Happy Black History Month and as a gamer I have to send a mad shout out to the man who made my life what it is today. Gerald A. Lawson, a largely self-taught engineer who became a pioneer in electronic video entertainment, creating the first home video game system with interchangeable game cartridges. That is right. The PS4, Xbox One and Wii-U would of been nothing if it wasn’t for this man.
In the 1970’s he was an engineer at the Fairchild Semiconductor company that introduced to the market the cartridge base system that we all love and use today. Growing up he was a very determined young man. His father was into science books and his mom being in the PTA for an all white school was the solid foundation to propel him to what he had a passion for. In an interview he spoke about his first grade teacher that showed him a picture of George Washington Carver and she spoke a word over his life. She told this young black man this could be you. Just like that he aimed high in life. He wanted to be a scientist or someone to achieve something great.
Gerald A. Lawson started at Fairchild in Silicon Valley as a design consultant. While he was there he invented an early coin-operated arcade game, Demolition Derby. Along with other Silicon Valley innovators, he belonged to a hobbyists’ group known as the Homebrew Computer Club. Two of its other members were Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, later the founders of Apple.
After inventing Demolition Derby, Mr. Lawson was put in charge of the company’s video game division. He and his team came up with cartridges that could be loaded with different game programs and then inserted into the console one at a time. This allowed the company to sell individual games separately from the console itself, a business model that remains the cornerstone of the video game industry.
So whenever you buy a game disc think of Gerald. When you think about the days of your youth blowing into your NES cartridge think of Gerald. Without this pioneer we would probably be lugging around a huge computer system. In this time and age we need to aspire for greatness. Hopefully this generation won’t die from brain rot. The media isn’t giving us anything to look forward to.