Jerry Lawson: The Godfather of Video Games
Are you a fan of video games? Then you have Gerald “Jerry” Lawson to thank for all the hours of entertainment you've enjoyed over the years. Lawson was an African-American engineer, inventor, and pioneer in the field of video game technology.
Lawson was born in New York City in 1940 and from a young age, he was fascinated with technology and electronics. He started working in the field of video game technology in the 1970s, when video games were still in their infancy. He was the founder and chief engineer of Fairchild Semiconductor's video game division, where he led the development of the Fairchild Channel F, the first video game console that used interchangeable game cartridges.
The Fairchild Channel F was a game-changer. Before it, video games were played on arcade machines or on home consoles with built-in games that could not be changed. The Fairchild Channel F allowed players to swap out games, just like we do today with modern video game consoles. It was a huge success, and it paved the way for the video game revolution that we know today.
Jerry Lawson's contributions to the world of video games didn't stop there. He also led the development of the first microprocessor-based arcade game, Demolition Derby, and he was a member of the team that developed the Atari 2600, one of the most successful home video game consoles of all time.
Unfortunately, Jerry Lawson's contributions to the field of video game technology were not widely recognized during his lifetime. His name is not as well-known as some of his contemporaries, but his legacy lives on. He has been honored posthumously by organizations such as the International Game Developers Association, and his work continues to shape the video game industry to this day.
Lawson died on April 10, 2011 in Santa Clara, California.
Next time you sit down to play your favorite video game, remember the name Jerry Lawson, the engineer behind the video game revolution. He was a pioneer in the field of video game technology and his contributions continue to shape the industry to this day.
Video Game Decade Match Game
- Video Game console worksheet (included)
- Decade match worksheet (included)
Tape or Glue
What can you spy with your engineering eye? Who’s ready to learn about video game consoles through the decades? Let’s go!
- Cut out the video game consoles from the provided worksheet.
- Arrange the video games consoled in the columns based on the decade that they were released.
- Once arranged tape or glue the consoles to the sheet.
- Lookup the release date of each system and see how many you got right.
- Invite the children to walk through the timeline, discussing the different games & gaming systems and how they have evolved over time.
- How many of these video game systems used cartridges?
- Discuss how none of these games or systems would exist if Jerry Lawson had not created the Fairchild Channel F, the first video game console that used interchangeable game cartridges.
This activity not only teaches children about the history of video games but also allows them to use their research and creative skills.
You can also include interactive elements like a quiz, a scavenger hunt where they have to match the games with the right era.