The Inventor of Video Game ROM cartridges dies at 70

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 7 years ago '10        #1
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DurtySoufReppin 76 heat pts76
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The Inventor of Video Game ROM cartridges dies at 70
 

 

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Gerald “Jerry” Lawson, creator of the first cartridge-based videogame console, died Saturday morning in a Mountain View, California, hospital, Wired.com has learned. Lawson was 70.

As an engineer at Fairchild Semiconductor, Lawson designed the electronics of the Fairchild Video Entertainment System, later renamed the Channel F, in 1976.

Predating the release of Atari’s Video Computer System by a year, the Channel F was the first videogame machine that used interchangeable game cartridges, which Fairchild sold separately. Previous game machines like Atari’s Pong and the Magnavox Odyssey had all their games built into the hardware. Lawson’s pioneering design set the standard for the game consoles of today.

“Jerry was an amazing personality,” said family friend David Erhart, who broke the news of Lawson’s death Monday on the Digital Press website. “He created part of the videogame industry history in Silicon Valley and it was always a pleasure to hear his stories about back in the day.”

Much of Lawson’s background is discussed in a wide-ranging interview he gave Vintage Computing and Gaming in 2009.

A lifelong engineer and tinkerer, Lawson was born in 1940 and grew up in a federal housing project in Queens, New York. As a kid, he operated a ham radio; as a teenager he earned money by repairing his neighbors’ television sets.



In the 1970s, living and working in Silicon Valley, he joined the Homebrew Computer Club, a group of early hackers that included Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

Lawson’s contributions to videogames began with Demolition Derby, a coin-operated arcade machine that he created in his garage while working at Fairchild.

“Fairchild found out about it — in fact, it was a big controversy that I had done that. And then, very quietly, they asked me if I wanted to do it for them,” Lawson said in the Vintage Computing interview.

Although similar machines were in development at Atari and RCA at the time, the console Lawson’s team built for Fairchild was the first cartridge-based gaming system that came to market. Although it seems simple now, making the technology work wasn’t easy.

“There was a mechanism that allowed you to put the cartridges in without destroying the semiconductors…. We were afraid — we didn’t have statistics on multiple insertion and what it would do, and how we would do it, because it wasn’t done. I mean, think about it: Nobody had the capability of plugging in memory devices in mass quantity like in a consumer product. Nobody.”

Only 26 cartridges were ever released for Channel F, all simple games like Blackjack, Space War and Bowling. When Atari released its cartridge-based system, Channel F was quickly rendered obsolete. Years later, Lawson started his own company, Videosoft, to produce Atari 2600 cartridges, but only released one, a technician’s tool called Color Bar Generator.

Last month, the International Game Developers a.ssociation honored Lawson’s pioneering efforts at Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

‘His workbench had more tools than most people would even know what to do with.’“The whole reason I did games was because people said, ‘You can’t do it,’” he told the San Jose Mercury News last month. “I’m one of the guys, if you tell me I can’t do something, I’ll turn around and do it.”

In later years, Lawson had suffered the severe effects of diabetes. He lost sight in one eye and lost one of his legs to the disease, leaving him confined to a wheelchair. On Wednesday, not feeling well, he was admitted into El Camino Hospital Mountain View.

“He continued building devices to control telescopes, lasers, tools, etc. up until the day he went to the hospital,” said friend Erhart. “His workbench had more tools than most people would even know what to do with. He taught me quite a bit and I’ll miss him sorely.”

At 6:15 a.m. Saturday, Lawson died after apparently suffering a heart attack. He is survived by his wife, son and daughter. The family is planning a memorial service in mid-May.

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 Jerry Lawson, Inventor of Modern Game Console, Dies at 70 | GameLife | Wired.com


a black man invented console gaming.. I never knew this:agreement6:

He was straight out the projects and became an innovator..

This dude should be getting much more respect around the world...

R.I.P.


Last edited by Da Ill One; 04-12-2011 at 06:07 PM..

77 comments for "The Inventor of Video Game ROM cartridges dies at 70"

 7 years ago '05        #2
RNOTY 53 heat pts53
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dope ish!
 04-12-2011, 08:14 AM         #3
Yelsgnik 
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Damn he was black..

I never knew this, didn't hear about him during black history month..
 7 years ago '07        #4
dionedre3000 
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R.i.p. Should get way more respect and recognition.
 7 years ago '05        #5
RNOTY 53 heat pts53
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 Yelsgnik said:
Damn he was black..

I never knew this, didn't hear about him during black history month..
lol, no bullsh*t. would've made black history month more interesting.

thats how the school systems need to sucker the youth in who don't want to read or anything, let em know a black guy is the reason they playing xbox360 or ps3 and then u give em some other dope a.ss literature to read.
 7 years ago '09        #6
K0ntrast 64 heat pts64
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RIP to the best inventor ever
 04-12-2011, 08:33 AM         #7
WorldsStrangest 
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the fu*k, how come i did not know this???

maaaannnnnnnn. finna start a race war in here in a minute this is complete bullsh*t
 7 years ago '04        #8
MochaWhitey 10 heat pts10
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Thank you based Jerry!
 7 years ago '10        #9
DurtySoufReppin 76 heat pts76 OP
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 WorldsStrangest said:
the fu*k, how come i did not know this???

maaaannnnnnnn. finna start a race war in here in a minute this is complete bullsh*t
lol word....

I feel like Xbox Live & PSN should have some type of ticker or something on his death to show respect...
 7 years ago '05        #10
RNOTY 53 heat pts53
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 DurtySoufReppin said:
lol word....

I feel like Xbox Live & PSN should have some type of ticker or something on his death to show respect...
they dont give a fu*k, as long as they continue to get our money thats all they worry about.
 7 years ago '06        #11
LYTE 126 heat pts126
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i didnt know
im also not surprised either.
as i clicked the link, a black person crossed my mind.
also invented the lotto.
 7 years ago '06        #12
lmnop 122 heat pts122
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Damn, i never knew this! that's fu*ked up how the media waits til his death to even mention dude!!
 7 years ago '04        #13
Krypt 3 heat pts
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Rest In...


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Peace!
 7 years ago '05        #14
Bea5T 137 heat pts137
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I've never heard anyone say "a White guy" or "Asian guy" invented consoles either

take that sh*t elsewhere


RIP though
 04-12-2011, 12:20 PM         #15
LaRy BLanco 
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time out.... a black man invented the first game console???

this is big news I did not know this damn, R.I.P.
 7 years ago '10        #16
DurtySoufReppin 76 heat pts76 OP
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 SlimTrip said:
Rip but you all sound desperate with that race sh*t. Asians made gaming what it is anyway
 7 years ago '10        #17
DurtySoufReppin 76 heat pts76 OP
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 Bea5T said:
I've never heard anyone say "a White guy" or "Asian guy" invented consoles either

take that sh*t elsewhere


RIP though
gtfoh.. how bout u take your terrible a.ss grammar elsewhere
 7 years ago '05        #18
RNOTY 53 heat pts53
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 DurtySoufReppin said:
gtfoh.. how bout u take your terrible a.ss grammar elsewhere
irony much?
 7 years ago '05        #19
NomiS 2 heat pts
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 Yelsgnik said:
Damn he was black..

I never knew this, didn't hear about him during black history month..
seems like the nig who invented peanut butter was more interesting
 7 years ago '05        #20
Bea5T 137 heat pts137
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 DurtySoufReppin said:
gtfoh.. how bout u take your terrible a.ss grammar elsewhere
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