Connect with us

Technology

Gaming in colour: uncovering video games’ black pioneers | Games

Published

on

In the 1970s, in the fledgling days of the video games industry, an engineer named Gerald “Jerry” Lawson designed one of the earliest game consoles, the Channel F, and also led the team that invented the game cartridge, a defining innovation in how games were made and sold. His son, Andersen Lawson, recalls that he was often working on gaming projects in the garage of their family home in Santa Clara, California. “There have been conversations recently about the struggles he might have had that were related to his colour,” he says. “Was it difficult [for him]? Yes, I’m quite certain. But I never heard any grumblings from him. And I’m also certain that he earned his respect … My father was a person of colour and I think that would inspire young people today to jump in and help move the industry along.”

Black people, and especially black women, are still underrepresented in the video games industry. The Independent Game Developers’ Association records that only 2% of US game developers identify as black; in the UK, meanwhile, according to UKIE’s 2020 census of the entire industry, 10% of its workers are black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME). But black innovators such as Jerry Lawson have been present and influential since the earliest days of the video games industry – and there is not enough recognition for their achievements.

Jerry Lawson after retirement.
Jerry Lawson after retirement. Photograph: Courtesy the Lawson family

Lawson was featured in Netflix’s High Score documentary series on the history of video games last year. Born in New York in 1940, he developed a strong interest in electronics during his youth, when he often fixed his neighbours’ small appliances as a hobby. This influenced his decision to become an engineer, and after moving to California, he became a member of Silicon Valley’s Homebrew Computer Club, a hobbyist collective that included Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak among its members. It was his work as an engineer at San Jose-based Fairchild Semiconductor, though, that was truly pioneering. As a side project, he created a coin-op arcade game called Demolition Derby, and as a result he was approached by his bosses to become the lead engineer in the company’s new gaming division. He died from complications of diabetes in 2011, aged 70.

After moving on from Fairchild in 1980, Lawson founded Video Soft, which created games for the Atari 2600. The games were never publicly released, however, and following the notorious North American video game crash of 1983, he shut up shop in 1984 and worked as a consulting engineer thereafter. “Another company had the idea for the console but it was Fairchild that commercialised it,” says Andersen Lawson. “My dad was the person responsible for putting the team together … and they were able to achieve something that has been long since forgotten.”

Lawson’s Demolition Derby arcade game.
Lawson’s Demolition Derby arcade game. Photograph: ArcadeImages/Alamy

New York-born Ed Smith, meanwhile, is a retired engineer who helped develop APF Electronics’ Imagination Machine, a hybrid console and home computer system. Companies such as APF expanded into gaming in the 70s and early 80s, providing opportunities for talented engineers. “As a black person, it was more about having the opportunity to be gainfully employed, no matter what area of work I was doing,” Smith tells me. “I had a child at a young age and the biggest thing for me was to get a good job. Luckily, I got into the field of technology and that was the point from which everything else just flowed.”

As well as engineering, his work on the machine included developing schematic diagrams and game testing. Smith’s innovative work at APF was deeply influential to future generations, but the company itself did not withstand the video game crash. “I thought our game would be one of many in the marketplace for years to come… my expectations were that I would be in the industry for the long term; the reality was that after the market tanked, I had to go and work in other areas,” he says.

Eventually, Smith found long-term work in tech sales and retired about two years ago to focus on writing Imagine That!, a book about his life. It recounts his struggles as a young black man in 1960s America. “We had our share of things that caused us to go out and to protest at that time. And it was pretty much the same things that we’re dealing with today – which is unfortunate,” he adds.

Muriel Tramis.
Happy creativity … Muriel Tramis. Photograph: Coktel Vision

A third black innovator from the early days of the video games industry is Muriel Tramis, who is considered to be the first black female video game designer. She lives in France but grew up on the Caribbean island of Martinique, in the Lesser Antilles, and began her career as an engineer, programming military drones. She first made her mark on video games while working at French developer Coktel Vision, which she joined in 1986.

Tramis says that this was her happiest time, professionally speaking. “I had found a way to combine IT and literary creativity,” she told the Guardian. “My editor entrusted me with the project management of his adventure games because my engineering training allowed me to understand the technical aspects of development, programming of interactions, and integration of images and sound. He was of Armenian origin and probably for this reason, was very open-minded to diversity.”

Méwilo, the 1987 Atari game that Tramis wrote and directed in collaboration with writer Patrick Chamoiseau, drew on Martinique’s rich history. She says: “When I wanted to create my first script, I wanted it to be in the style of a historical novel. It’s natural that I was inspired by the island’s history, because it was unknown, or poorly known, to the rest of the world and had all the ingredients to create intrigue, drama and mystery. The history of the Antilles is part of the history of France, but this region has known the pain of slavery and colonisation. This is the origin of many traumas which are visible in Creole society and mixed societies in general.”

