Help us build a comprehensive list of black entrepreneurs, leaders, and thinkers in tech!
It’s Black History Month in the United States, and although we highlight diversity at CA Technologies throughout the year, we thought this would be a great time to highlight the contributions of black technologists, both historically and today. While researching the many brilliant minds that have built and changed the landscape of the technology industry, it became clear to us that we would never get this blog posted in time if we tried to include everyone!
We are also featuring some of those highlighted in this blog through a series of e-cards to share on social media with the hashtag #BlackHistoryInTech. Do you know a great black technologist? Tweet us at @CA_Careers with the hashtag #BlackHistoryInTech. We will add to the blog as we receive admissions.
Roy Clay Sr. is a Silicon Valley pioneer, having worked as the research and development director of Hewlett-Packard (HP)’s computer division, working on the design and construction of the company’s first computers in the 1960s. He later founded Rod-L Electronics, which tests for safety in electrical equipment.
Mark Dean helped develop the once-ubiquitous IBM PC, holding three of IBM’s nine original patents. In 1999, he sought to create a voice-activated tablet, and wrote in 2011 that he uses a tablet as his primary computer. Dean is now the CTO for IBM Middle East and Africa.
Frank Greene is considered one of the first black technologists, Frank Greene developed high-speed semi-conductor computer memory systems in the 1960s. He also founded the software companies Technology Development Corp. and ZeroOne Systems, Inc.
James E. West invented the first practical electret microphone, which uses a charged material instead of needing a polarizing power supply. It is commonly used in cellphones, cameras and digital recorders around the world. West won the Benjamin Franklin Medal in electrical engineering from the Franklin Institute in 2010.
Shirley Ann Jackson was the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. from MIT (specializing in Physics), Dr. Jackson is currently the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, one of the Top 50 universities in the U.S. (according to U.S. News & World Report). While working at Bell Labs, she applied her knowledge of physics to make advances in telecommunications, including developments in solar cell, touch tone phones, and helped make Caller ID and call waiting.
Otis Boykin patented a type of resistor in 1959 that is still used today in radios, televisions and computers, which control the flow of electricity into components. This makes for products that are safer, longer lasting and cheaper. He also invented a control unit for the pacemaker. In all, Boykin was granted 28 patents for electronic devices: Some of them are still used in the military and in consumer products.
Dr. Philip Emeagwali was the inventor of the world’s fastest computer. Emeagwali took knowledge gained from his study of nature and bees and applied the efficiency of their honeycomb structure to create powerful computer processing. Using this construction, in 1989, the “Father of the Internet” used 65,000 processors to build the world’s fastest computer, one that performs computations at 3.1 billion calculations per second.
John Henry Thompson taught himself several computer programming languages as a young man. With a degree from MIT in Computer Science and Art, his goal was to merge art and technology. His most famous invention is Lingo: a scripting language that helps create visuals in computer programs. Lingo and other programs he pioneered are used in many programs and apps with interactive graphics, animation, sound, and video. Lingo has also been used to create the flash and shockwave programs that are now prevalent in video games, web design, animation, and graphics.
Gerald A. Lawson created the first home video game system that used interchangeable cartridges, offering gamers a chance to play a variety of games and giving video game makers a way to earn profits by selling individual games, a business model that exists today. Lawson, who died last year at age 70, is just beginning to be recognized by the gaming industry for his pioneering work.
Dixie Garr served as Cisco Systems’ vice president of customer success engineering for seven years. She drove change throughout the company’s engineering processes and business practices to better help the needs of customers around the world. She has been awarded several honors, including the 1997 Black Engineer of the Year Award.
Valerie Thomas honed her skills at NASA, where she and her team developed the first satellite to send images from space (Landsat). She also worked on computer programs used for research on Halley’s Comet and the ozone hole. In the mid-’70s, she began experimenting with concave mirrors and finally patented a 3-D Illusion Transmitter in 1980. Today, NASA uses the technology, doctors use it for medical imaging, and when you watch your 3-D television, thank Valerie Thomas.
Marc Hannah is one of the founders of the software firm Silicon Graphics (now SGI), where the special-effects genius developed 3-D graphics technology that would be used in many Hollywood movies, including Jurassic Park. He was almost instrumental in designing the Nintendo 64 gaming system.
Will Lucas founded brand marketing technology company Creadio back in 2003. He recently launched Classana, an educational resource discovery engine. Lucas is also the organizer behind TedXToledo, which is now in its second year.
Stacy Spikes is the co-founder of MoviePass, one of the most exciting things to happen to the movie business in a while. It’s essentially Netflix for movies still playing in theaters. Before co-founding MoviePass, Spikes was a long-time marketing executive who recently delved into the tech world. He’s considered one of the leaders of film entertainment marketing. Before starting MoviePass, Spikes founded the Urbanworld Film Festival, which is now the largest of its kind in the world. Urbanworld has premiered more #1 films than any other North American Film Festival, including Sundance and Tribeca.
Hamet Watt is the other co-founder of MoviePass and a former entrepreneur in residence at True Ventures. Before co-founding MoviePass alongside Stacy Spikes, he founded full-service media buying platform NextMedium, and health app bLife.
Don Charlton has changed the way hiring gets done online with his company, The Resumator. During the most recent presidential election, both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney used The Resumator to handle all of the job applications coming in. Before founding The Resumator, Charlton established himself as an award-winning interactive designer.
Majora Carter recently opened up a new startup incubator and tech education center in South Bronx to foster entrepreneurship. There is a dramatic shortage of engineering talent in the U.S. labor force, and we want to fill that gap with people who could otherwise end up in the criminal justice and welfare systems,” she recently told Fast Company. She says most of the talent in the South Bronx either leaves or doesn’t get “nurtured into something positive.” In 2010, Carter was touted as one of the 100 most creative people in business. She’s also a Peabody Award-winning broadcaster.
Kimberly Bryant wants to ensure that young black girls have the opportunity to learn how to code. In 2011, Bryant founded BlackGirlsCode, a six-week program that teaches basic programming concepts, and gives underrepresented youths the chance to learn about robotics, and a wide range of other technological concepts. Before founding BlackGirlsCode, Bryant spent about decade in biotechnology where she held several management roles at companies including Genentech, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, and Merck.
Jon Gosier is the mastermind behind data analysis startup MetaLayer, global innovation consultancy Appfrica, and non-profit organizations HiveColab and Abayima. Gosier is a senior fellow at TED who has given talks on topics including the democratization of data platforms and social currency.
Tony Guada’s Bitcasa entered the online storage market with a major point of differentiation: infinite storage for its users. Gauda launched Bitcasa at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference back in 2011. Gauda and his co-founder have been able to attract $7 million funding from some of the most well-respected venture capital firms in the business, including Horizon Ventures, Andreessen-Horowitz, and First Round Capital. Gauda previously engineered fraud protection systems at Mastercard.
Emmitt McHenry co-founded Network Solutions, Inc., one of the early leading Internet domain services providers. In 1995, he founded NetCom Solutions International, a telecommunications and engineering company that has won awards from IBM and NASA, among other places.