Earliest black tech pioneers featured in documentary screening at Clayton Museum May 16

CULVER CITY — Fortran, Cobol, The HP 2116, Iliac IV supercomputer, FChannel video game console and the Raster Image Processor (RIP) for large-format prints from personal computers are all iconic products.
What they have in common are a group of innovators best characterized as Freedom Riders of the Cutting Edge.
The surviving members of that elite corps are coming together in a new documentary and in a speaking tour to insure that the opportunities they fought for are extended to a new generation of African-American innovators.
The first southern California screening of Freedom Riders of the Cutting Edge, an hour-long production of San Francisco-based eAccess Corp., takes place Saturday, May 16, 2009 at 6 p.m. in the Mayme E. Clayton Library and Museum at 4130 Overland Ave. in Culver City.
Admission is free but participants are encouraged to become adult or youth members of the Mayme E. Clayton Library and Museum.
Featured in Freedom Riders are:
— Roy Clay Sr., chairman and founder of Rod-L Electronics in Mountain View, CA, the leading manufacturer of electronic test equipment such as high pot testers required for Underwriters Laboratory certification. Clay was told in 1951 by McDonnell Aircraft after becoming the first black student to graduate from St. Louis University “there were no jobs for professional Negroes.” By 1956, he was programming their computer, going West in 1958 to program nuclear blast simulations for Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, lead Fortran-Cobol development for Control Data in 1961 and begin computer R&D for Hewlett-Packard in 1965. He was a venture consultant on such startups as Compaq, Tandem and Intel before launching his own firm in 1977.
–Dr. Frank Greene, managing partner of New Vista Capital and head of the Go-Positive Foundation. As a venture capitalist, he’s raised more than $80 million to invest in minority and women-owned tech firms. As a researcher for Fairchild Semiconductor, he designed the fastest memory to that point to power the Illiac IV supercomputers, later founding his own public company, Technology Development Corp., to manage supercomputer installations across the country. Go-Positive presents his proprietary VRE Leadership Model through classes and workshops to audiences ranging from corporate executives to elementary students.
–Jerry Lawson, recently cited at a computer gaming convention for his role as director of video engineering at Fairchild, where he created the FChannel video game console, regarded as the first product of its kind. The New York native also founded his own firm, VideoSoft.
–The late Ron Jones, a Los Angeles native who built several entrepreneural companies over 20 years. His inventions include the raster image processor for large format printing, a bulk ink delivery system for computer printers and a plug-in to play music on video game players.
The documentary also presents the ninth edition of the 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology, a group following the path set forth by the Freedom Riders in public policy, education, entrepreneurship and executive ranks.
Producer-writer John William Templeton, former editor of the San Jose Business Journal, notes,”America got a huge dividend from opening the doors to these standouts in the 1950s and 1960s. We must continue to go back to those same communities for the competitive edge in the global economy.”
Templeton and some of the documentary subjects will also participate in the Los Angeles Urban Policy Forum earlier in the day at 10 a.m. at Lucy Florence Coffee House at 3351 43rd St. The topic will be “Black Innovators in the Age of Obama” to explore whether African-Americans are positioned to take advantage of new investments in medicine, science and technology.

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