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Gerald A. (“Jerry”) Lawson papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 113.5713
The Gerald A. (“Jerry”) Lawson papers contain materials from 1967 through 1994, with the bulk of the papers dated between 1976 and 1985. Items in this collection include correspondence, business records, design documents, court records, published game console/cartridge instructions, creative writing, news articles, a copy of a patent for a hand-held game controller, and an oversized schematic drawing. Additional scope and content information can be found under the “Contents List” section of this finding aid.

The Gerald A. (“Jerry”) Lawson papers are arranged into three series. The collection is housed in two archival document boxes and one oversized flat folder.

Dates

  • 1967 - 1994
  • Majority of material found within 1976 - 1985

Creator

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Though the donor has not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, he has given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.

Extent

1 Linear Feet

Abstract

The Gerald A. (“Jerry”) Lawson papers are a compilation of design documents, correspondence, business records, court records, and other papers relating to Lawson’s career in the video game industry. The bulk of the materials are dated between 1976 and 1985.

Biographical Note

Gerald A. (“Jerry”) Lawson was an African-American engineer and video game pioneer, best known for developing the first video game console system featuring interchangeable cartridges: the Fairchild Channel F.

Lawson was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1940. He grew up in Queens, pursuing a variety of scientific interests. As a teenager during the 1950s, Lawson repaired televisions and radios while maintaining an amateur radio station out of his home. He attended Queens College and the City College of New York before starting his career at ITT’s Federal Electric division. Lawson’s interest in computers intensified as he accepted positions at Grumman Aircraft, PRD Electronics, and Kaiser. In 1970, Lawson started working for Fairchild, which produced semi-conductors, microprocessors, and other transistor and circuitry equipment. The management at Fairchild asked Lawson to create a video game console prototype for the company after discovering that he constructed his own coin-operated game called Demolition Derby.

He utilized the Fairchild F8 processor in the base console and developed a mechanism which allowed for the insertion of separate memory devices (or game cartridges) without destroying the console’s semiconductors. Lawson built what eventually came to the retail market in 1976 as the Fairchild Channel F (originally called the Fairchild Video Entertainment System), the first home video game system to use separate programmable cartridges for each game.

Lawson founded Video Soft, Inc. in 1980, with Stephen Yueng and Daniel McElroy. They worked as consultants and created game cartridges for the Atari 2600 and other game systems. He later acted as a mentor to students at Stanford University. In March 2011, the International Game Developers Association honored Lawson for his innovative work in engineering and video gaming. He passed away in April 2011, in Mountain View, California.

System of Arrangement

Series I: Personal papers, 1967-1994

Series II: Fairchild, 1972-1993

Series III: Video Soft, Inc. and consulting, 1982-1987

Custodial History

The Gerald A. (“Jerry”) Lawson papers were donated to The Strong in October 2013 as a gift from Marc Anderson Lawson, son of Jerry Lawson. The documents were accessioned by The Strong under Object ID 113.5713.

Creator

Title
Finding Aid to the Gerald A. ("Jerry") Lawson Papers
Status
completed
Author
Julia Novakovic
Date
12 December 2013
Description rules
dacs

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

Contact:
The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.263.2700
585.423.1886 (Fax)