Tramis left Coktel Vision in 2003, but thinks fondly of her time there. “I liked the period so much that after a detour through virtual reality applied to urban planning, I am about to create my own video game development studio,” she says. “About 30 years after my first game, I am working on a future story.” Her upcoming game features black heroes and shows how skin-colour prejudice is the origin of present-day discrimination.

Tramis’s game Méwilo, 1987, from French developer Coktel Vision.
Tramis’s game Méwilo, 1987, from French developer Coktel Vision. Photograph: Coktel Vision

She was awarded the Légion d’honneur in 2018 and says it was an honour not just for herself but for her friends, family, her country and the “sisters” across the world, whom she hopes to inspire. Tramis is keen to encourage more women into technology and science, given the skills shortage in Europe: if women represent 50% of digital users, “they must also be 50% of designers, engineers and technicians”.

Though names like Lawson, Smith and Tramis do sometimes show up in video game history books, the contributions of many other black people in the fledgling days of the industry have gone entirely uncredited. “It parallels what we know about black women’s participation in the space program,” says TreaAndrea Russworm, an associate professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, who discusses black women’s contribution to games in her article Replaying Video Game History as a Mixtape of Black Feminist Thought (co-written with fellow black female academic Samantha Blackmon). “The book and film Hidden Figures has made it very obvious to us now that black women were there, but they weren’t headliners: they weren’t the astronauts, but they were the human computers, the labour force that was essential to the program, and they worked for many years unrecognised.

“At the Strong Museum [the US National Museum of Play], where they have archives on Midway and Atari, you can flip through their company newsletters, and you’ll come across photos of black women … they sometimes have a title or a caption saying who they were. But a lot of times, they don’t.”

Source link

Technology

Alex Gallagher: the 10 funniest things I have ever seen (on the internet) | Comedy

Published

on

There’s no way of dressing it up or making it out to be a more noble, onerous pursuit than it is: I am deeply online.

In the decade and a half that I’ve been plugged into the mainframe I’ve increasingly developed a concerning Pavlovian response to the internet, wherein joy is analogous to whatever cursed content my cyber-spelunking has managed to unearth that day.

Captivated, like the dog I am, salivating shamelessly as a faceless multinational corporation’s Twitter account posts the Bernie Sanders mittens meme, or a gang of millionaire celebrities team up to sing a John Lennon song together, or a new round of passionate Twitter discourse erupts over whether or not charcuterie boards are a tool of classism. Ring ring, the bell sounds, and my little dopamine bar is topped up. The clock resets.

Obviously, we don’t have time to process any of that in a constructive sense here and now. But, silver linings being what they are, I can at least show you some of the things that have made living on the internet for most of my adult life a less (or more, as may be the case) nightmarish journey through the abyss. Enjoy.

1. Conservative lecturer DESTROYS SJW college student

I love Jeremy Levick and Rajat Suresh, a pair of comedians and writers who make a lot of very funny, absurd content together. The crème de la crème, in my mind, is this video, which skewers the swathes of pro-conservative clips on YouTube in which we’re promised we’ll get to witness a masterly rightwing thinker obliterate a snivelling progressive worm through the power of logic. Define “special mouse”.

2. Dueling Carls

There’s a great and storied lineage of internet video built around the basic conceit that it’s funny when you make voice technology descend into fits of unintelligible screaming. Dueling Carls works on this very simple premise but has a huge and almost instantaneous payoff. You’ll probably want to turn your speakers down a little for this one.

3. Fake Tim Winton

Fake Tim Winton is a gift to Australian literature, a playful parody of the Cloudstreet author’s fondness for larrikinism, the beach, and coastal towns with terrible secrets. I think the best part about @timmwinto’s tweets are they honestly don’t require any prior knowledge of Winton’s work to be funny. All you need is to open your heart to the musings of a regular bloke who just wants to write his novels and ride his waves in a community reeling from a shocking crime that threatens to tear it apart.

4. Grimes’ pregnancy diet video

Harper’s Bazaar have a video series called Food Diaries where they get celebrities to talk about everything they eat in a day. Most of them are fairly boring – famous people trying extremely hard to be relatable and missing the mark completely. Electronic musician and genuine weirdo Grimes makes no such attempt in hers, and it’s an absolute blessing. Highlights include the revelation she ate nothing but spaghetti for two years, and the recipe for a truly cursed dish she says she invented called “sludge”.

