The Black Digerati

Contrary to popular belief, African Americans are masters and creators of the Information Age. Major players in the field tell us what the future holds. .

and Toy Story. But this technology is just the tip of the iceberg, says Hannah. “In three years, the technology we use in a high-end SGI workstation that now costs upwards of $10,000, will be available in a home game machine like Nintendo–and it will be connected to the Net,” he predicts.

Like others in his field, Hannah, 41, feels the Interner is the most important technological advancement in recent history. “The Internet is this vast warehouse of information; the only problem is that most of the tools needed to decipher this information aren’t yet in place,” he says. The major things that will make a difference are on the software side, such as intelligence agents that scour the Web and retrieve information for you based on your particular needs.

While all tasks won’t require intimate knowledge of the Net, it will be a powerful tool for those who choose to wield it, says Hannah. “It’s certainly possible to live your life without using computers, but if you don’t take advantage of them, you’ll stagnate while everything around you moves to a higher level.”

Mark Dean, Ph.D. IBM Fellow/Director Austin Research Lab

You may not know Mark Dean, Ph.D., but you certainly know his work. Dean was the lead designer on the team that created the PCAT, the follow-up to the original IBM PC and the basis for millions of desktop computers all over the world–including yours. “When you hear IBM-compatible, that’s a reference to the PCAT architecture, which set the standard for all computers from 1986 to the present,” says the 40-year-old engineer. It also led to his induction into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame last year.

Today, he is one of 50 IBM fellows–the company’s highest technical position–and the only African American. Recently named director of IBM’s Research Lab in Austin, Texas, Dean leads a team of 40 scientists responsible for developing high-frequency hardware and software technologies. He fully expects microprocessor speeds to approach one gigahertz by the year 2000, nearly quadruple the speed of today’s fastest PCs.

The sub-$1,000 PC will soon give way to a sub-$500 machine. And not a moment too soon. Information will be the new currency for the next millennium and Dean expects the Internet to be available to nearly everyone. Citing the availability of low-cost devices such as WebTV boxes ($200 retail) and free Net access in libraries and other public facilities, he encourages parents to expose their children to technology at an early age (see “Students Can Surf on Their Home Turf,” Techwatch, this issue).

It’s important for the children, especially minorities, to be exposed to technology so they can understand it and be leaders in technology. “Forget the technological advancements we’ve seen in the past 15 years–we’re going to surpass anything that you’ve ever imagined in the next five years and there’s not an end in sight,” says Dean. “If our children get left behind now, there may not be another chance to catch up.”

Faye Briggs, Ph.D. Director, Systems Performance Analysis and Architecture Microprocessor Products Group

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