Black History Month - Recognising some of the tech industry’s Black pioneers

Technology continues to drive economic development, globally, but yet the level of black representation within the sector continues to trail behind. Black people make up only 3% of employees in the top 75 Silicon Valley tech companies, compared to 24% of the total workforce. A study by the Chartered Institute of IT found, that just 2% of IT specialists are from a black, African, Caribbean or black British background. There is clearly some way to go.

Despite these gaps, there are still many black people who continue to make strides within the sector. Given that this is black history month, Synergy Solutions have brought together just some of the pioneers from the past and the present to recognise their achievements.

June Angelides – Founder and CEO of mums in technology

Named the 15th most influential woman in tech by Computer Weekly. Providing immersive learning, Mums in Technology encourages new mothers to take their children to school with them while they learn to code. She founded the company in 2015 when on maternity leave from Silicon Valley Bank, where she was an associate for entrepreneur banking. Most recently, Ms. Angelides was appointed Chair of the Future Skills Programme, and joined the investment team at Samos Investments, a venture capital firm which focuses on high-growth European businesses. She is also a founding ambassador for the FiftyFiftyPledge, a UK initiative to promote gender diversity.

Ayanna Howard - American roboticist, entrepreneur and educator

Howard is a respected roboticist and a Motorola Foundation professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines. She has created robots to study the impact of global warming on the Antarctic ice shelves. Howard became the first woman to lead the Ohio State College of Engineering.

In 2021, Ayanna Howard received the Athena Lecturer Award from ACM for her Contributions to Robotics, AI and Broadening Participation in Computing.

Otis Boykin:  American inventor and engineer  

Otis has allowed us to designate an accurate resistance value to wiring in our electronics. This has made it possible for  TVs, PCs, and radios to move leaps and bounds to the modern devices we see today. Boykin’s work also helped lead to the implantable pacemaker — a medical device that’s used by millions to treat heart conditions.

Boykin patented as many as 26 devices He is best known for inventing multiple different electronic control devices in guided missiles, IBM computers, and in the pacemaker.

One of his early inventions was an improved wire resistor, which had reduced inductance and reactance, due to the physical arrangement of the wire.

Other notable inventions include a variable resistor used in guided missiles. His most famous invention was a control unit for the artificial cardiac pacemaker. The device essentially uses electrical impulses to maintain a regular heartbeat.

Mary Van Brittan – Inventor of the first home security system

Marie Van Brittan Brown  was a nurse and an innovator. In 1966, she invented a video home security system along with her husband Albert Brown, an electronics technician. In the same year, they applied for a patent for their innovative security system, which was granted in 1969.

In 1966, Brown invented a system that used a camera that could slide into and look through four peepholes in her front door. The camera’s view would then appear on a monitor in her home so she could survey any potentially unwanted guests. She added other features to the system, including a microphone to speak to anyone at the door, a button to unlock the door, and a button to contact the police.

The invention was the first closed-circuit television security system and is the predecessor to modern home systems today. It was the foundation for video monitoring, remote-controlled door locks, push-button alarm triggers, instant messaging to security providers and police, as well as two-way voice communication. Brown’s invention has led to the creation of many new home security systems that rely on video systems, remote door locks, and quick emergency response actions. These systems have become the leading security for homes and small businesses all over the world.

The effects of Brown's home security system cannot be understated, as her initial invention was the foundation of most home security systems that are around today.

She was recognized in the New York Times and received an award from the National Scientists Committee for her work. As more home security systems came to the market, Brown's initial invention became even more influential. Her invention was cited in at least 32 future patent applications.

Jesse Russell: American Inventor - Cellular communications

Jesse Eugene Russell is an American inventor. He was trained as an electrical engineer at Tennessee State University and Stanford University, and worked in the field of wireless communication for over 20 years.

He pioneered the field of digital cellular communication in the 1980s through the use of high power linear amplification and low bit rate voice encoding technologies and received a patent in 1992 for his work in the area of digital cellular base station design.

He holds patents and continues to invent and innovate in the emerging area of next generation broadband wireless networks, technologies and services, often referred to as 4G.

Russell was inducted into the US National Academy of Engineering for his contributions to the field of wireless communication.

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