To celebrate Black History Month, Engadget is running a series of profiles honoring African-American pioneers in the world of science and technology. Today we take a look at the life and work of Jerry Lawson.
If you've got fond memories of blowing into video game cartridges, you've got Gerald "Jerry" Lawson to thank. As the head of engineering and marketing for Fairchild Semiconductor's gaming outfit in the mid-'70s, Lawson developed the first home gaming console that utilized interchangeable cartridges, the Fairchild Channel F. That system never saw the heights of popularity of consoles from Atari, Nintendo and Sega, but it was a significant step forward for the entire gaming industry. Prior to the Channel F, games like Pong were built directly into their hardware -- there was no swapping them out to play something else -- and few believed that you could even give a console a microprocessor of its own. Lawson, who passed away at 70 from diabetes complications in 2011, was the first major African-American figure in the game industry. And, just like the tech world today, it still isn't as diverse as it should be.
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