Blog:RIP Jerry Lawson
Engineer Gerald Anderson "Jerry" Lawson died Saturday, April 9. He was 70.
Lawson and his team at Fairchild Semiconductor were responsible for creating the first game system to use programmable ROM cartridges, the Video Entertainment System, later known as the Channel F.
Before the Channel F was a coin-operated game called Demolition Derby, designed in Lawson's garage through his company Microcon. The goal was to show what microprocessors, still new at the time, could do. When Fairchild management found out about the game, they had Lawson do something for them. Demolition Derby never made it into production.
When Atari sued Activision over trade secrets, Lawson was brought in by Activision's legal staff to reverse engineer the 2600 system and write a manual. With this manual, he was able to start Video Soft, a publisher and contract developer of 2600 products.
Six previously unreleased Video Soft 2600 games were made available for sale in early 2011. All profits will now go to Lawson's family.
In March, Lawson was honored for his contributions to the video game industry during the 7th Annual IGDA Minority Special Interest Group Social Gathering at GDC 2011.
A memorial celebration will be held on May 19. More details are available here.
For more on Lawson's life story, please read his 2009 interview with Vintage Computing and Gaming. Also listen to his interview with RetroGaming Radio from Classic Gaming Expo 2005.
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