenario games considered with shooting somebody and killing somebody. To me, a game should be something like a skill you should develop — if you play this game, you walk away with something of value. That's what a game is to me.”

For him, it’s not about being able to program how a car should look or infinite details of games. It’s how the game itself is programmed, and many games leave little for the imagination.

“We're taking away from children's imaginations. Video games today — they don't even want to see anything unless the graphics are completely high-toned, right?”

Despite what Lawson might feel about gaming today, he is the man we should all be thanking as we sit in our rooms, controllers in hand, fighting the good fight, whether it’s set in a non-existent medieval world or a modern day urban city.

“I remember one time I was in Las Vegas, walking down the strip. A black kid came up to me and said, "Are you Jerry Lawson?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "Thanks." And shook my hand and walked on past me. And I thought I may have inspired him,” recalled Lawson.

Speaking about Mr. Lawson in an interview, Pong’s creator Allan Alcorn said, “He’s absolutely a pioneer. When you do something for the first time, there is nothing to copy.”

Lawson is also one of the founders Videosoft, a software developer that produced games for the Atari 2600 in the early 1980s. Atari then grew more popular than the Fairchild Channel F. Lawson received an award from the International Game Developers Association on the development of innovation.


Michelle Amodio is a TechZone360 contributor. She has helped promote companies and groups in all industries, from technology to banking to professional roller derby. She holds a bachelor's degree in Writing from Endicott College and currently works in marketing, journalism, and public relations as a freelancer.

Edited by Rich Steeves

TechZone360 Contributor

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Related Articles

Coding and Invention Made Fun

By: Special Guest    10/12/2018

SAM is a series of kits that integrates hardware and software with the Internet. Combining wireless building blocks composed of sensors and actors con…

Read More

Facebook Marketplace Now Leverages AI

By: Paula Bernier    10/3/2018

Artificial intelligence is changing the way businesses interact with customers. Facebook's announcement this week is just another example of how this …

Read More

Oct. 17 Webinar to Address Apache Spark Benefits, Tools

By: Paula Bernier    10/2/2018

In the upcoming webinar "Apache Spark: The New Enterprise Backbone for ETL, Batch and Real-time Streaming," industry experts will offer details on clo…

Read More

It's Black and White: Cybercriminals Are Spending 10x More Than Enterprises to Control, Disrupt and Steal

By: Cynthia S. Artin    9/26/2018

In a stunning new report by Carbon Black, "Hacking, Escalating Attacks and The Role of Threat Hunting" the company revealed that 92% of UK companies s…

Read More

6 Challenges of 5G, and the 9 Pillars of Assurance Strategy

By: Special Guest    9/17/2018

To make 5G possible, everything will change. The 5G network will involve new antennas and chipsets, new architectures, new KPIs, new vendors, cloud di…

Read More