As Black History month comes to an end in the UK, we wanted to take a moment to give credit to a brilliant black innovator who gave so much to the gaming world that we love and promote the safe use of.
Jerry Lawson: the father of the video game cartridge
Jerry Lawson was the black American electronic engineer who revolutionised gaming and helped make it what it is today, but most of us gamers don’t even know his name.
Born in Brooklyn, USA in 1940, Lawson was the first engineer to create interchangeable gaming cartridges that allowed users to buy and play the games that they wanted to, going beyond what was pre-programmed into the console.
Whilst it seems like a simple action for many of us to switch discs from one game we love to another, before Lawson you were limited to what was loaded onto your console.
Imagine being stuck only being able to play Pong over and over again…
The Atari 2600 is often wrongly remembered as the first console to allow users to change and play different games through eternal cartridges. However, Lawson’s Fairchild Channel F came first. Lawson developed the new technology with Aplex, which also featured the creation of a gaming 8-way joystick and a ‘pause’ button, both firsts for the gaming world at the time.
Whilst the Channel F console was not commercially successful the technology that powered its innovative cartridge-style play was later used for the Atari 2600 in 1977.
Lawson’s accomplishments have gone largely unrecognised, yet the legacy he has left on the gaming industry is immense. Next time you go to change your game, whether you’re swapping a disc or simply choosing a different app, think about the largely forgotten black man that first made these transitions possible.
Jerry Lawson was honoured in 2019 with the Xbox Gaming Heroes award for leading the development of the first cartridge-based game console.
Find out more about UK Black History month on the official website.