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February 20, 2008

Dr. Mark E. Dean: The face in the computer

the original IBM 5150 PC circa 1981 If there is one device that defines human civilization today, it’s the personal computer.  No one can dispute how much the personal computer has revolutionized our lives, from increasing our productivity to spreading education to enhancing entertainment.  We are riding the personal computer into the future on the backs of our iPods and iPhones and GPS devices with the childlike glee of knowing anything is possible.  Well, that renewed optimism in the future—and the conveniences we enjoy today—all comes to us courtesy of African-American inventor Dr. Mark E. Dean.

Born in 1957 in Tennessee, Dean showed an interest in mechanics at an early age.  While still a boy, he and his father built an entire tractor from scratch.  But it wasn’t easy being a bright black kid on the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement.  When he was in sixth grade, a classmate impressed with Dean's knowledge asked if was really black.  After all, how could be both smart and black?  Dean admits that he faced the same prejudice even when he went to work for IBM in 1980.  However, despite that, he quickly became one of IBM’s most valued employees.  In 1995, he was named an IBM fellow, one of only 50 (out of 310,000 employees) and the first African-American to receive this honor.

So, what did Dean do exactly to become this exalted?  He holds three of the nine patents on the computer that all personal computers are based on.  Along with Dennis Moeller, Dean created the ISA systems bus that allows external devices like modems and printers to be connected to your PC.  Then, in 1999, he led the IBM team that built a gigahertz (1,000 mhz) chip capable of doing a billion calculations per second.  Among his numerous awards is his induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

“A lot of kids growing up today aren't told that you can be whatever you want to be," Dean once said. "There may be obstacles, but there are no limits.” The proof of what he says is right in front of you on the screen you’re using to read this.

photo of the original IBM 5150 PC (circa 1981) by  Los Angeles Times


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I used to read a site called "Da*n Interesting!". The title would apply here. That WAS da*n interesting!


I NEVER knew this.

Is that a dot matrix printer too? This brought back really cool memories.


Thank you for this. It so easy to get lulled into hearing the same Black History stories every year, and it is nice to hear something new and refreshing.

J. Stewart

This is why I love Kareem, because his base of knowledge is so diverse and his observations reflect his thoughtfulness. Kareem surely can identify with Dr. Dean and the prejudices he faced, with the added factor of being a cerebral athlete. Everybody, regardless of race, needs to have their conciousness raised by examples such as Dr. Dean and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. While it certainly is fun to poke your finger in the eye of societal expectations, much more would be achieved if those expectations could be changed to reflect reality.

Mark [Universal Search] Effinger

What a flood of great memories this brings, Kareem.

There's a great post in DiversityCareers on African-American women in Information Technology. These women of color hold powerful positions in companies such as Intel, Unisys and Sun Microsystems.

Bits and bytes are immune to color variations, race, creed.


Thanks for keeping such a phenomenally diverse conversation here.



All I can say is... wow! And thanks for giving us great things to know/contemplate everyday.

Floyd Jones

Cap, Keep it comin, just like the skyhook, your words flow with grace and wisdom, Thank you........

The comments to this entry are closed.

Captain Kareem

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is considered by many fans and sportswriters to be the greatest basketball player of all time. The 7-foot-2 Hall of Fame center, famous for his indefensible skyhook, dominated the NBA for 20 years, first with the Milwaukee Bucks then with the Los Angeles Lakers. Before that he was the star of the UCLA Bruins teams that won three consecutive NCAA championships. Kareem was the NBA's MVP six times, a 19-time all-star and set the NBA all-time records in nine categories. He is the NBA's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points, a record that may never be broken.

Since retiring as a player in 1989, Kareem has balanced his love of basketball with his love of history. In 2002 he led a USBL team, the Oklahoma Storm, to a championship. Since 2005, he has been the special assistant coach for the Lakers, working with Andrew Bynum.

In 2008 he was chosen The Greatest Player in College Basketball History.

Kareem also remains intellectually active, authoring six bestselling history books intended to popularize the contributions of African-Americans to American culture and history. His books include "Black Profiles in Courage: A Legacy of African-American Achievement"; "Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes"; "A Season on the Reservation," which chronicles his time teaching basketball and history on an Apache Indian reservation in White River, Ariz.; and the current New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller, "On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance."

His audio adaptation, "On the Shoulders of Giants: My Audio & Musical Journey through the Harlem Renaissance," is a four-volume compilation read by Bob Costas, Avery Brooks, Jesse L. Martin, and Stanley Crouch, and features private and fascinating conversations with dozens of icons, including Coach John Wooden, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Angelou, Quincy Jones and Billy Crystal. He has also been written to L.A. Times, under the Sports section.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been appearing on various radio stations and TV shows, as well as the most relevant websites talking about his life and his new audio book, On the Shoulders of Giants.

All images are property of www.iconomy.com unless otherwise stated. All info copyrighted and owned by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is not replicated without permission.

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