If you’ve used Google today, you may have noticed that the Google Doodle is game-focused, shining the spotlight on Gerald (Jerry) Lawson: the father of video game cartridges.
I love a good Google Doodle, especially an interactive one. There’s no better way to take up time at work than to sneak a couple of Doodle games between searches. However, this time, in homage to Jerry Lawson, you can make your own.
Instead of one game, you are presented with five templates based on iconic retro cartridges, such as Pong and Space Invaders. From this, you can either play it in its vanilla version or add your own touch to it, adding new enemies and blocks, or changing the style.
The man behind the cartridge
Starting his career in electronics, Lawson would fix TVs to earn some extra money when he was 13 years old. Lawson was later employed by Fairchild, where he worked as Chief Hardware Engineer and created the Fairchild Channel F console and the pause button. Both creations would change the video game industry forever.
While he was at Fairchild, Lawson was one of just two Black members of the Homebrew Computer Club. This group of computer enthusiasts had a pretty impressive roster, including Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
Jerry Lawson may not be a household name, but for video game lovers, he should be. While the Fairchild Channel F console didn’t take off, its design inspired Atari, which used his cartridge approach for the Atari 2600, released in 1977. This would later popularize the use of cartridges in gaming, which made consoles a possibility after this technology quickly traveled through the market.
If it weren’t for Lawson’s commitment to convenience and love of games, we might not have the same consoles and cartridges we use today. To think that I may have missed out on the joys of stacking up all my Gameboy and Nintendo Lite game cartridges and organizing them so they would make a rainbow on my shelf sends shivers down my spine.
So next time you’re going through your dusty set of video games or hit the pause button so you can take a breather from the action and get some snacks, you should remember to thank Jerry Lawson and all he did for gaming.