Black Software is an American invention
Black people coded multimedia and screensaver software titles became a preferred choice among first time visitors to the blacksoftware.com Boston-based website in the 1980s. Do you take money-orders they asked? There was no credit-card processor like a Stripe, no Square store, no WooCommerce cart plugins at the time. ShopSite ecommerce software kept track of orders and PayPal handled the digital cash conversion steps but a lot of people did not trust Paypal or any other webpage asking for their credit card numbers on the internet at the time. Customers were from all around.
African American coders were making software. Africans were making software. And it was different enough to escape the industry recognized “multi-cultural” software category, but it had no where to go, at least not until blackSoftware.com established the blackSoftware category and tagline “for people who want software choice.”
When a Nigerian pitched his software as blackware to a Black-owned computer shop owned by William Murrell in Cambridge, Ma. in 1989, Murrell became an early adopter anxious to buy and stock it for resale. His store bought inventory and advertised it in a publication named the Black Pages of New England, published by Thelma Sullivan. The African’s software line quickly sold out!
Murrell launched the website Blacksoftware.com that year with a plan to find, catalog, share and sell software made for consumers by a person of African descent.
Using the his Afronet BBS network node as a bull horn and the online reach of AOL, CompuServe, GEnie, and Prodigy networks, Murrell issued open calls for software made by Black software coders around the world. A list of titles was discovered and advertised by blacksoftware.com at the time.
This collection of software was given the name black software by blacksoftware.com, branded “blackSoftware,” using the letters little “b” with the big “S” when writing it and defined in 2006 like this.
New genre joins list of prominent Black genres
When people ask what is blackSoftware, we say “it is like black film, black literature, black art and people understand it better. Those genres had humble beginnings. Did the esteemed Afro-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, the progenitor of the Black Film genre know beforehand that his movies would create a black film genre? I think not. Black filmmakers self-identify with its category today. Tyler Perry has gone on to create the largest film production studio campus ever seen. Was Henry O. Tanner aware his paintings would persuade black artists, painters and illustrators to collectively form the Black Fine Art genre which created a sustainable point of difference with European renaissance artwork? What was Phyllis Wheatley thinking when she began putting words on paper? Did she intentionally formulate the black literature genre?
The power of the Internet and social media makes it possible to create something new that never existed before and secure it to the world faster than any other moment in time. The two words “Internet” and “Social Media” are not much older than 38 years old. blackSoftware – the genre becomes 30 years old in 2019.
The blackSoftware genre promises to sustain a marketplace of creators, distributors, resellers, and financiers. Many are just getting their feet wet as we write these words. The size of the market for the blackSoftware genre is unknown to be honest.
The landscape is so new but you can draw parallel lines to black film, black literature, and black studies to get a feel for what significant black genres are producing in terms of opportunities, dollars, and contributions to society.
Software eats the world, said Marc Andreessen, the American entrepreneur, investor, and software engineer who is the co-author of Mosaic, the first widely used Web browser; co-