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African-American History Maker in Technology: Roy L. Clay

Celebrating Black History Month

Bowling Green, Ky. (February 13, 2020) - To honor Black History Month, Connected Nation is paying tribute to some of the most influential African-American innovators in technology.

Roy L. Clay is a computer science pioneer who was dubbed the “Godfather of Silicon Valley." He is best known for developing new software for Hewlett-Packard Images Slides Roynew Jpg 400 236x300(HP) computers. Over 50 years, Clay has played a huge role in computer science development and has paved the way for other African-Americans in the industry.

Clay was born in 1929 in the small town of Kinloch, Mo., according to the ROD-L. Despite not having the best childhood, he still had a big ambition for life. In 1951, Clay graduated from St. Louis University and was one of the first African-American students to do so.

With a degree in mathematics and new interest in technology, Clay moved to Silicon Valley in the late 1950s. That’s where he landed his first job in computer science at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). He was accepted there at a time when many other organizations would not hire people of color. Clay’s impressive work shined through when he developed his first computer program — new software to measure how radiation would spread after an atomic explosion.

As Clay started to succeed in Silicon Valley, Hewlett-Packard (HP) took notice and hired him to help set up their computer development business. According to the Silicon Valley Engineering Council Hall of Fame, Clay led the team that created HP’s innovative computer, the 2116A, in 1966. Not only did he develop the software for the 2116A computer, but he also was the director for the first HP Research and Development Computer Group.

After working for HP, Clay went on to create his own company, ROD-L Electronics. ROD-L became a world leader in developing electrical safety testing equipment. They sold dielectric withstand testers (also known as hipots), devices that protect PCs from electrical surges.

Aside from his technical achievements, Clay’s most influential/strong idea was establishing programs to help more African-Americans get interested in tech and get into Silicon Valley. He also served as the first African-American on the Palo Alto, Calif., City Council in 1973, and promoted equality within this community.

Roy L. Clay is a great example of a black history maker in technology. His knowledge and contribution to the computer science world will never go unrecognized.


ROD-L Website

Silicon Valley Engineering Council Hall of Fame

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