Jerry Lawson, who is responsible for the development of the video game cartridge, died Saturday in Mt. View, California, of a heart attack. Lawson was 70 years old. He was a pioneer not just in video games but as a black engineer in an overwhelmingly white industry.
While working as an engineer for Fairchild Semiconductor in the mid-1970s, Lawson created the Fairchild Channel F video game console. That was the type that took a different software cartridge for each game.
The Reviews of Electronics credits Lawson with providing the platform that launched the independent video game developer.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, he moved out to California to join the new company Fairchild Semiconductor where he served as Chief Hardware Engineer and director of engineering and marketing. As the Village Voice notes, he was a member of the legendary Homebrew Computer Club. Other members included Apple’s Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
After Atari had taken the video gaming market, Lawson launched Videosoft, to develop games for it. In the early 1970s, Lawson had created the second ever arcade game (after Pong), Demolition Derby
He had in his later years suffered with diabetes and used a wheelchair, though he continued an active life building controls for lasers and telescopes. Last month he was, finally, honored by the International Game Developers Association.
Vintage Computing and Games has a wonderful interview with the man conducted in 2009.
He is survived by his wife, whom he married in 1965, his brother, Michael, of Queens, New York, and his daughter Karen and son Marc, both of Smyrna, Georgia.
Other sources: Wikipedia