Black History Month: How Jerry Lawson Revolutionized Gaming

Black History Month is for raising awareness about issues affecting the black community and celebrating the achievements of black people. Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Nelson Mandela, and Morgan Freeman, among others, are universally known in their fields. Video games also have a black man to thank for revolutionizing the gaming industry: Jerry Lawson. While not as well known as the people mentioned before, Lawson has had an impact on gaming that continues to the present.

Jerry Lawson was born in 1940 in New York City, and his own teachers encouraged him to be someone like George Washington Carver (a black scientist and inventor who people mistakenly believe invented peanut butter, although he did make numerous contributions to the advancement of agriculture). Lawson got an early start to his career, earning an amateur ham radio license at the age of 13. Lawson also showed his aptitude for technology, earning money by repairing television sets. Lawson also created his own radio station in his room.

Lawson joined Fairchild Semiconductor in San Francisco in 1970 and created the arcade game Demolition Derby in his own garage in 1975, possibly also making him the first black man to develop his own video game. He also recalled interviewing (but not hiring) Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak for a position at Fairchild. Along with Ron Jones, he was only one of two black members of the Homebrew Computer Club, a computer hobbyist group located in Menlo Park, California that met from 1975 to 1986. The group’s membership also included Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

Lawson was eventually promoted to Chief Hardware Engineer at Fairchild, as well as the director of engineering and marketing for the company’s video game division. Lawson led the development of the Fairchild Channel F, which was also the first video game console to feature swappable video game cartridges. Previously, games were built into the hardware. This also made Lawson the inventor of the video game cartridge. The Fairchild Channel F also had other revolutionary features: a pause button and an 8-way joystick. While it was not commercially successful, it would lay the foundation for the wildly popular Atari 2600.

Lawson left Fairchild in 1980 and founded Videosoft to produce games for the Atari 2600, but the company was one of the many casualties of the video game crash of 1983, folding in 1985. Lawson eventually went into consulting work until his death in 2011. So whenever you play a video game, just remember Jerry Lawson helped make it all possible.

Fry’s Electronics: An Obituary (1985-2021)

Like a certain iconic electronic music duo that also disbanded this week, Fry’s Electronics is no more. For me, that is a big deal. Fry’s Electronics was one of the biggest electronics stores that I frequented growing up. There were TVs, computers, video games, mobile phones, appliances, tools, toys, books, software, hardware, and in some locations, restaurants. At one point, one could spend hours in Fry’s looking at the massive selection of products they had to offer. Before you headed to the checkout line, there was also a huge selection of snacks for your gaming sessions, including organic sour gummy worms and some extremely rare snacks that I still can only find online (looking at you, Mauna Loa Kona Coffee Glazed Macadamia Nuts).

When Fry’s chose to close up shop on February 24, 2021, this put an end to an electronics retailer that offered far more than just products—they offered services such as PC building, audio installation, the list goes on and on. The very first parts that would end up in my PC came from Fry’s Electronics. It was also an excellent place to find the latest video games. Even the tiniest electronic parts could be found at Fry’s, like those little transistors that go in some circuit board for some project. Another thing that caught customers’ eyes were the thematic stores. The location in Palo Alto, California was Wild West-themed, while the location in Sacramento was Gold Rush-themed. One of my favorites, the original Sunnyvale location, detailed the history of Silicon Valley, while the Las Vegas location (where I live now) was Las Vegas Strip-themed (obviously).

While there is no doubt that Fry’s has had a reputation among customers as being empty shells of their former selves in more ways than one even before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is an institution that has fostered my interest in consumer electronics that led me to build my first PC a decade ago. From the early 2000s to the mid-2010s, I frequented Fry’s at least once a month (if not more frequently) with my family and friends. While the writing was on the wall in the late 2010s, it took a global pandemic to put the final nail in the coffin of Fry’s Electronics.

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On their website, Fry’s said: “After nearly 36 years in business as the one-stop-shop and online resource for high-tech professionals across nine states and 31 stores, Fry’s Electronics, Inc. (“Fry’s” or “Company”), has made the difficult decision to shut down its operations and close its business permanently as a result of changes in the retail industry and the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Company will implement the shut down through an orderly wind down process that it believes will be in the best interests of the Company, its creditors, and other stakeholders. The Company ceased regular operations and began the wind-down process on February 24, 2021. It is hoped that undertaking the wind-down through this orderly process will reduce costs, avoid additional liabilities, minimize the impact on our customers, vendors, landlords and associates, and maximize the value of the Company’s assets for its creditors and other stakeholders.”

It’s been a great run, and may all their employees land on their feet and find something new as soon as possible.

