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Black History Month: John Henry Thompson - Inventor

This week for Black History Month, we’re celebrating John Henry Thompson, inventor, and scientist.

John Henry Thompson is the inventor of the Lingo programming language used in Adobe Director and a former Chief Scientist at Macromedia.

Early Years

He was born on the 15 June in 1959 and spent part of his childhood in Jamaica with his aunt. Around the age of 5, he moved back to Essex, England and then at the age of 12, his parents, in search of a better life for their children moved from the United Kingdom to New York.

Even in high school, John Henry Thompson was interested in computer programming languages. He taught himself several programming languages such as FORTRAN, PLI, COBOL and JCL while working in a New York research facility.

After graduating from High School, he attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he obtained a degree in Computer Science. He had a passion for art and as such was did a minor in visual arts and design. He had such an interest in the arts that he had paused his MIT programme after just two years to enrol himself at The Art Students League of New York where he studied both drawing and painting.

The Inventing Years

Four years later, as a chief scientist at Macromedia™, he developed several products, many of them based on his most famous invention, Lingo programming: a scripting language that helps render visuals in computer programs. Thompson used Lingo in one of his better-known computer inventions, Macromedia™ Director. Macromedia™ Director can incorporate different graphic formats (such as BMP, AVI, JPEG, QuickTime, PNG, RealVideo and vector graphics) to create multi-media content and applications, thus combining computer programming language with visual art.

Lingo is now used with many programs that have interactive simulations with graphics, animation, sound, and video. Along with Macromedia™ Director, Thompson has helped develop MediaMaker, Actions, VideoWorks Accelerator, and Video Works II. Lingo has also been used to create flash and shockwave programs that now are prevalent in video games, web design, animation, and graphics.

Current Times

In 2012 he returned to his homeland Jamaica, and he was honoured for his innovations and commitment to coaching with the Silver Musgrave Medal for Science by the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ).

He moved to Jamaica to host mobile apps development workshops under the Digital Jam 2.0 Project. He also devotes his time to writing iPhone apps for EP Visual Design and practices yoga.

References and Further Reading: