Celebrating Black History Month: An engineer who revolutionized the internet

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Where would we be without our smartphones? Most of us probably couldn't even count how many times we use them to send pictures and video.

As we celebrate Black History Month, I had the honor of having a one-on-one interview with one of the engineers who's responsible for revolutionizing the internet.

Dr. Thomas Mensah worked along with three other names you should know - Bob Maurer, Don Keck and Peter Schultz - to invent laser fiber optics back in the 1980's. They had no idea how it would change our way of life.

"Without these four guys, the internet wouldn't work because we invented a laser-based fiber optics system that allows everybody to send a picture to someone else's cellphone. Without that invention, we could not send any Instagram pictures, no Facebook. So we led Facebook, Google, Instagram so that those things could happen. Before we did it, everything was using copper. You could stand in front of an ATM for what seemed like eight hours, but now you go in quickly because of our invention," said Dr. Mensah.

Dr. Mensah joined the team of engineers after he finished his engineering degree from M.I.T.

"I was hired to fix a problem to get the invention out of the laboratory. Within six months, I solved the problem and made it feasible so that fiber optics could be cheap and it could replace copper wires throughout America," Dr. Mensah added.

He says it never dawned on the team back in the 1980's that we could ever live in a society where we could walk around with computers and share information several times a day.

"You know, right now in your pocket, you have a computer that is more powerful than the computer that designed the Apollo rocket. You can find all of the information in the world on this computer. You can send anything through the fiber optics program we invented," Dr. Mensah said.

To learn more about Dr. Thomas Mensah, please click here.

To find more information on prominent black inventors to celebrate Black History Month, please visit The Black Inventor Online Museum.

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