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Jerry Changed the Game

How Engineer Jerry Lawson Revolutionized

Video Games Forever



Simon and Schuster

(Paula Wiseman Books)

(pub.8.29.2023) 40 pages

Author: Don Tate

Illustrator: Cherise Harris

Character: Jerry Lawson


" Before Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo Switch, there was a tinkerer named Jerry Lawson. As a boy, Jerry loved playing with springs, sprockets, and gadget-y things. When he grew up, Jerry became an engineer—a professional tinkerer—and in the 1970s, he turned his technical know-how to video games.

Back then, if players wanted a new video game, they had to buy an entire new console, making gaming very expensive. Jerry was determined to fix this problem, and despite roadblocks along the way and having to repeat a level or two, it was never game over for his mission. Eventually, he leveled up and built a brand-new kind of video game console: one that allowed players to switch out cartridges! He also founded Video Soft, Inc., the first African American–owned video game company in the country."

Tantalizing taste:

" After a few more calculations and measurements, he whipped out a pair of scissors and ... clip! He shortened the cord of the joystick controller by two inches. This game-changing idea reduced the noise and fixed the problem!


And something more: I'm always interested in what inspired authors of picture book biographies to choose their subject. Don Tate, in the Author's Note, explains that "One day a librarian I follow on Twitter, Elizabeth Bird, suggested someone ought to write about Jerry Lawson. I started researching that same day. I was intrigued with the subject because, as a kid, I was both an ardent tinkerer myself and a player of early video games. I'd never heard of Jerry Lawson."


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