With today’s cell phones, you can talk to virtually anyone on the planet. Inside every cell phone you have a compact speaker, microphone, keyboard, display screen, and a powerful circuit board with microprocessors that make every phone a miniature computer. When connected to a wireless network, this bundle of modern-day technologies allows you to make phone calls or exchange data with other phones and computers around the world.
Guess what? Mr. Jesse Russell, a living Black digital engineering genius who has been inducted already into the U.S. National Engineering Hall of Fame, can justifiably claim at least co-inventor credit for creating the modern cell phone. In fact, in 1992, he legally patented the pioneering method that led to the cell phone, called digital cellular home station design, and in the 1980’s he had already invented digital cellular communications based on the use of high power linear amplification and low bit rate voice encoding technology. In the industry, Mr. Russell is an acknowledged heavy, heavyweight, though some still are reluctant to call him what he is—the “father” of digital cellular technology. Why? Because too smart Black men still catch hell trying to be acknowledged for their work and contributions in this non-post-racial country.
Mr. Russell is the product of the poor Black side of Nashville, Tenn. in the 1940’s and Tennessee State University, which was until recently considered a long-standing member of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in this country. TSU has now become a regular part of the Tennessee University State system-integrated and defanged.
Mr. Russell also earned a Master’s degree from Stanford University in California, and has been a Chief Wireless Architect for AT&T Bell Laboratories, and he has served as Chief Technology Officer for the Lucent Wireless Company. Jesse Russell still holds more than 75 patents in digital cellular technologies, dual-mode digital cellular phones and digital software radio.
The Black community, addicted to cell phones and iPads, surely needs to know and to acknowledge a bona fide bad, bad smart Black man. He is now focusing most of his inventive creativity on the next generation 4G technologies. We can and should expect great things.
Another quite worthy gentleman to acknowledge this month is Mr. Mark Dean, of computer genius fame. He too is a Tennessee native, and he earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford. Dr. Dean owns at least 25 major patents, including three of the original nine IBM patents for the personal computer, and is considered by some to be the actual inventor of the modern pc. He was clearly a great part of the picture, in any case, and his creative contributions cannot be denied. He was also instrumental in the invention of the ISA bus system that allows printers, modems and other peripherals to be connected to personal computers, and he and his team invented the 1,000 megahertz chip.
We’ve got some major Black contributors to the American way of life, folks. We just need to make sure our children know about them, and not just during the shortest month of the year. We are legendary in the creative arts, to be sure, but just as accomplished in the scientific and mathematical communities. It’s okay…go ahead and shout it!!
We have nothing to hang our heads in shame about in this country, people, but we do need to know our own fabric of contributions and good works so we can shut down all naysayers, anonymous or in your face.
We can say it loud. We’re Black and we’re still proud !!! Tell your children !!!
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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