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Angie Jones, Master Inventor: Black History in the Making

After just one computer course… Angie Jones of Durham was hooked. Now the inventor and Consulting Automation Engineer is on a mission in hopes of spreading technology fever to other young African American females near and far.

She is all too familiar with being grouped in the 2 percent of minorities that make up the technology workforce. She notes, for black women, that number is less than 1 percent.

Angie remembers plenty of times when she was the only African American female in her college classrooms as well as her early work settings.  “It was 12 years before I got to write a program with another black woman,” she said. “There’s something wrong with that.”

Angie is a trailblazer in her field.

The professional “techie” works as a Consulting Automation Engineer at LexisNexis, located on the campus of NC State University. She holds 20 patents in the US and China and is considered a Master Inventor in the industry, known for her innovative and out-of-the-box thinking style.  Angie shares her wealth of knowledge by speaking and teaching internationally at software conferences and serving as an Adjunct Computer Science Professor at Durham Technical Community College.

Among other notable publications, Angie has been featured in Ebony Magazine as one of the country’s 30 young leaders under the age of 30.

Working with Raleigh-Durham Chapter of Black Girls Code

She has dedicated countless hours to exposing more women like herself to the world of technology.

Angie is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Tennessee State University as well as a master’s degree in Computer Science from North Carolina State University. She said her father encouraged her to go into the field of technology.

Her love of fashion and gaming led her to develop Diva Chix, an online fashion designing game.

She said before then, computer fashion games were less than challenging. “After your dressed up the doll, that was it,” she said, “It got boring really fast.”

Angie’ online fashion game keeps its participants engaged. The players graphically design the clothes and upload them to the website. In its eighth year, the game has drawn more than 250,000 players nationwide.

Players from all over the country are able to communicate and collaborate while they are competing for the top spot.

But it’s not just a game. The Diva Chix mission is twofold.

Angie’ first mission was to make gaming and fashion

more fun and interesting.

The next goal is introducing young girls to the field of technology and how to run their own businesses. For example, the gamers learn basic principles of business such as supply and demand and team building. “They learn how to run their own shop,” she said.

Angie said the demographic makeup of her classroom at Durham Tech still mirrors the technology industry numbers across the country. That is why initiatives like hers and CODE2040 are so important.

African American females can offer a different perspective in this ever growing field simply because they come from a different background.

“You can come up with your own ideas and be successful in this field,” Angie said. “We can solve real world problems.”

Angie extensive work doesn’t stop there. She also volunteers to teach technology workshops such as Designing Mobile Apps and Website Development for several organizations in the community such as Black Girls Code, TechGirlz, Hi-Tech Teens, and Alpha Kappa Alphas SMART Camp. She also mentors black technology students from Duke and North Carolina Central Universities.

Last year, she joined forces with Doug Speight and the CODE2040 initiative under the American Underground umbrella in Durham. She is now the lead of the Raleigh-Durham Chapter of Black Girls Code, a group that focuses on teaching tech to black girls ages 7 to 18 years old. The organization recently sponsored an outing for the young girls to see the inspirational movie ‘Hidden Figures’.

Angie loves to see the girls let their imaginations run wild.

Angie said the opportunities in technology are endless, adding there are jobs in programming, graphic design, robotics and developing mobile apps. “I never met a programmer … I didn’t even know what that was,” she said. “I want girls to know that this is a possible career path.”

Cover photo: Mel Brown

Submitted photos (click on photo to start slideshow):


Gerald Lawson, Creator Of The Video Game Cartridge

Gerald A. Lawson

Gerald A. Lawson, a largely self-taught engineer, became a pioneer in electronic video entertainment, creating the first home video game system with interchangeable game cartridges.

Before disc-based systems like PlayStation, Xbox and Wii transformed the video game industry, before techno-diversions like Grand Theft Auto and Madden NFL and even before Pac-Man and Donkey Kong became the obsession of millions of electronic gamers, it was Mr. Lawson who first made it possible to play a variety of video games at home.

In the mid-1970s, he was director of engineering and marketing for the newly formed video game division of Fairchild Semiconductor, and it was under his direction that the division brought to market in 1976 the Fairchild Channel F, a home console that allowed users to play different games contained on removable cartridges. Until then, home video game systems could play only games that were built into the machines themselves. Mr. Lawson’s ideas anticipated — if they did not entirely enable — a colossal international business.

As a boy he pursued a number of scientific interests, ham radio and chemistry among them. As a teenager he earned money repairing television sets. He attended both Queens College and the City College of New York, but never received a degree. In the early 1970s, he started at Fairchild in Silicon Valley as a roving design consultant. While he was there he invented an early coin-operated arcade game, Demolition Derby. Along with other Silicon Valley innovators, he belonged to a hobbyists’ group known as the Homebrew Computer Club.

Two of its other members were Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, later the founders of Apple.

After inventing Demolition Derby, Lawson was put in charge of the company’s video game division. He and his team came up with cartridges that could be loaded with different game programs and then inserted into the console one at a time. This allowed the company to sell individual games separately from the console itself, a business model that remains the cornerstone of the video game industry.

A crucial element of the invention was the use of a new processor, the Fairchild 8; another was a mechanism that allowed for repeated insertion and removal of cartridges without damaging the machine’s semiconductors. Video hockey and tennis were programmed into the F Channel console; additional games available on cartridge included Shooting Gallery, Video Blackjack and Alien Invasion.

He died in 2011 at the age of 70 in Santa Clara, Calif.

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Phyllis Coley
Phyllis D. Coley is CEO/Publisher of Spectacular Magazine and Host of Spectacular Magazine Radio Show. With a B.A. in English from NCCU, the Durham native began her professional career as Promotions/Marketing Director for New York City’s WKTU-FM. While at the radio station, Coley discovered the rap group Kid ‘n Play and managed them for five years, guiding their music and movie careers to success. Moving back to Durham, Coley produced a nationally syndicated television show, The Electric Factory, while working as News Director for FOXY 107/104. In April 2002, recognizing a void in highlighting the achievements of African Americans, she started her own business publishing ACE Magazine. Coley launched Spectacular Magazine in November 2004. Recognizing the lack of pertinent and truthful information, Coley began Spectacular Magazine Radio Show in March 2009. Coley is the organizer of Durham's Annual MLK/Black History Month Parade and the Annual North Carolina Juneteenth Celebration. She currently serves on Central Children’s Home Board of Directors, Raleigh Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Advisors, as Immediate Past Secretary of the Durham Rotary Club Board of Directors and is one of the founding members of the Triangle United Way’s African American Leadership Initiative.

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