The Story Behind The Console That Changed Everything

Published 08/21/2020, 10:10 AM EDT


The console industry has come a long way since its inception. When you think of the start of the journey, you think of the revolutionary cartridge-based consoles from Atari. But what if we told you there is some unknown story behind that generation of consoles? A story forgotten by many but cherished closely by others.

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The brain behind a generation of console

In 1976, African-American Jerry Lawson invented interchangeable cartridges that changed the video game industry forever.

At the time, Lawson was the only African-American in this space. Back then, the situation was quite different in the country and Lawson worked in an industry that did not employ too many from his community. However, something was different with Lawson; he was obsessed with electronics and computers.

Karen and Anderson Lawson, Jerry Lawson’s kids, were part of a documentary where they shared their father’s story.

“My father was an electronic engineer. He loved his work. He was consumed by it, really. The garage was almost like a mission control. Monitors surrounding him, equipment that was up against the walls,” Karen said.

Lawson worked on a project out in his garage where he built an arcade game just because it was fun. Lawson’s boss noticed his work and brought him in to work on the technology for their new video game console. Lawson worked for Fairchild Semiconductor.

In the 1970’s, he was promoted to the gaming division and made the Director of Engineering. His mission was to create a video game console with interchangeable gaming cartridges. this was far from an easy task.

There is power in having the games programmed onto individual cartridges. It puts you into a place where you can actually have multiple games for your console. Your library can grow exponentially,” Anderson Lawson said.

Lawson successfully led the team and created what he had set out to do. He revolutionalized how games were manufactured and played. The console, named Fairchild Channel F, was the first one to use cartridges. Safe to say, it brought about a sweeping change in the industry.

Legacy not forgotten

Soon after that, competitors started making their own versions, which is when things took a sharp turn.

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Atari stepped into the competition and brought in what was perhaps the best cartridge-based console of the time. Unfortunately, Jerry Lawson’s success story was forgotten in the process.

Anderson feels that there are many like his dad out there. And that is true. Taking history into account, there have been countless instances of consequent events burying the original success stories and Jerry Lawson is a prime example of it.

“The fact that the channel f is not known by many people is a little bit sad, but I’m willing to bet that there are probably others just like my dad, right? No one knows their name,” Anderson said.

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The world did not give Lawson the recognition he deserved but his story has a place in the hearts of many. He died in 2011, however, his legacy continues to live on.

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Hrithik Unnikrishnan

493 articles

Hrithik Unnikrishnan is an eSports and WWE author at EssentiallySports since April 2020. A journalism undergraduate with experience in creative design, Hrithik has a profound love for everything competitive. He grew up watching WWE and playing various titles like Call of Duty, FIFA, and Hitman.

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