Thursday 1 October 2020

Black History Month: Tech & Games Innovators

To celebrate Black History month, we’re taking a look at black innovators from the technology and games fields that have shaped the way we work and play today.

Marc Hannah

One of the founders and principal scientists at Silicon Graphics, Hannah developed software that went on to power revolutionary special effects in blockbuster movies such as ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’. From 1995–2002, all films nominated for an Academy Award for Distinguished Achievement in Visual Effects were created on Silicon Graphics computer systems. The SGI Graphics system also featured in the N64 console helping to pave the way for 3D gaming as we know it today.

Valerie Thomas

After majoring in physics, Thomas secured a job at NASA, managing the development of image processing software systems for ‘Landsat’, a satellite program that made the vision of Earth observation from space a reality. In 1980, Thomas patented ‘The Illusion Transmitter’, a device that produces optical illusion images using mirrors. The device is still used by NASA today and can be seen as an inspiration to the creation of 3D cinema and VR video games.

Gerald “Jerry” Lawson

Before Nintendo, Playstation and Xbox changed the home gaming industry forever, it was Jerry Lawson who first made it possible to play multiple video games at home. Lawson invented the video game cartridge during his work developing the Fairchild Channel F.. It may not seem like a big deal now, but until then, games consoles would only play games that were hard-built into the console at the factory. He’s even been dubbed by some as the “Father of Modern Gaming.”

Mike Pondsmith

Mike Pondsmith is a renowned designer of role-playing, board, and video games. 
His vast talent for weaving fantasy and Sci-fi universes led him to create Cyberpunk in 1988. A critically acclaimed role-playing game which has gone on to become the basis for the upcoming, hotly anticipated title, Cyberpunk 2077. Pondsmith has since been brought on as a consultant for the game and will be appearing as an in-game character.

Mark Dean

If you use a PC today, you can thank Mark Dean for co-creating the IBM personal computer released in 1981. Dean contributed to the development of a number of IBM’s most iconic inventions including the first colour PC monitor, faster chips, and the ISA system bus which allowed for users to plug-in disk drives and printers. Dean was named an IBM fellow In 1996, making him the first African American ever to receive the honour. 

This is naturally not an exhaustive list but serves to highlight the unsung contribution of black people in tech and games.

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