Late video game engineer Jerry Lawson transformed at-home gaming in the ’70s, but his work was mostly forgotten — until now.
When at-home video game consoles were first introduced, they had one game apiece wired into the actual hardware. Then, engineer Jerry Lawson invented a console with interchangeable gaming cartridges. It was called the Channel F and it was released in 1976. Unfortunately, Lawson and the Channel F have largely been forgotten, until now.
The 2020 Netflix docuseries High Score features Lawson’s family talking about their father’s legacy and how the Channel F changed gaming forever. In the industry, Lawson is often referred to as the father of modern gaming; however, the vast majority of the population has no idea just how integral he was in the way games are played today.
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That’s because Atari released a similar console in 1977, thus eclipsing the Channel F. Now, Lawson is finally getting the recognition he deserves, including a posthumous award from the New York Videogame Critics Circle.
On Wednesday, former Nintendo of America President and current New York Videogame Critics Circle Board Member Reggie Fils-Aimé announced on Twitter that Lawson will receive an Andrew Yoon Legend Award, which Fils-Aimé received himself in 2020.
“Without the brilliance of Mr. Lawson and his cartridge innovations, we would not have had any of the great consoles we’ve had during these 60 years of storied game history,” said Fils-Aimé said in a statement. “Not the Atari consoles, not the Sega consoles, not even the Nintendo Switch, which still uses a cartridge-inspired card.”
According to the NYVGCC website, the Andrew Yoon Legend Award recognizes “people and organizations that have exhibited a significant, sustained body of work that shows exceptional artistic achievement and innovation.” Lawson’s award specifically acknowledges how he was one of few African-American engineers in gaming in the ’70s, as well as his work with the Channel F and the creation of commercial cartridges.
Jerry Lawson was a game industry pioneer who led the team that developed the interchangeable game cartridge. The #NYGameAwards will honor the “Father of Modern Gaming” posthumously with the Legend Award. Lawson’s son, Anderson, will accept the award on his father’s behalf. pic.twitter.com/ApJ5U47jla
— NYVGCC (@NYVGCC) January 6, 2021
The Andrew Yoon Legend Award is presented at the Videogame Critics Circle’s annual awards ceremony, which is usually held in person in New York City. This year, however, the ceremony will be streamed on the organization’s Twitch channel, as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Lawson’s son, Anderson, will accept the award in his father’s honor.
Four industry giants will be recognized with the Legend Award at the New York Game Awards 10th anniversary show on Jan. 26. A special tribute to Lawson and his work will be presented on Thursday, Jan. 7, at 8 p.m. ET. Watch the stream for free on Twitch or YouTube.
Interested viewers can also stream High Score on Netflix, for a more general overview of gaming history and an introduction to Lawson and the Channel F console.
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