5. Patricia Lockwood’s @parisreview tweet

Patricia Lockwood is a great poet and author whose recent book No One Is Talking About This is excellent, particularly if you are Extremely Online. You might also know Lockwood from her very popular “You kick Miette” tweet. I can understand why that’s the one that sticks with a lot people, but the simplicity of this one, from 2013, makes it for me.

6. Bin Laden has won

You may know Richard Dawkins for being a (fairly insufferable) atheist, but what you might not know is that he’s also – completely unintentionally – a master poster. Just this month he got gloriously dunked on after basically admitting he doesn’t understand the point of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis . In this 2013 tweet, we witness Dawkins’ assertion that “Bin Laden has won” because he had to throw out a jar of honey at an airport. It’s enough to make you restore your faith in a higher power.

7. Donald Trump claims to have beaten Pokémon despite not “catching them all”

Predictably, Donald Trump’s presidency prompted swaths of comedians to devise convoluted bits where they impersonated him, from Sarah Cooper’s viral videos to Alec Baldwin’s SNL character. These were almost all terrible, something I attribute to the fact there’s actually very little comedy to mine from hammering home the point that Trump’s views and policies were horrific, something so obvious it’s kind of low-hanging fruit. James Austin Johnson takes a different direction in his impersonations. Instead, here is nearly four straight minutes of the former President of the United States complaining about there being too many Pokémon.

Allow Instagram content?

This article includes content provided by Instagram. We ask for your permission before anything is loaded, as they may be using cookies and other technologies. To view this content, click ‘Allow and continue’.

8. I see something Lynchian

This tweet by writer and performer Walker Caplan has stuck with me since I saw it earlier this year, and I’ve probably referenced it in conversation half a dozen times. As a painfully stubborn nightmare of a person, “[getting angry and lying]” hits me deep in my bones.

9. BUT NO OPEN MOUTH

There’s no way I could write a list like this without including @dril – the OG, the king, the account that taught me I could be weird (on Twitter dot com). There are too many incredible tweets to choose from, but this gets me every single time.

10. Hannibal Buress’ Morpheus

At this point in my life I’ve seen Hannibal Buress’ Morpheus skit from The Eric Andre Show a thousand times and it still makes me laugh. There are few things one can be truly certain of in this random and perplexing hell world, but I know with total confidence that “seashells by the seashore-pheus” will live in my brain rent-free for the rest of my life.

Alex Gallagher is a writer, journalist and poet who lives on the internet. Follow them on Twitter at @lexgallagher.



Source link

Continue Reading

Technology

School teacher accused of pocketing $1m+ in insider trading using tips from Silicon Valley pal • The Register

Published

on

A teacher who knew too much about some of Silicon Valley’s financial figures has been charged with insider dealing by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, along with five alleged accomplices.

Benjamin Wylam, a high school teacher and sports bookmaker, has been charged with participating in an insider trading ring, allegedly said on an internet message board that “insider trading is part of my investment strategy.”

Wylam, according to a complaint [PDF] filed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, is one of six men accused of making stock trades based on non-public financial information from Silicon Valley companies.

“In 2016 and 2017, Defendants Nathaniel Brown, Benjamin Wylam, Naveen Sood, Marcus Bannon, Matthew Rauch, and Naresh Ramaiya engaged in an insider trading scheme involving the securities of Infinera Corporation and Fortinet, Inc,” the complaint says. “As a result of the scheme, Defendants obtained nearly $1.7m in illegal profits and losses avoided.”

During this period, according to the SEC complaint, Wylam, a resident of San Jose, received repeated tips about the financial performance of Infinera from Brown, a friend who served as Infinera’s revenue recognition manager at the time.

Wylam, said to have made more than $1m from insider trading, allegedly passed his information to Sood, who is also alleged to have made stock trades based on the non-public data.

Sood, it’s claimed, passed on the information to Bannon, Rauch, and Ramaiya, who subsequently made stock trades based on the non-public data. According to the SEC, Sood owed Wylam a gambling debt in excess of $100,000.

Bannon, while an employee of Fortinet in October 2016, is said to have tipped Sood, Wylam, and Ramaiya to unexpected negative earnings news about his employer before the information became public.

“Using sophisticated data analysis, the SEC was able to uncover this insider trading ring and hold each of its participants accountable to ensure the integrity of our markets,” said Joseph Sansone, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Market Abuse Unit, in a statement.

The SEC did not immediately respond to a request to elaborate on its data analysis techniques.

