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NASA Technologist Katherine Johnson, the Hidden Figures Mathematician, Dies at 101

The IEEE President’s Award recipient helped the agency plot its course to space

1 min read
Photo of Katherine Johnson
Photo: NASA

THE INSTITUTE Katherine G. Johnson, one of the women featured in the 2016 Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures, died today at age 101. Her mathematical calculations of orbital mechanics at NASA were critical to the success of Friendship 7 and several other U.S. human spaceflights. She was instrumental in getting astronaut John Glenn into space.

IEEE recognized her contributions last year with its President’s Award, “for fundamental computational contributions to the success of American’s first and subsequent manned spaceflights, including Apollo 11.”

For more about her fascinating life and the struggles she overcame, read our article, “Katherine Johnson, the Hidden Figures Mathematician Who Got Astronaut John Glenn Into Space.”

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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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