Game console pioneer Jerry Lawson dies at 70

Gerald A. "Jerry" Lawson is one of the great unknown pioneers of the video game industry. He passed away this past Saturday morning of unspecified causes, according to an announcement on Digital Press.

Lawson will be remembered as the engineer of the first cartridge-based game console (with a pause option!), the Fairchild Channel F, which launched in August 1976 as the Video Entertainment System (VES). He was also the only black member of the legendary Homebrew Computer Club, formed in Silicon Valley in the mid-70s.

In the early 1980s he founded and ran Videosoft, which developed a handful of games for the Atari 2600. Additionally, Lawson's Demolition Derby was one of the first coin-op arcade machines, produced in his garage in the early '70s and installed in a southern California pizzeria shortly after Pong debuted. One of its key design features prevented players from stealing "free" games by jiggling the coin switch.

Just last month, Lawson was honored during the 7th Annual IGDA Minority Special Interest Group Social Gathering at GDC. Shortly before the event, he was profiled by the San Jose Mercury News. More about his life is revealed in a 2009 interview with Vintage Computing and Gaming.

[Photo credit: Maria J Avila Lopez/Mercury News]