World of Warcraft News: Patch 9.1, Burning Crusade Classic leaked

Ahead of this weekend’s virtual BlizzCon event, a Blizzard employee mistakenly posted PR information about World of Warcraft that discussed both Patch 9.1 and The Burning Crusade Classic. The leak was immediately posted to the MMOChampion forums. BlizzCon is being held virtually from February 19-20, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and is free of charge.

Patch 9.1

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While not much about Patch 9.1 has been set in stone yet, there will be a new 10-boss raid, the Sanctum of Domination, as well as a new eight-boss mega-dungeon, Tazavesh, the Veiled Market. In addition, there will also be a new zone, Korthia, the City of Secrets. The new PvP season will be released with 9.1 in addition to the next Mythic+ season.

There will also be additions to the covenants, such as upgrades to soulbinds and (possibly) new conduits. You can also fly in the Shadowlands in 9.1, although it is not clear what achievements will be needed to unlock flying. Flying will be similar to Legion with players only being able to fly in the four original Shadowlands zones of Revendreth, Maldraxxus, Bastion, and Ardenweald.

It is not yet known when 9.1 will release, but several reports have speculated a late May to early June release due to the amount of content involved.

The Burning Crusade Classic

While this was a matter of when and not if, The Burning Crusade Classic was also leaked. While all features of The Burning Crusade return (along with being free to play for World of Warcraft subscribers), there is also an option to advance characters straight to The Burning Crusade or opt to remain in WoW Classic. This is an interesting addition and may spark some debates in the community.

We’re looking forward to more information during BlizzCon Online this weekend. Stay tuned for more news about Blizzard games in the upcoming days!

Kingdom Hearts

Kingdom Hearts coming to PC on March 30

One of Square ENIX’s best-selling series, Kingdom Hearts, is coming to PC on March 30. The Kingdom Hearts collection will be available on the Epic Games Store. This ends nearly 20 years of console exclusivity for the franchise. The first Kingdom Hearts game came out in 2002, Kingdom Hearts II came out in 2005, and Kingdom Hearts III came out in 2019 after being in development for over a decade. In between, there were lots of spin-off games in the franchise which can also be found on PC.

Epic Games announced the release of the Kingdom Hearts series on PC in a tweet. “The iconic @KINGDOMHEARTS series is coming to PC for the first time ever on March 30th!” they said. “Are you ready to join Sora and friends in their battle against the darkness? Pre-order all the titles in the @KINGDOMHEARTS series starting today!”

Epic Games has announced that the following games are coming out for PC at $49.99 for Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix:

  • Kingdom Hearts Final Mix
  • Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories
  • Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (HD remastered cinematics)
  • Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix
  • Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix
  • Kingdom Hearts Re:coded (HD remastered cinematics)

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue includes the following at $59.99:

  • Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD
  • Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A fragmentary passage –
  • Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover (movie)

Kingdom Hearts III and Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory will be both $59.99 on PC.

Kingdom Hearts

Square ENIX has not yet confirmed whether or not this will remain an Epic Games exclusive or if it will be released on Steam in the future. Fans were hopeful for a Steam release in the future in response to the announcement. Are you buying these games (again) on PC? Are you excited to see this franchise hit the PC? Let us know in the comments below!

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 Remaster Coming September 4, 2020

Skateboards out this September.

It’s time to get back on the skateboard—Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is coming to the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on September 4, 2020. Today also happens to be skateboarding legend Tony Hawk’s birthday. Original publisher Activision and developer Vicarious Visions (who also did the Crash Bandicoot remasters) are working on the project.

The last game in the series, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, came out in 2015. The licensing deal between Tony Hawk and Activision was set to expire at the end of the year, and fans were disappointed in the game. There were rumors of a remaster of the series in 2019, and today, the remaster has been officially announced.

“Thanks to all the fans of our series for keeping this dream alive,” Hawk said on Twitter. The original cast from the games will be returning. Skateboarding fans will recognize faces such as Steve Caballero, Geoff Rowley, Bucky Lasek, Elissa Steamer, Kareem Campbell, Andrew Reynolds, Bob Burnquist, Eric Koston, Rodney Mullen, Jamie Thomas, Rune Glifberg, and Chad Muska.

The 4K resolution graphics aren’t the only new thing coming to this remaster.

While everyone would love to skate their favorite levels in 4K resolution, you can also do tricks like wall plants, reverts, and lip tricks. The game is also known for its iconic soundtrack, but due to licensing issues, some of the tracks from both games will not be available in the remastered version.

You can even create your own skater and your own skatepark, and even share those parks with your friends online. The game will be available on September 4, 2020, for $39.99. You can purchase the digital deluxe edition for $49.99, or even get the collector’s edition for $99.99, which includes a full-sized Birdhouse deck autographed by Tony Hawk himself.

What do you think about the remaster of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater? Are you ready to get on the sticks and start grinding and kickflipping your way to skateboarding supremacy? Let us know in the comments below.