Though Jerry Lawson is not a household name, his product has been bringing joy to many homes for decades. If you have ever put a cartridge or a disc into a gaming system, you have benefitted from Lawson’s work. Lawson was one of the first Black engineers in Silicon Valley in the 1970s and was self-taught, unlike most of his peers who were formally educated. He was underappreciated at the time, but he loved to tinker with computers and video games were his passion. Because he was frustrated with only being able to play a preset amount of games on a video game system, he became the first to design the portable game cartridge. Since the game was self-contained on the cartridge, this meant players could swap out cartridges and play as many games as they had access to. He then led a team at Fairchild Camera and Instrument to create the Channel F console (F stood for fun) in 1976. This was a huge step in gaming and technology in general as this plug-n-play idea continues to be relevant in today’s screen-dominated world. For this reason, he has been called “the father of modern gaming”. As his daughter said, “If everyone was going right, he’d figure out a good reason to go left. That was just him. He created his own destiny.” Lawson’s character seems to implore us to do what we love, have a little fun doing it, and challenge the status quo. We should all strive to bring joy to the world as Jerry Lawson did.
Smith, Lauren, and Emma Bowman. “Their Dad Transformed Video Games in the 1970s – and Passed on His Pioneering Spirit.” NPR, NPR, 17 Sept. 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/09/17/1037911107/jerry-lawson-video-game-fairchild-channel-f-black-engineer.