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By Sonya Kimble-Ellis

It’s no secret that Silicon Valley lacks diversity. Caucasian males constitute many of the engineers, venture capitalists and start-up founders  in this technological hot-bed of innovation.  According to a recent report by Mercury News, Hispanics and blacks compose a smaller share of the valley’s computer workers in 2008 than they did in 2000. Despite the statistics, however, there are still a handful of African-Americans making their mark in the techie capital of the world. Here, we highlight the contributions of four such innovators.

Dr. Mark E. Dean

Dr. Mark E. Dean is heralded as one of the most influential engineers and inventors in America. His contribution to the development and enhancement to personal computers won him an induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. An IBM Fellow, Dean has worked at the company since 1980 and holds three of their nine PC patents. “I’m crazy about technology,” he said. “I have a vivid imagination. To me, anything you can imagine is possible. I’m not afraid to try.”

He is currently the VP of IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California as well as their Senior Location Executive for Silicon Valley, his track record speaks for itself. While at the company, Dean led the team that built a gigahertz chip, which did a billion calculations per second. His other developments enabled computers to communicate with external devices like printers, disc drives, keyboards, modems and speakers.

The innovations are known as the Industry Standard Architecture (ISA). As chief engineer, he spearheaded a project that allowed computers to be compatible with high-performance software. Dean also worked on IBM’s ground-breaking E-Tablet, a hand-held device with the same capabilities as a desktop. He presently oversees more than 400 IBM engineers and scientists.

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