Before Atari, This Black Man invented The First Game Console With Changeable Cartridges
Gerald Lawson is the name behind the first video game console that housed its own microprocessor and offered changeable cartridge capability.
The Fairchild Channel F was launched in November 1976, Gerald Lawson was the lead developer in the development and production of the console.
In 1974, Lawrence Haskel worked for Alpex Computer Corporation, he developed a home game console prototype alongside his colleague Wallace Kirschner. The system comprised a simple unit that housed an Intel 8080 microprocessor and changeable circuit boards with ROM chips that connected to the base unit.
Gerald Lawson was a lead engineer at Fairchild at the time. Lawson was tasked with developing the prototype alongside industrial designer Nick Talesfore and mechanical engineer Ron Smith. Notable modifications were made to the system such as the replacement of the 8080 processor. A new, more advanced processor was installed, the Fairchild F8 CPU. The system revolutionized home gaming however, it never gained high-level prominence like Atari or Sega at the time.
Lawson was born on December 1, 1940, in Brooklyn, New York. He developed a keen interest in electronics in his early years. One of the toys that inspired Lawson was the Irish Mail toy car, a complex mechanical car that most children at the time found difficult to operate. Lawson learned to operate the car as well as many other electrical toys and gadgets at that time.
He began fixing electrical items and making walkie-talkies in his teens. He also managed and owned a radio station in Jamaica, Queens in the 1940s.
Lawson attended Queens College and the City College of New York, he also worked at Grumman Aircraft, PRD Electronics, and Kaiser Electronics. He eventually acquired a role in Silicon Valley. Lawson admitted that his race did present some obstacles as he was one of few black engineers of his era but he made it work, and his results and ideas spoke volumes, which meant that he was offered many opportunities in his field. Eventually commanding respect as a lead developer and engineer in the gaming industry.
Lawson might have had to overcome some obstacles as a black engineer however, his strong work ethic, determination, and dedication to his craft meant that he gained recognition and respect in his field.
In 2011, he received an honorary award from the International Game Developers Association to recognize his contribution to the development of gaming technology.
On April 9, 2011, at age 70, Lawson passed away from diabetes-related complications. He will always be remembered as a genius and pioneer of gaming technology modernization.
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