David Packard, the co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, heard of Clay’s work and invited him to discuss a position at the company. Clay was hired as the lead developer for the HP 2116A minicomputer, the first computer ever sold by Hewlett-Packard. The HP 2116A, released in 1966, was only about the size of a typewriter, and its impressive reliability and compact footprint made it an immediate success. Clay, who established Hewlett-Packard’s software de- velopment group and managed the entire computer divi- sion, ultimately became the highest-ranking African Amer- ican at the company. It was not only that work, however, which led to him being dubbed the “Godfather of Silicon Valley.” That nick- name emerged when the major investment group Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers tapped him as consultant. Fol- lowing his advice, the group backed such companies as Tandem, Compaq, and Intel, allowing them to flourish and launching a major tech boom. In 1977 Clay, hearing that the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) was going to call for increased safety testing of all electri- cal products, formed his own company, Rod-L Electronics, which creates safety-testing equipment that is now used by manufacturers of electrical and electronics equipment all over the world. His customers include Hewlett-Packard, IBM, AT&T, and Xerox. Clay—who has been inducted into the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame—is deeply interested in local


Black Achievement in Science: Computer Science

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