Jerry Lawson, an electronic engineer who lived from 1940-2011. This man is responsible for the very first video game console ever, the Fairchild Channel F. The development of the console took place in the early and mid 1970s at Fairchild Semiconductor, where Jerry was the Chief Hardware Engineer and the director of engineering and marketing for the company’s video game division. He and Ron Jones were the sole black members of the Homebrew Computer Club, a group of hobbyists which included Apple Founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (in a 2009 interview, he said he wasn’t impressed with either man). He was the founder of Videosoft, a development company that made software for the Atari 2600. He created a coin-operated arcade game with a microprocessor, Demolition Derby, working out of his garage. He also did ham radio for over fifty years!
The Fairchild Channel F was the first programmable ROM cartridge-based console AND the first console to use a microprocessor. The cartridge was hugely important, because it allowed for playing multiple games on a single system. It launched in November 1976 for $169.95. Twenty-seven games (then called Videocarts) were released for the console during its lifespan. You can read even more about the console on its wiki page, here.
Lawson once said, “The whole reason I did games was because people said, ‘You can’t do it.’ I’m one of the guys if you tell me I can’t do something, I’ll turn around and do it.” He was heavily influenced by celebrated black scientist George Washington Carver, and kept working even after losing vision in one eye and having one of his legs amputated below the knee due to diabetes complications. In 2011, he was honored for his contributions by the International Game Developers Association. He loved working, discovering, and creating, and I hope more people come to know Jerry and what he did for the entire video game industry.