Episode 246: The story of Ed Smith, one of the first African Americans to work in video games

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By The 1099 and Josiah Renaudin. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
The earliest days of the video game industry were, to put it lightly, a wild west of new technology We all know Atari, and I’m sure plenty of folks know about Coleco, but among the competitors was a company known as APF, and their machines -- the MP1000 and later the Imagination Machine -- helped define that first generation. And we have people like engineer Ed Smith to thank for that. Ed grew up like any other black kid in New York City’s Brownsville, a tough community that exists as a testament to the power of systemic discrimination, crime, and a lack of opportunity. Like many engineers before him (such as Jerry Lawson), Ed eventually fell in love with the satisfaction and pride of taking machines apart and putting them back together, and it’s that passion and hard work that drove him to a career at companies like APF, Netware creators Novell, and even Apple. But it wasn’t until recent years that Ed even felt comfortable sharing his experiences and wisdom, thanks to a self-imposed belief that no one would believe a guy like him was ever responsible for such a cool thing. It took until 2016, when Ed’s story was featured in FastCompany, for him to realize that his story had value. And so, Ed Smith wrote his memoir, appropriately titled “Imagine That: The story of Ed Smith, one of the first African Americans to work in the design of video games and personal computers. And folks, I know I hype up a lot of episodes. It’s my job, but this truly was one of the most fascinating conversations I’ve ever had the privilege of having. Not only does Smith provide an engaging look at those early years of the video game wars, he illustrates a massively compelling look at how the African American community he grew up in shaped him, the way he lives his life, and the way he championed his own intelligence and drive throughout his career. The video game and tech industries of course still struggle to diversify themselves, but as with all history, it behooves us to learn it so we can imagine a better future. Buy Ed Smith's memoir, Imagine That: https://www.amazon.com/Imagine-That-Americans-personal-computers-ebook/dp/B0846535TR Follow The 1099: @ The1099Podcast on Twitter Follow Joe: @ JosephKnoop on Twitter Music by: ZWBuckley.com

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