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Hello, and welcome back to my office, where today, instead of talking about the latest nanotech doohickey or awesome fantastic newly discovered exoplanet, I want to spent a few moments of Black History Month talking about some of the freaking amazing things that were invented by African American scientists. Things that have made my life way more awesome, and probably your life too, though who are we kidding, I don't care about you.

Let's start with this thing, right here [clip-on microphone]. This [iPod case]. And this [headset]. And this [microphone]. And let's not forget this [laptop].

For all these things, we have to thank physicist James West, who in the 1960s revolutionized everything from hearing aids to rock and roll by inventing the electric microphone.

Before James West came along, microphones were really weak, and they had to be hooked up to an external power source, which made them not super useful in a lot of applications. So while he was working at Bell Labs, he discovered that by implanting a microphone with an electret, which is a substance like Teflon that retains a static charge, it would not only pick up a broader range of sounds, it also didn't need a power source.

Today about 90% of microphones, including in your phone and in your laptop and basically anything else you talk into, you use James West's technology.

Now about that computer that you have. Out of all the patentable inventions in IBM's original personal computer, a third of those patents are still held by Mark Dean.

Dean is an electrical engineer without whose work, I shudder to think of what my life would be like. In the early 1980s, Dean led the team that came up with the interior architecture that all PCs would use to communicate with other devices, like printers, and modems, and other computers. Basically the architecture that made computers worth using.

Technology's changed a lot since then, of course, but the system that Dean developed, called the ISA systems bus, still used in a lot of industrial and military computers. Dean continued research to make computers smaller and faster and more badass, and in 1998 he led the team that came up with the first chip capable of doing a billion calculations per second. And he still works at IBM, where he is one of the senior vice presidents.

So now we got microphones for making videos, computers for like all the other work that I do, what else is there, real--oh right. Uh, there's video games.

Gamers everywhere should probably have a picture of Jerry Lawson taped to their console because he's our patron saint. In the 1970s Lawson was head engineer at a company called Fairfield Semiconductor, which is a pretty big semiconductor company. And while he was there, he developed the very first video game console. Back then, video games were pretty much exclusively either like big, stand up things that you played at the arcade or like one game that you took home and plugged into your TV and it just had the one game in it.

Lawson thought that it was kind of dumb to have the hardware and the software bundled together and not be able to use the hardware for other games that could perfectly easily use the same game, so he came up with a system of cartridges. Each of the cartridges had codes for different games on them and he also developed a console that you could plug the cartridges into and then play a variety of games that you could then buy independently, which is great for the video game company.

Basically the dude invented console gaming. His device was released in 1976 as the Fairchild Channel F, a year before Atari's first console. And you know you've never heard of the Channel F so it's obvious that it didn't exactly take off, but his ideas did become industry standards. Soon after, Lawson left Fairchild to start his own video game company called Videosoft, which made software for the Atari 2600 and the rest is history. Lawson died in 2011 but the next time I fire up Assassin's Creed, I'm totally gonna Tebow in his honor.

We'll see you here next Wednesday with more SciShow Breaking. If you have any questions or ideas for what we should cover, please leave them in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter.