Game over for the inventor of modern consoles, Jerry Lawson

The man credited with creating the first cartridge-based video game console has died. Gerald “Jerry” Lawson was 70.

While he was an engineer at Fairchild Semiconductor, Lawson designed the electronics of the Fairchild Video Entertainment System. It later got the name Channel F, in 1976.

His invention predated the release of Atari’s Video Computer System by a year and was the first videogame machine that used interchangeable game cartridges.

Atari’s Pong and the Magnavox Odyssey which appeared earlier had games built into the hardware. It was Lawson’s design which influenced the modern console.

Born in 1940, Lawson grew up in a federal housing project in New York. He ran a ham radio and as a teenager he earned money by repairing his neighbours’ tellies.

In the 1970s he joined the Homebrew Computer Club, which was the group that gave the world Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

He developed an arcade game called Demolition Derby in his garage while working at Fairchild.

Fairchild was miffed when it found out, but later asked him if he wanted to do it for them.

Lawson’s team built the first cartridge-based gaming system that came to market. When interviewed about it later, Fairchild said that no one knew what would happen if you tried multiple insertion of semiconductors.

No one had tried plugging in memory devices in mass quantity like in a consumer product.

There were only 26 games released for Channel F and they were things like Blackjack, Space War and Bowling. Atari’s cartridge-based system made the Channel F obsolete.