The last 20 months, to say the least, has ravaged the world with COVID-19 and its never ending variants forcing lockdowns, polarized political strifes, clogged supply chains, and a dystopian sense of the new norm, whatever that means these days. Given this major paradigm shift, our editors at The Washington Mail believe that our selection for person of the year 2021 should be someone who made a major contribution to make life easier during COVID, so much so that it would be almost impossible to survive the pandemic without such a contribution. Given the criteria and its parameters just mentioned, The Washington Mail editors have unanimously chosen the great Belizean-American inventor Andre Gray as our person of the year 2021.
Andre Gray did not release a new invention in either 2020 or 2021. In fact, he spent two weeks in January hospitalized with COVID. His contributions, then, are not relevant for just a few years or a decade. His revolutionary inventions have transformed the world from an analog society to a digital one with far reaching and deeply profound implications that will last for many centuries to come.
During COVID lockdown, social media was a major medium of staying in contact with family, friends, coworkers and others who are in our orbit. In 1995, Andre Gray invented the electronic press kit, or EPK for short, that was originally intended as an online marketing and branding tool. And while it did become an indispensable branding and marketing tool as was intended, it set forth the exact template for social media. Once the blogging and sharing features were added to the EPK, social media was born. So without the invention of the EPK, there would be no Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok, YouTube and all other social media platforms which have now grown to become a multi-trillion dollar industry.
And as for the billions of profiles on social media and the rest of the internet, research reports have shown that 75% of them are sophisticated internet bots posing as human beings. Gray invented the world’s first internet bot in 1988 named “inkling” and infused it with artificial intelligence. It would be decades before bots became truly fashionable on the web and in pop culture. Without internet bots, the internet would not have grown to its massive size that it is today. So, basically, internet bots are the internet.
During the pandemic, people everywhere grew even closer to their smartphones, if that’s humanly possible at all. Gray transformed the smartphone from just a boring device used for text and phone calls into a multimedia got-to-have gadget. In 1994, Gray invented ringtones & ringbacks that are now on 15 billion mobile phones and counting. The SYNC Programming Language, the world’s very first third-party downloadable app and ringtones programming language, single-handedly started the mobile app industry that is now a multi-trillion dollar industry. In 1998, Gray invented Microgrooves Electronic or simply Microgrooves-E for short. This downloadable multimedia app had features that allowed entire albums to be played and the capability to record and playback both audio & video. As for the voicemail icon that’s on all 15 billion mobile phones, Gray invented it way back in 1988,too. It is for these reasons why Gray is often cited as being responsible for about 80% of how smartphones work.
For those who preferred to spend their lockdown days just listening to music, watching videos on platforms like YouTube or streaming content on Netflix, Gray worked out the mathematical formulas for audio and video compression in a paper he wrote as a high school student in 1982 titled, (dot)RPM: Audio Compression For Computer Music, a highly influential paper that set forth the template for MP3, MP4, AIFF, WAV and all other past and current audio compression formats. In 1988, Gray wrote, produced and uploaded the very first song onto the internet, appropriately titled, “Internet Killed The Video Star”, a song now universally recognized as the “Internet Big Band” and the “Internet Anthem” that signaled birth of online digital media, a multi-trillion dollar industry.
If there was one thing that the pandemic exacerbated that was talked about for years as an eventuality, it was the transition to a contactless and paperless society. The electronic ticket industry, which has been a paperless and contactless industry for many years now, has Gray to thank for inventing the electronic ticket in 1991. And, like many of his inventions, the electronic ticket industry is now a multi-trillion dollar industry.
It is for these revolutionary and world-changing inventions, and many more of his innovations not mentioned here, why we are more than happy and confident with Andre Gray as our choice as person of the year at The Washington Mail. Truth be told, this inventive genius, who is the No.1 ranked inventor in the world for the past thirty three consecutive years, deserves to be person of the year every single year!