This is a really fascinating article. Very highly recommended. [LINK]
Thirty-seven years ago, New York-based APF Electronics, Inc. released The Imagination Machine, a hybrid video game console and personal computer designed to make a consumer’s first experience with computing as painless and inexpensive as possible.
APF’s playful computer (and its game console, the MP1000) never rivaled the impact of products from Apple or Atari, but they remain historically important because of the man who cocreated them: Ed Smith, one of the first African-American electronics engineers in the video game industry. During a time when black Americans struggled for social justice, Manhattan-based APF hired Smith to design the core element of its future electronics business.
What it took to get there, for both APF and Smith, is a story worth recounting—and one that, until now, has never been told in full.
I wasn’t aware the APF MP-1000 was designed by an African-American engineer. I knew the first cartridge-based machine, the Fairchild Channel F was (before podcasts I used to have old episode of Retrogaming Radio and Jerry Lawson’s interview from an early CGE, he was a great speaker and storyteller). It seems like these guys don’t grasp the importance their contribution had to the industry until decades later. It seems like, at the time Ed and Jerry were working on their consoles, it was all about solving problems and making the devices work, like hardcore engineers do things. At least Jerry received notoriety for his achievements before passing away in 2011.
I’d love to find an MP-1000, but I’ve never seen one outside of photographs online. A now defunct retro game store in Valley View Mall in Dallas (where they filmed some of Logan’s Run at!) had two cartridges in their counter, those are the only APF items I’ve ever come across outside of Pong clones.