Black History Month: Technology & Black Innovation
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Black History Month: What is it about?
With its roots laid in the 1920’s, Black History Month started in the 1970s. It was first proposed by the Black Educators and Black Students at Kent State University. After its official recognition by President Gerald Ford at the United States Bicentennial, it was celebrated across institutions and community centres. The president had urged the citizens of the United States to seize the opportunity to honour the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavour throughout history.
How it all started in the United Kingdom
In 1987, Black History Month was celebrated for the first time in the U.K. by Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who had served as the coordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council. Soon after, many schools, organisations and community groups followed his lead.
At Pracedo, we recognise that our industry would not exist as it is today if it wasn’t for black innovation. So today, we would like to highlight some trailblazing black people whose inventions were a boon to the technology world.
Notable Contributions by Black People in Technology
Dr Mark Dean
Let’s start by talking about Dr Mark Dean. Dean has worked as the CTO of IBM’s Middle East and Africa Operations. At IBM, he and his team’s contributions have changed the way modern computers work.
Dean has worked across many projects such as IBM PC, ISA System Bus, and the first colour graphics adapter – all in just a single decade, beginning in 1980. His most notable invention is creating the 1GHz clock speed with a chip in the early 2000s. Dean’s accomplishments span four decades, with over 30 patents in his name. He is the first black IBM Fellow and has been recognised with the Black Engineer of the Year President’s award. Dean has also been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Dean’s career at the big blue had a long-lasting impact, with one of his contributions leading to the creation of the IBM PC. At the time, the team had predicted that they would only sell about 200,000 PC’s in the product’s lifetime, however, soon, IBM was selling them every minute of every day.
Later, Dean was put on the team to develop a P.C. Bus for the IBM PC – a patent which was filed under his name and the co-inventor Dennis L. Moeller. The ISA System Bus laid the foundation for attachable hardware, such as network cards, graphics cards, USB ports, storage controllers, and many more. This means that if the device that you are reading this on has attached hardware, it’s likely relying on the work laid down by Dean and his co-inventor.
Dr Marian R Croak
Dr Marian R Croak is one of the finest inventors of our age. She has held over more than 350 patents, and the most significant of them is the invention of the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). Dr Croak once was a student at the University of California as well as Princeton. She graduated with a PhD in Qualitative Analysis and Social Psychology in 1982 and soon joined the AT&T Bell Laboratories where she held several positions before joining Google in 2014. Dr Croak holds more than 100 patents in VOIP. Her work has significantly helped advance technologies of calling and text messaging on mobile phones.
She climbed the leadership ladder to become VP of Services Network, and Senior VP of Applications & Infrastructure. There she supervised a team of 500 world-class engineers and computer scientists, while overseeing a team of more than 2000 computer scientists and engineers. In 2013, she was inducted into the Women in Technology International’s Hall of Fame.
Now, she works at Google as the Vice President for research and development for access strategy in emerging markets. Her goal is to expand internet services into the areas of the globe where there is limited connectivity.
Last but not least, we’d like to touch on Lewis Latimer. Latimer worked alongside widely known scientists and inventors, such as Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. Working with them, he conceived inventions and drafted inventors drawings to attain patents.
Lewis Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Before his birth, his mother and father had escaped from slavery in Virginia and fled to Chelsea. At 15, Lewis joined the U.S. Navy as a Landsman and soon received an honorary discharge from the navy. He later joined a law firm where he gained employment as an office boy with a mere salary of $3 per week. Lewis’s hirer soon recognised his talent for sketching patent drawings and promoted him to the position of Head Draftsman. Lewis soon co-patented his invention with Charles M Brown, an improved toilet system for the railroad cards. After, Alexander Graham Bell employed him at his patent company and asked him to draft the drawings for Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.
Following this, Lewis joined the U.S. Electric Lighting Company, owned by Hiram Maxim. There he invented a modification for carbon filaments that aimed to reduce breakages during the carbonisation process. Thomas Edison then invited Lewis to work with him, and there he developed the archetype for Air Conditioning called the “Apparatus for cooling and disinfecting”. Lewis also created a patent for the “Electric Lamp”, a new and improved design for producing light using electricity.
Black History Month has become an important celebration because it gives us an insight into how much we owe modern technology and development to these amazing men and women. Without this technology, our lives would be extremely different (and hard). And so, we must bring to the forefront these innovations and celebrate the contributions they have made to the advancement of our world.
Pracedo is an award-winning Platinum Salesforce Consulting Partner that delivers Salesforce implementations to charities, NGOs, and enterprise customers across the globe. Pracedo builds powerful partnerships that can impact more than just revenues.
As a Premium Salesforce Partner in London and Melbourne, we have the experience and expertise to help you maximise your Salesforce investment and build improved customer pipeline processes and communication cycles. Everything we do is powered by our unique purpose, which puts people at the heart of our work. That’s why we pledge to give 1% of our product, time, and profits back to our community.
Pracedo specialises in Digital Transformation and Change Management. Implementations and customisations include: Salesforce Sales Cloud, Salesforce Service Cloud, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Salesforce Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (formely Pardot), Salesforce Revenue Cloud, Salesforce Experience Cloud and Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud.