Here's another story you won't find in the history books. By now, most of you know about the incredible contributions of IBM's Mark Dean, Ph.D. to the development of the modern personal computer. Dr. Dean, an African American, holds three of the original patents on the IBM PC. Without his inventions, it is unlikely the world would have experienced the tremendous technological spurt and resulting economic growth of the last 20 years. Yet, Mark Dean was not alone. His work opened the door for other Blacks such as Leroy Jones.
Leroy Jones is modest. From his office at Dell Computer, he says his role in developing the personal computer was not as high-profile as the design of the circuit board or the computer's bus system. Still, as he also admits, it doesn't matter how great the mousetrap, it is of little consequence for society if you can't mass-produce it or legally sell it. That was the issue facing a start-up company called Gateway Technologies, Inc. in July 1982.
In stepped Leroy Jones. Gateway Technologies turned to this young man who was only five years out of historically Black Howard University's School of Engineering, to address two critical issues: mass production of a PC that would be 100 percent compatible with the IBM PC and assurance that the IBM-compatible would meet legal requirements imposed by global regulatory agencies.
Jones was responsible for doing all of this in 1982, at the birth of the Computer Revolution, just 13 months after Bill Gates and Paul Allen had started Microsoft. Role models? He was it. And God. Jones would later comment: "I've often felt God allowed us to discover PCs so I could have a job. I love doing this so much."
In setting up this new company's test engineering department, Leroy Jones would be establishing standards that still guide us 20 years later. Because of him, Gateway Technologies saved up to 100 times the cost of pre-shipment testing.
As if that weren't enough, Jones took on the challenge of ensuring the computers Gateway produced did not interfere with broadcast channels from radios, televisions, and other consumer devices. His job was to make sure that you could use your computer and listen to your radio at the same time. From this assignment would come some of Jones' greatest contributions to the development of the modern PC.
Jones later left Gateway Technologies for Dell Computer. But his work on computer emissions did not stop. As processors approached speeds of 50 MHz, computer chassis no longer could contain them. This led Jones into new areas of research and established him as Dell's expert in designing for emissions control. From his research, Dell's first, official EMI design guidelines handbook was developed. Many of the design techniques identified in that handbook are still used today.
Leroy Jones and Mark Dean embody the significant contributions Blacks have made in advancing the Technology Revolution. Jones also is an example of the kind of high-quality students the nation's historically Black colleges and universities turn out every year.
Oh, by the way, Leroy Jones apparently did his jobs very well. Both of the computer companies whose development teams he joined took their products to the top of the market. You know he's now at Dell. And Gateway Technologies, that little company he joined as one of the 30 original engineers, changed its name just before the release of their first product. They thought "Compaq Computer" was better. Now, they are part of Hewlett-Packard. History should not let us forget Leroy Jones' important role in all of this.