When it comes to recognising the people who have change the technology world, it’s easy to go to the usual suspects: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs etc.

However, sprinkled all throughout history are many black technology pioneers and innovators responsible the technology we use every day.

This Black History Month, we take a look at 10 black technology pioneers who have helped shape the technology landscape for the better.

Gerald A. Lawson

Gerald A. Lawson

If you’ve ever played a Playstation, Xbox or any other games console, you have Gerald A. Lawson to thank for that.

Lawson created the first console that used interchangeable cartridges allowing gamers to play a variety of games and developers a way to earn more through selling individual games

Mark Dean

Mark Dean

Thought to be one of technology’s greatest innovators, in 1981 Mark Dean helped design the IBM personal computer.

During his time at IBM Dean helped design hardware that allows computers to connect to printers, monitors and more devices. He became the first ever African American to join IBM Fellow, the highest honour one can achieve at the company.

Dr. Gladys West

Gladys West

If you’ve ever used GPS (which of course we all have), you have Dr Gladys West to thank. Her mathematical model accurately represented the shape of the Earth making GPS possible.

It wasn’t until 2018 that she would be recognised for the hugely important work she did.

Marc Hannah

Marc Hannah

What do Gladiator, Jurassic Park, Terminator 2 and Toy Story all have in common? They all use special effects software designed by Silicon Graphics (now SGI), a company co-founded by Marc Hannah.

His team are responsible for developing the 3D technology that’s been used in Hollywood movies and games for the Nintendo 64.

Roy L. Clay

Roy L. Clay

Roy L. Clay helped launch Hewlett-Packard’s computer division in the 1960s and is often referred to as the ‘Godfather of Black Silicon Valley’.

Clay was instrumental in breaking down barriers for African Americans in technology. His recruitment and development of talent has helped usher in the new wave of black technology innovators.

Valerie Thomas

Valerie Thomas, a black technology pioneer

From 1964 to 1995, Thomas worked in a variety of capacities for NASA where she developed real-time computer data systems, conducted large-scale experiments and managed various operations, projects and facilities.

In 1980 she patented an illusion transmitter, an early form of 3D technology which NASA continues to use to this day.

John Henry Thompson

John Henry Thompson, a black technology pioneer

Known as the ‘Father of Lingo Programming’, John Henry Thompson developed the popular scripting language to help render visuals in computer screens.

Adobe fans can also be grateful to Thompson for his object-orientated programming language which Adobe embedded into a number of their products.

Marian R. Croak

Marian R. Croak, a black technology pioneer

Marian Croak was inducted into Women in Technology International’s hall of fame as recognition for her incredible achievements in tech. Currently VP Engineering at Google, notably she holds 135 patents primarily in voice-over Internet protocol (VoIP).

During her time at AT&T she pioneered the use of phone network services to make it easier to donate to crisis appeals and through text-based donations, a revolutionary development in donation capability.

Lisa Gelobter

Lisa Gelobter, a black technology pioneer

You know those favourite GIFs you have? The ones that are perfect for any and all situations? It’s thanks to Lisa Gelobter you’re able to share them with your networks. Gelobter was integral in the creation of Shockwave, a technology which formed the beginning of web animation.

She also played a key part in the emergence of online video and was part of Hulu’s senior launch team. Gelobter has since gone on to hold the post of Chief Digital Service Officer with the US Department of Education.

Philip Emeagwali

Philip Emeagwali, a black technology pioneer

Forced to drop out of school at just 14, Emeagwali went on to become one of the greatest computer pioneers of our time.

Studying bees as an adult, the construction of the honeycomb inspired Emeagwali to rethink computer processing. In 1989, he created the world’s first supercomputer using 65,000 processers and had the capability to perform 3.1 billion calculations per second.

There are of course many more black technology pioneers who have contributed and continue to contribute to advancements in technology and should be celebrated for their achievements in the field.

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