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Home » Retrogaming, Technology

Jerry Lawson, video game pioneer, dies at 70

By: 12 April 2011 3 Comments

Gerald A. “Jerry” Lawson died on April 9 at the age of 70-years-old in Santa Clara, Calif.

Who was Lawson? Let’s put it this way — if you’ve played and enjoyed a video game in the past four decades, you likely owe him at least a small “thank you” for his work in that field. Yes, Lawson led the team that developed the Fairchild Channel F console, which was released in 1976 and was the first system on the market that used cartridges. We all know what happened next — the Atari VCS (later the Atari 2600) followed in 1977 and effectively established the home video gaming industry as a major commercial force.

Ah, but the Fairchild Channel F was first and that machine inspired the folks at Atari. Prior to the system Lawson’s team developed, the world was stuck with those Pong-type systems that typically featured only monochromatic graphics and contained a limited number of games that couldn’t be changed.

The Channel F changed all of that — simply plug in a new cartridge and you had, effectively, a whole new system. While the Channel F never realized the runaway success of the Atari 2600, it was the first of its kind in the field and we still use changeable ROMs in our video game systems. We don’t use cartridges so much these days (unless you’ve got a Nintendo Gameboy or won’t get rid of your old systems for anything), the idea is still the same — throw in a new DVD-ROM and you’ve got, effectively, a new system. You can thank Lawson in large part for that innovation.

You can read an excellent interview with Lawson here. Take a minute or two and do just that, huh?

About: Ethan C. Nobles:
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email =

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