Gerald “Jerry” Lawson, a self-taught engineer, changed the gaming industry long before Atari, Nintendo and Sega. How? He developed the first home gaming console that used interchangeable cartridges. Lawson was a geek long before that term became popular in describing people with technical skills. This Queens, New York, native became the head of engineering and marketing for Fairchild Semiconductor’s gaming outfit in the 70s.
He was in the company of other geeks like Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and other Silicon Valley pioneers. They were all members of the Homebrew Computing Club, but Lawson was one of only two black members.
What is so unique and amazing about Lawson is that, although he attended Queens College and the City College of New York, most of what he knew about engineering he taught himself. And he was hardly the picture of a geek as a 6 foot 6 inch black man. Nevertheless, he became the first major African-American figure in the game industry.
He once told a newspaper, “The whole reason I did games was because people said, ‘You can’t do it.’ I’m one of the guys, if you tell me I can’t do something, I’ll turn around and do it.”
His Advice To Others
Lawson encouraged other black men and women interested in science and engineering to consider careers in technology, explore new avenues and new ways, and do your own thing rather than rely on others to tell you what you should be doing.
Unfortunately, he died back in April 2011, but his legacy still lives on the in video game industry!