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Katherine Johnson, the Hidden Figures Mathematician Who Got Astronaut John Glenn Into Space

The NASA technologist received the IEEE President’s Award for her work on Apollo 11

4 min read
Mrs. Katherine G. Johnson at Work at NASA Langley
Johnson, once known as a human computer, reviews calculations done by a physical computer, at NASA’s Langley laboratory.
Photo: NASA

THE INSTITUTEKatherine G. Johnson’s mathematical calculations of orbital mechanics at NASA were critical to the success of Friendship 7 and several other U.S. human spaceflights. She was one of the women featured in the 2016 Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures.

IEEE last month recognized her work with its President’s Award, “for fundamental computational contributions to the success of American’s first and subsequent manned spaceflights, including Apollo 11.” Johnson, who turned 100 in August, was unable to travel to the ceremony. Her daughters, Katherine Goble Moore and Joylette Goble Hylick, accepted the award on her behalf at the IEEE Honors Ceremony, held on 17 May in San Diego. Johnson “has a real passion for learning, and always aspired to teach others everything she knew,” Hylick said. You can watch the presentation on IEEE.tv.

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The Lies that Powered the Invention of Pong

A fake contract masked a design exercise–and started an industry

4 min read
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Pong arcade game in yellow cabinet containing black and white TV display, two knobs are labeled Player 1 and Player 2, Atari logo visible.
Roger Garfield/Alamy

In 1971 video games were played in computer science laboratories when the professors were not looking—and in very few other places. In 1973 millions of people in the United States and millions of others around the world had seen at least one video game in action. That game was Pong.

Two electrical engineers were responsible for putting this game in the hands of the public—Nolan Bushnell and Allan Alcorn, both of whom, with Ted Dabney, started Atari Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif. Mr. Bushnell told Mr. Alcorn that Atari had a contract from General Electric Co. to design a consumer product. Mr. Bushnell suggested a Ping-Pong game with a ball, two paddles, and a score, that could be played on a television.

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