Google Doodle has paid tribute to Gerald ‘Jerry’ Lawson, a pioneer in modern gaming, on his 82nd birth anniversary with an interactive game. Lawson is renowned for leading the team that developed the first home video gaming system with interchangeable game cartridges. The interactive game was designed by Davionne Gooden, Lauren Brown, and Momo Pixel, American guest artists and game designers, as per Google.
During his role as director of engineering and marketing of Fairchild’s video game department in California, his team developed the Fairchild Channel F System. It was the first video game system console to have interchangeable game cartridges, an 8-way digital joystick and a pause menu. The Channel F led to the development of future gaming systems like the Atari, SNES, Dreamcast and more.
In 1980, Lawson started VideoSoft, one of the earliest Black-owned video game development companies. VideoSoft developed the software Atari 2600, which put the cartridge created by Lawson and his team in the limelight. While the company was shut down after five years, Lawson created a deep imprint in the industry, winning accolades.
A heart-warming note was shared by Lawson’s children Anderson and Karen Lawson with Google. They also collaborated with the doodle project. “As a child in the 1940’s, he was inspired by George Washington Carver. George Washington Carver (c. 1864 – January 5, 1943) was an American agricultural scientist and inventor who promoted alternative crops to cotton and methods to prevent soil depletion. He was one of the most prominent black scientists of the early 20th century. That inspiration provided the spark that ignited his desire to pursue a career in electronics. He loved what he did and did what he loved. Considering the obvious challenges for African-Americans at the time, his professional achievements were quite remarkable,” read the note.
Lawson’s achievements are featured at the World Video Game Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York. He was honoured as an industry trailblazer by the International Game Developers Association in 2011. In addition, promoting underrepresented students to pursue studies in game design or computer science, the University of Southern California came up with the Gerald A Lawson Fund.
“Dad, you were our provider, motivator, teacher, inventor, mentor and friend. We are incredibly proud of you and miss you. The planet knows your story and you will never be forgotten! Happy Birthday, Pop! We love you!” Lawson’s children added.
Lawson was born in Brooklyn, New York City, on December 1, 1940. His father, Blanton, was a longshoreman with an interest in science, while his mother, Mannings, worked for the city, and also served on the Parents-Teachers Association for the local school. His grandfather had studied to become a physicist but, because of racial discrimination, he could not pursue a career in physics and worked instead as a postmaster.
His parents ensured he received a good education and encouraged his interests in scientific hobbies, including ham radio and chemistry. In addition, Lawson said that his first-grade teacher encouraged him on his path to be someone influential, similar to George Washington Carver.
He lived in Queens as a teenager, and he earned money by repairing television sets. At the age of 13, he gained an amateur radio license and then built his own station at home with parts from local electronic stores bought with his money. He attended both Queens College and City College of New York, but did not complete a degree at either. He died on 9th April 2011.