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. .

Intel Corp.

In the past five years, Intel has made microprocessors a fashion statement. Even the staunchest Luddites recognize the “Intel inside” logo that adorns the vast majority of computers–or have been amused by the neon bunny-quit-clad chip designers featured in their latest ad campaign. Faye (pronounced Fah-yay) Briggs, Ph.D., however, is not a household name–but perhaps should be. He is part of the group responsible for churning out newer, better and faster microprocessors for a power-hungry public.

As director of systems performance analysis and architecture of the Microprocessor Producers Group at Intel in Santa Clara, California, Briggs is working to develop the next generation of microprocessors and systems. He was also one of the original creators of Sun Microsystems’ Sparc processor, the brains of Sun Microsystems’ workstations and servers. And as the co-author of one of the premier texts on computer architecture and parallel processing, Briggs’ expertise reaches far and wide, influencing all sectors of the computer industry.

“The rapid evolution of processor speeds will greatly enhance the way businesses operate,” he says. “Faster chips will mean small businesses can take advantage of technologies that were previously too costly, such as high-end graphics and communications software enabling powerful image rendering, video conferencing and smooth full-motion video.” Prices for these fast machines will continue to fall, enabling even the thriftiest consumer or business owner to stay close eno
ugh to the cutting edge and avoid obsolescence.

Nevertheless, there are downsides to this rapid technological innovation, especially in the areas of security and privacy on the Internet. Even though Briggs feels security issues are being adequately addressed, he is alarmed at how much personal information can be found on the Net. He suggests that people concerned about their personal information being accessed should request that it be removed from the various search engines.

In spite of his misgivings, Briggs believes we are at a crucial time in history. “The convergence of computers, telecommunications, the Internet and multimedia is changing the way we do business,” he says. To take advantage, he adds, we must be forward thinkers. “Innovation is the new currency in the Digital Age.”

Michael Fields, President The Fields Group

For Michael Fields, the Internet is the greatest, and possibly the worst, thing that could happen to African American business owners. “The openness of the Internet will change the dynamics of how we view specific ethnic markets,” says Fields, president of The Fields Group in Pleasanton, California. “The uniqueness of the African American marketplace and the, entrepreneurs who have served it over the years will be seriously challenged by the Internet, because on the back end, nobody knows who really owns the content.”

A Web page can give the impression that goods and services are being sold by a black-owned company when that isn’t the case. Imagine selling African goods and art via the Internet, a market traditionally served by black-owned boutiques, says the 52-year-old Fields. On the Web, how would you know if that company is black–and would it matter if the price was right?

There is a

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