On Friday, March 4th from 12:30 to 1:30 during the 25th Annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) at the Moscone Center, the International Game Developers Association (IDGA) – Minority Special Interest Group (SIG) will honor Gerald A. Lawson(aka Jerry), creator of the world’s first cartridge-based video game system, the Fairchild Channel F. Lawson was also the sole black member of the Homebrew Computer Club, a group of early computer hobbyists which would produce a number of industrylegends, including Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The special recognition for Mr. Lawson will be held during the 7th Annual IGDA Minority SIG Social Gathering at the IGDA Booth, Lobby South Hall. “When I learned of Jerry’s existence, his story and his struggles in the early days of the video game industry I cried,” said Joseph Saulter, the Founder and Chairman of Entertainment Arts Research, Inc. and chairman of the IGDA-Diversity Committee, “I said to myself, ‘how could I, how could our African American youth and current leaders in the video game industry not know, cherish and honor this man.”
Lawson is featured in Freedom Riders of the Cutting Edge, a documentary about the early black pioneers of the computer industry produced in conjunction with the 2009 class of the 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology. He was honored along with other interviewees during the 2010 Innovation & Equity Symposium in San Francisco. They are Roy Clay Sr., chairman of Rod-L Electronics, the late Dr. Frank S. Greene Sr., both members of the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame, and the late Ron L. Jones, inventor of large format graphics.
Developed in 1976, the Fairchild Channel F was the first cartridge-based video game system and pre-dated Atari. The Channel F system pioneered the cartridge based video game console and involved early attempts at software distribution via cable television. During development of the Channel F in the early-mid 1970s, Lawson was Chief Hardware Engineer and director of engineering and marketing for Fairchild Semiconductor’s video game division. He also founded and ran Videosoft, a video game development company which made software for the Atari 2600 in the early 1980s. Lawson also produced one of the earliest arcade games, Demolition Derby, which debuted in a southern California pizzeria shortly after Pong.
The IGDA Diversity Committee is an advocacy committee that seeks to foster diversity and inclusion within the video game industry. In 2005, the Committee produced a report detailing the lack of diversity within the industry. Since that time, the IGDA has supported Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to discuss and address minority, gender, LGBT and game accessibility issues within the developer community. Throughout the GDC, many of the SIGs will host Roundtables that focus on various dimensions of diversity within the industry.
Game Developers Conference (GDC) is the world’s largest professionals-only game industry event. The GDC attracts over 18,000 attendees, and is the primary forum where programmers, artists, producers, game designers, audio professionals, business decision-makers and others involved in the development of interactive games gather to exchange ideas and shape the future of the industry.
Joseph Saulter is the visionary behind Entertainment Arts Research Inc., a leader in the Video Game Industry, chairman of the International Game Developers Association’s Diversity Advisory Board and the author of a seriesof Game Design and Development textbooks published by McGraw-Hill.