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Google Doodle Honors Engineer Jerry Lawson’s Gaming Legacy


Whether you’re an avid PlayStation fan, a Nintendo Wii kid from the 2000s, or millions of other home consoles, Gerald “Jerry” is the spirit behind the first home. “I have to thank Lawson. A video game system with replaceable game cartridges.

Lawson was born on December 1, 1940, and to celebrate his 82nd birthday, Google created an interactive home page Doodle (and a short documentary). This allows users to simultaneously learn and build Lawson’s legacy.

The playable doodle begins with Lawson’s brief history lesson. It features his 8-bit representation of an electronic engineer traveling through the world of classic retro video games. After completing the basics, players can join the fun and become a game engineer themselves. After completing the tutorial, the player unlocks a menu featuring five different customizable games for him. Select your favorite, click “Edit” and join the fun.

Doodle was designed by guest artists and game designers Davionne Gooden, Lauren Brown, and Momo Pixel.

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Over 50 years ago, Lawson changed gaming history. After moving from Brooklyn, New York to Silicon Valley, California, he joined Fairchild Semiconductor, an electronics company that manufactures transistors and integrated circuits. As director of engineering and marketing for the company’s video games division, Lawson directed the development of Fairchild’s Channel F system. It’s the first home video game system his console with replaceable game cartridges, an 8-way digital his joystick, and a pause menu, Google explained in an honorary blog post. The progress of Lawson’s team inspired the building of giants such as Atari, Super His Famicom (SNES) and Dreamcast.

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Lawson was not only a pioneer in game technology, but also a pioneer in representing diversity in the gaming industry, launching VideoSoft, one of the earliest black-owned video game development companies in 1980. VideoSoft later built software for his Atari 2600, popularizing Lawson’s cartridge design.

The Atari 2600 video game console was released in 1977 and became popular in 1980 with the launch of the home version of “Space Invaders.” Credit: Neil Godwin / GamesMaster Magazine via Getty Images

Lawson’s family, who worked with Google on the project, wrote that it took years for the gaming legend to be properly recognized. “As a child in the 1940s, he was inspired by George Washington Carver, an inspiration that provided the spark that ignited his desire to pursue a career in electronics. “He loved what he did and did what he loved. Given the obvious challenges of Africa – for an American at the time, his professional achievements were quite remarkable,” the family said. “The crash of the video game market has made our father’s story a footnote in video game history.”

Luckily, Lawson’s legacy is slowly coming into the spotlight. After his death in 2011, Lawson was officially recognized by the International Game Developers Association, inducting him into the World Video Games Hall of Fame, honoring him for his contributions to the gaming and computer science minority groups. Several scholarships and funds have been created.

Now, on his 82nd birthday, millions of Google users can search and play in his honor.




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