Sign up FAST! Login

The Untold Story Of The Invention Of The Game Cartridge

The Untold Story Of The Invention Of The Game Cartridge Fast Company Business Innovation

That "Lawson" was Jerry Lawson (1940-2011), an electronics whiz from Queens, New York who happened to be one of the Valley's few African-American electronics engineers. By 1975, Lawson had already extensively experimented with video games himself, having created his own video arcade game in his garage around 1973. Knowing Lawson's affinity for video games, Reyes decided that Lawson would be an appropriate engineer to spearhead a new video game project within Fairchild.

"I had a secret assignment," Lawson told me during an interview in 2009. "Even the boss that I worked for wasn't to know what I was doing. I was directly reporting to a vice president at Fairchild with a budget."

The Alpex prototype used Intel's 8080 CPU—a chip from Fairchild's competitor. Ultimately, Kirschner and Haskel, with assistance from Lawson, had to convert their prototype into a version that worked with Fairchild’s F8 chip before the company would license the technology. Lawson also worked on taming RAVEN's awkward keyboard control scheme into a fairly complicated joystick that could work with Haskel's Hockey game. An industrial designer named Nicholas Talesfore created artist's concepts for the potential game console and hand controller, adding dramatic visual impact to Landrum's presentation.

On November 26, 1975, Gene Landrum completed his report, "Business Opportunity Analysis: Alpex Video Game," for Greg Reyes. Accompanying the report was a schematic sketch of Lawson's controller prototype as well as Talesfore's initial designs for the production hand controller and game console. The project had picked up a new code name as well: "STRATOS". A portion of the write-up read: "This is an electronic video game aimed at the consumer home TV aftermarket. It is designed to eliminate the possibility of game obsolescence through the use of a 'unique' (and hopefully patentable) cartridge technique for adding additional games."

The Untold Story Of The Invention Of The Game Cartridge Fast Company Business Innovation


Stashed in: History of Tech!, Gamers!

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Cartridges were supposed to eliminate obsolescence?! Boy did that escalate quickly.

You May Also Like: