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Interactive Google Doodle Game Celebrates Video Game Pioneer Jerry Lawson

Known as the "father of the video game cartridge," Lawson led the team that would create a system that paved the way for several popular video game consoles.

Jerry Lawson was a pioneer of modern gaming who, while one of the few Black men in the industry at the time, led the team that developed the first home video gaming system with interchangeable game cartridges. For his contribution during video games' early days, Lawson has been dubbed "father of the video game cartridge."

To honor the American electronics engineer's contribution to gaming, Google created a collection of interactive Doodle games to mark Lawson's 82nd birthday on Thursday. The games -- reminiscent of early video games of the 1970s -- take you on a journey through key points of Lawson's career and offer a glimpse into early games' graphics and objectives. You're also invited to create your own video game or make edits to existing ones.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on Dec. 1, 1940, Gerald "Jerry" Lawson began tinkering with electronic devices at an early age, repairing TVs and building his own radio station from parts he purchased from local electronics stores. After attending Queens College and City College of New York, Lawson moved to California and joined Silicon Valley pioneer Fairchild Semiconductor in 1970 as an applications engineering consultant.

While at Fairchild, Lawson created Demolition Derby, a coin-operated arcade game that was one of the first games to be powered by a microprocessor. In the mid-'70s, he was promoted to director of engineering and marketing of Fairchild's video game department, where he led the development of the Fairchild Channel F console. Specifically designed to use swappable game cartridges, the Channel F also featured an eight-way joystick designed by Lawson and a pause button -- a first for a video game console.

Lawson left Fairchild in 1980 to form Videosoft, a video game developer that created software for the Atari 2600, one of the popular game consoles that made use of the swappable cartridge system Lawson helped create. Though the company closed five years later, Lawson had already solidified his status as an industry pioneer and began consulting on other projects.

In 2011, the International Game Developers Association recognized Lawson an industry pioneer for his work on the game cartridge concept. A permanent display at the World Video Game Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York, also highlights Lawson's contributions to gaming.

Lawson died of complications from diabetes about a month after being honored by the IGDA.

The Doodle and games, created in collaboration with Lawson's children, were designed by guest artists and game designers: Davionne Gooden, Lauren Brown and Momo Pixel. Anderson and Karen Lawson told Google that their father was inspired by the early Black scientist George Washington Carver.

"He loved what he did and did what he loved," they said. "Considering the obvious challenges for African Americans at the time, his professional achievements were quite remarkable.

"Our family is eternally grateful to those who have worked tirelessly to bring his story to the public."

For more, watch a behind-the-scenes video on Lawson and the creation of the Doodle that honors his legacy.

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