To celebrate Black History Month, we’re spotlighting the accomplishments of Black people in the world of technology. From engineers, mathematicians, inventors, and entrepreneurs, we’ll be looking at tech leaders and pioneers of many different backgrounds. Black History Month may have come to a close, but the contributions made by Black people in science, engineering, and tech have been fundamental to our progress.
Lonnie Johnson once tried to cook rocket fuel at his family home in Mobile, AL. He was known as “the Professor” by the children in his hometown as he had an acute interest in mechanics and electricity from a young age. If you ever played with a Super Soaker when you were a kid, you have Johnson to thank.
He first came up with the idea while working with the U.S. Air Force. The invention was originally named the “Power Drencher” when it first launched in 1990. The Super Soaker generated $200 million in sales in the following years. Johnson filed a lawsuit against Hasbro when he discovered that he was being underpaid royalties from the sale of Super Soaker products. It was resolved in 2013 when he was awarded nearly $73 million in royalties.
During his interview for the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Nintendo, Reggie Fils-Aimé had an unusual request. He wanted to meet Satoru Iwata, the company president, and the two spoke for several hours. During his tenure at Nintendo, Fils-Aimé became known for his over the top, theatrical antics while presenting on stage during the company’s E3 conference.
He became a recognizable figure for the company and within the gaming community. He is considered to be the driving force in revamping the company’s public relations with Nintendo customers following the decline in sales in the early 2000s.
His sales and marketing strategies lead to the successful launch of the Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo DS. He retired from the company soon after the launch of the Nintendo Switch. In 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he started a podcast called “Talking Games with Reggie and Harold” to raise funds to help low-income students affected by the pandemic.
In the summer of 2014, Marques Brownlee uploaded a video review of the 4.7-inch sapphire display of the iPhone 6 to test how scratch resistant it was. The video launched his career on Youtube and he currently sits at over 17 million subscribers.
Brownlee is one of the most well known tech reviewers on Youtube and his content has been featured on prominent sites such as The Verge, The Times, and the Huffington Post. The MKBHD channel has consistently been one of the most subscribed to channels for tech reviews.
In addition to discussing new and emerging tech, Brownlee has also interviewed many notable figures in the technology space including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. In 2014, he interviewed Evan Blass, who had gained international attention for leaking information about unreleased smartphones and tablets. He spoke with Kobe Bryant in 2015 about his interest in technology and the recently launched Nike shoes Kobe 11. He currently hosts “Retro Tech”, a Youtube Original series about iconic pieces of technology.
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