Jerry Lawson (1940-2011)

April 11th, 2011 by Benj Edwards

Jerry Lawson creator of Fairchild Channel F and Black Video Game PioneerIn Memoriam: Gerald A. Lawson (1940-2011), black video game pioneer.

I am very saddened to announce the passing of a truly important figure in the history of video games. Jerry Lawson died Saturday morning, April 9th, 2011, at the age of 70.

Lawson was notable not only for being a rare African American electronic engineer in Silicon Valley, but also for leading the team that created the world's first ROM cartridge-based video game console. I speak, of course, of the Fairchild Channel F, which hit the market in August 1976.

Lawson did an interview for this site in 2009, and I am proud to say that the feature brought this amazing man some long overdue recognition. The IGDA honored Lawson's contributions to the industry during an informal session at this year's Game Developer's Conference on March 4th, 2011.

I heard the news of Lawson's death only this afternoon from David Erhart, a personal friend of Lawson. Erhart tells me that he and Lawson were planning to go to a ham radio swap meet Saturday morning, but he received a call from Jerry's wife on Friday night telling him that Lawson was in the ICU. The next morning, his wife phoned Erhart again to say that Lawson had died.

The cause of death is unknown to me at the moment, but I do know that Lawson struggled with severe diabetes for years. An obituary for Jerry is in the works, and I will post an update whenever I receive it (or a link to it).

Rest in peace, Jerry. Thank you for all you've done for us. History will not forget your name.

[Update (04/14/2011) - David Erhart was told by Lawson's family that Lawson died of a heart attack. "He was feeling bad Wednesday afternoon/night as was taken to the hospital," Erhart wrote in an email. "He then died at 6:15am Saturday morning." This New York Times obituary quotes Lawson's wife as saying that Lawson died from "complications of diabetes."]



7 Responses to “Jerry Lawson (1940-2011)”

  1. XCALIBR8 Says:

    RIP Jerry. A very important man who will be remembered.

  2. t3hfr3ak Says:

    RIP Jerry. You're work has done much good for us.

  3. JackSoar Says:

    I am sorry to hear that. I remember reading your interview with him, and it was very illuminating.

  4. JayT Says:

    Rest well, good sir. Your work has and will continue to be greatly appreciated, as well it should.

  5. Andrew Fisher Says:

    Retro Gamer issue 88 carries a feature on the Fairchild - consider it a tribute to Jerry

  6. arlandi Says:

    You will be remembered as a pioneer, Mr Lawson. Always.

  7. James Peyton Says:

    More videos of the man, from 2005:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyvYbXgsECI JerryLawson 2005

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yieTTQ_-zXw Jerry Lawson 2005 CGE Keynote

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFNyca7ppJk Jerry Lawson 2005 CGE Keynote Part 2

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMiGQZxg_AM Jerry Lawson 2005 CGE Keynote Part 3

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