Jerry Lawson - The Father of Modern Video Games | EarlyGame
It's Black History Month so we decided to shed some light on some famous - or not so famous - achievements of People of Colour in the gaming Industry

Jerry Lawson - The Father of Modern Video Games

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Jerry Lawson
Jerry Lawson surrounded by old computer (Credit: Museum of Play)

The home console market was booming in the ’80s with Atari, Nintendo and Sega bringing out their own gaming devices with multiple games and adventures for kids to get lost in. Games like Space Invaders, Mario and PacMan dominated the world of video games.

This was long before the computer was the gaming machine we know today. Long before huge crowds filled stadiums to watch professional gamers. This was the beginning of the video game culture we enjoy today and none of it would have come into fruition without the works of one man. Gerald "Jerry" Lawson.


Jerry Lawson was an electrical engineer who loved his work and loved to tinker and play around with anything computer related. Even at home, he had his garage filled with various gadgets and even built his own arcade game.

His passion for gaming and consoles came to the attention of his bosses and they hired him to lead a team to create the first cartridge-based gaming console.

Before then, consoles could only play a single game, the one they were designed for, but with the idea of having the games on interchangeable cartridges, it would mean that players could grow their game library exponentially.

Fairchild Channel F
The Fairchild Channel F - the first console to use a gaming cartridge (Credit: fastcompany.com)

Jerry Lawson took on the challenge.

He led the team which created the technology behind the long-forgotten Fairchild Channel F video game console. Most have never heard about this gaming device since it was eclipsed by blockbuster consoles like the Atari, but it was the first of its kind.

Lawson’s hard work revolutionized the market. It created a system wherein gaming companies would create new games on cartridges which they could then sell to players individually. Storing data of a game on a single cartridge had never been done before the Channel F.

Jerry Lawson Radio Station
Jerry Lawson at KJZZ Radio Station (Credit: Drew Verbis)

The idea and design behind the cartridge system worked so well that competitors quickly followed with their own cartridges, which overshadowed the Channel F and the strides in technology the console had taken. Atari just had more money, more reach and more games available for their use.

Due to the overwhelming popularity of the Atari, anything that had come out before was forgotten and with it, the stories behind the engineers and the workers who had created these footholds for the video game giant to work on.

Jerry Lawson should be remembered though and has been dubbed the ‘Father of Modern Gaming’ thanks to his immense work in the gaming industry. He was a pioneer, as a black man working in a field dominated by white men. His love for video games let him persist. Many do not know his story nor the steps he had to take and the obstacles he had to overcome to help grow the industry into what it is today.


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