Saturday, June 26, 2004

NEWS: ASCII Inventor Bob Bemer Dead at 84

CIO Today: NewsFactor Network - Enterprise - ASCII Inventor Bob Bemer Dead at 84

Bob Bemer, the American programmer who gave computers ASCII, the escape key and the backslash, has died at age 84.

Bemer worked at IBM in the late 1950s and 1960s, where he led a team that developed the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII). ASCII is the binary coding system for the way that computers represent letters, numbers, punctuation marks and some control keys. The standardization allowed computers to communicate with each other.

IEEE Honor

In May 2003, the IEEE Latest News about IEEE Computer Society presented Bemer with the Computer Pioneer Award. The award was given "for meeting the world's needs for variant character sets and other symbols, via ASCII, ASCII-alternate sets, and escape sequences."

Bob Bemer, who became a programmer in 1949, worked at RAND, Marquardt, Lockheed, IBM, Univac, Bull GE, General Electric and Honeywell.

Prolific Writer

Bemer wrote more than 115 articles in technical journals as well as the original scope and program of work for international and national computer standards, and chaired the international committee for programming language standards for 11 years.

In 1959, an internal IBM memo by Bemer proposed word processing. At Lockheed, he devised the first computerized 3-D dynamic perspective, a prelude to today's computer animation.

In the late 1950's, Bemer was advisor to the Defense Department for the creation of another important computer standard, COBOL (common business oriented language). Besides COBOL, he coined the terms "CODASYL," and "Software Factory" and was honored by three Pioneer Days, SHARE, COBOL and FORTRAN.

Bemer was recognized by the IEEE as the first person in the world to publish warnings of the Year 2000 problem, first in 1971, and again in 1979. He appeared on many television shows to warn of the problem, including CNET, NBC Nightly News, CNN, Good Morning America and the BBC.

Bemer died of cancer at his home in Possum Kingdom Lake, 120 miles west of Dallas, Texas on Tuesday, June 22nd. He was married six times, twice to his wife, Bettie Seals Peeler Bemer, who survives him. He also is survived by a stepdaughter, six children, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.


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