5 Tech Pioneers to Honor this Black History Month

by | Feb 8, 2024

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Quantum Fiber relies on innovative technology to deliver ultra-fast fiber internet, which means we stand on the shoulders of those who pioneered the devices we use every day. We’re celebrating Black History Month by honoring Black tech innovators who pushed progress with their inventions.

Read about the Black History Month figures below to learn their contributions that we benefit from today.

Black Tech Pioneers

Dr. Philip Emeagwali

Alan Emtage

Marie Van Brittan Brown

Gladys West

Jerry Lawson

Dr. Philip Emeagwali

Dr. Philip Emeagwali was born in Nigeria where he showed promise early by out-calculating his teachers. At the age of 14 he was forced to leave school to support his family, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing mathematics.

Only 3 years after dropping out of school in Nigeria, he was awarded a full scholarship to Oregon State University where he majored in mathematics. Afterwards he earned several master’s degrees, including two in engineering and one in mathematics.

Despite all his academic success, Dr. Emeagwali’s most notable accomplishment came from studying bees.

Dr. Emeagwali was inspired by the way the honeycombs bees build maximizes their efficiency. He applied this design to a connection machine, a supercomputer that uses 65,000 computers linked in parallel, to create the fastest computer on Earth. How fast? Try 3.1 billion calculations per second. Dr. Emegwali received the Gordon Bell Prize of 1989 for his achievement.

Black tech innovators

Alan Emtage

On the surface search engines appear simple since they’re easy to access and use. However, before they became what they are now searching the internet was tedious and time-consuming due to low speeds that lagged even further with competition for bandwidth.

Alan Emtage changed that by creating Archie, the world’s first search engine.

Archie was a set of scripts that Emtage developed to search the internet on their own in the middle of the night when there was little competition for connection at his university. Those scripts retrieved information and indexed it so he could then search through it.

Today, billions of people use search engines to perform the same task that Alan Emtage pioneered with Archie.

Marie Van Brittan Brown

You may know of smart doorbells that monitor front doors with a camera feed and other IoT security devices. Did you know that the closed-circuit television (CCTV) security system was invented by a nurse named Marie Van Brittan Brown?

Brown was a nurse in New York City that worked irregular hours along with her husband who was an electronic technician. To stay safe while home alone, Brown and her husband developed a system that included a sliding camera that looked through peepholes, television monitors, and two microphones so she could communicate with the person at her door. Not only that, but Brown’s CCTV system could even unlock her door or call the police with the push of a button!

Gladys West

Gladys West was born on a farm in rural Virginia, but she earned a scholarship to Virginia State University where she graduated with a degree in mathematics. After graduation she was hired by a weapons laboratory where she programmed computers to solve complex equations.

West was named project manager for an experimental ocean surveillance satellite which monitored and reported ocean conditions. The project was a success, but along the way, West accomplished something else.

In order to adjust measurements to forces like gravity and tides, West and her team had to precisely calculate a satellite’s orbit. Those calculations led to a model of Earth’s shape, which is now used to help modern global positioning systems (GPS) pinpoint exact locations!

Black tech innovators to know

Jerry Lawson

Jerry Lawson grew up in New York City where he was fascinated by computers and technology. Despite never graduating college he became one of the few Black engineers on the other side of the country in a then developing Silicon Valley.

At the time, gaming consoles came only with one or a few programmed games. Lawson saw a chance for innovation and invented a mechanism that allowed gamers to insert and remove memory cartridges. Lawson’s invention allowed gamers to play whatever game was compatible with their console instead of only what came programmed into it.

Modern gamers may take fast downloads and a seemingly endless supply of games to play for granted, but Lawson’s work was a monumental step forward for gaming.

Connect to More Technology News with Quantum Fiber

Quantum Fiber offers ultra-fast fiber-optic internet, but we also cover the latest trends and news in the technology world. Stay tuned to our blog for more articles like this one, and check for Quantum Fiber availability if you’re ready to explore the world of fiber internet.

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