Google doodle celebrates video game pioneer Gerald Lawson's birthday
You most likely have not heard of Gerald Anderson Lawson, but there is a high chance he has impacted your life! Especially so, if you've grown up playing video games. Today's Google doodle celebrates his 82nd birthday with a doodle designed by Davionne Gooden, Lauren Brown, and Momo Pixel. Read on to know about this incredible personality who helped shape your childhood.
Who is Gerald Lawson?
Lawson was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 1, 1940. He was a gaming pioneer and one of the few Black engineers working in the tech industry in the 1970s. Lawson is famously known for leading a team of engineers that developed and released the first interchangeable video game cartridges. Before that, gaming consoles came pre-loaded with a fixed number of games.
Lawson’s childhood inventions
Lawson had a love for electronics and invention from a very young age. At the age of 13, he built his own radio station in his room, with an antenna hanging out of his window. As a teenager, Lawson used to earn his living by fixing TVs around his neighborhood. He also made walkie-talkies and sold them to other kids.
Lawson’s early career
In 1970, he joined Fairchild Semiconductor as an applications engineering consultant. A few years later, he was promoted to director of engineering and marketing of Fairchild's video game department. There he spearheaded a team that created Fairchild Channel F, the first home video gaming console with replaceable cartridges. This pioneering system served as a model for future systems like SNES, Dreamcast, and Atari.
Later, he launched his own company
Lawson departed from Fairchild in the 1980s to start his own business - VideoSoft. His company was one of the earliest game companies owned by an African-American individual. VideoSoft made the software for Atari 2600, through which the interchangeable cartridge became popular. His company lasted only for five years and he went on to be a consultant for game companies throughout his career.
Awards and accolades
Though invention came early, his recognition followed quite later in his life. Lawson was honored as an industry pioneer for his work on the game cartridge concept in 2011 by the International Game Developers Association. In 2019, he was posthumously honored with the ID@Xbox Gaming Heroes award at the 21st Independent Games Festival for heading the development of the first cartridge-based game console.
Lawson died at 70
Lawson started to develop complications from diabetes around the year 2003. He lost mobility in one leg and sight in one eye. On April 9, 2011, about one month after being honored by the IGDA, he died of complications from diabetes. He is survived by his wife, brother, and two children. At the time of his death, he resided in Santa Clara, California.