Bannon, Rauch, and Ramaiya, without admitting or denying the SEC claims, have agreed to settle by paying civil penalties of $281,497, $128,230, and $65,780, respectively. Sood has also agreed to settle the charges by paying a civil penalty of $178,320.

The US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California is simultaneously pursuing criminal securities fraud charges against Brown, Wylam, and Sood.

Sood, according to the USAO, pleaded guilty on March 31, 2021, and his plea, accepted by US District Judge Edward Chen, was unsealed on Tuesday.

Wylam’s legal representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment; court filings haven’t yet made Brown’s legal representative known. Both men are presumed innocent until proven otherwise. ®

Source link

Continue Reading

Technology

4 Galway companies to compete in global medtech competition

Published

on

MedTech Innovator has selected 50 companies to take part in its annual showcase, highlighting future innovators in the medical field.

The international MedTech Innovator competition this week announced its selection of 50 leading medical device, diagnostic and digital health start-ups from nearly 1,100 applications.

Of the 50 start-ups selected for the non-profit contest, four companies are based in Galway, Ireland.

Atrian Medical, Lifelet Medical, Neurent Medical and Tympany Medical are the four Irish start-ups that will be participating. The programme, taking place virtually, commenced on Tuesday (15 June), when the leadership of the 50 chosen start-ups participated in the annual MedTech Innovator Summit.

During this online event, the selected companies collaborated with MedTech Innovator’s partners, participating in virtual networking events and interactive workshops.

A subset of 25 early-stage companies will participate in MedTech Innovator’s award-winning accelerator programme, in which medtech start-ups are matched with senior industry leaders to receive continual in-depth, customised mentorship and support, as well as being eligible to compete for scholarships and cash prizes. Atrian, Lifelet and Tympany have all been selected as participants in this accelerator.

Galway’s medtech innovators

The four Irish companies chosen by MedTech Innovator represent broad approaches to the medical field. They have been selected among start-ups from the US, the UK, France, The Netherlands, Belgium and Israel.

Atrian Medical has developed non-invasive techniques for treating atrial fibrillation. This restores the heart’s steady rhythm through targeting neuronal cells in clusters known as ganglionated plexi.

While most treatments for this heart condition involve ablation (both burning and freezing), this start-up aims to permanently disable errant signals.

Also working on the heart is Lifelet Medical. By developing a fully synthetic polymer-based material, Lifelet is working to provide new heart valve replacements. The company hopes to improve clinical outcomes, achieve increased valve durability and reduce the carbon footprint involved in the process.

In doing so, they aim to improve the lives of the millions of patients suffering from heart valve disease.

Next is Neurent Medical – a start-up that has designed the Neuromark system for addressing rhinitis.

Support Silicon Republic

Rhinitis is a disease of the nose that is characterised by persistent symptoms of nasal congestion, nasal discharge (rhinorrhoea), sneezing, postnasal drainage, and numerous other symptoms that have a large impact on the patient’s overall quality of life and wellbeing.

The Neuromark system applies controlled low-power radio frequency energy to target regions of the nasal cavity. In doing so, it aims to disrupt the parasympathetic nerve signals and halt the inflammatory response, thereby eliminating core symptoms such as congestion and rhinorrhoea.

As nearly one out of four rhinitis sufferers develops new respiratory comorbidity – including new allergen sensitivity, sinusitis, and asthma – Neurent Medical researchers hope to considerably reduce the burden on the healthcare system through this innovation.

Finally, Tympany Medical is developing new sterile panoramic endoscope technology.

Endoscopes are typically long, thin tubes with a light source and camera attached to their tip. They are used to provide an internal view of the body’s structures and organs.

By considering issues in the usability and flexibility of existing devices, Tympany hopes to enable a new generation of minimally invasive ear surgery.

MedTech Innovator showcase

These four Irish companies will participate in a four-month programme that culminates in The MedTech Conference from 27 to 30 September, where all 50 companies will present in showcase panels.

During the conference, five start-ups from the accelerator cohort will compete for the Execution Award, and another five companies will advance to compete in the grand final.

An audience vote will determine the winner of the $350,000 grand prize and the title of 2021 MedTech Innovator. Additional awards will be presented, including incubator space at JLABS.

“Our goal at MedTech Innovator is to find the most promising medical innovations and make sure they actually reach the patients who need them,” said Paul Grand, CEO of MedTech Innovator.

“We are thrilled with the calibre of the start-ups participating in this year’s cohort and we look forward to providing them with the resources and mentorship they need to succeed.”

The MedTech Innovator competition is supported in its review and feedback by its partners, including Johnson & Johnson, Baxter and Olympus Medical Systems Group.

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!