Mike Cowlishaw

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Michael F. Cowlishaw
Mike Cowlishaw 2005.jpg
Born Bath, England
Nationality British
Fields Computer Science
Institutions University of Warwick
Alma mater University of Birmingham
Known for Rexx, editors (STET, LEXX), Decimal arithmetic, DPD
Notable awards FReng, FIET, FBCS

Mike Cowlishaw is a retired IBM Fellow, a Visiting Professor at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Warwick, and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Engineering and Technology, and the British Computer Society. He was educated at Monkton Combe School and The University of Birmingham.

Career at IBM[edit]

Cowlishaw joined IBM in 1974 as an electronic engineer but is best known as a programmer and writer. He is known for designing and implementing the REXX programming language (published in IBM Systems Journal in 1984)[1] and the Java-related NetRexx programming language (1996–1997), his work on colour perception and image processing (1982–1985), the STET folding editor (1977), the LEXX live parsing editor (1985, possibly the first editor with colour highlighting) for the Oxford English Dictionary,[2] electronic publishing, SGML applications, PMGlobe,[3] the IBM Jargon file (IBMJARG) through 1990,[4] the Acorn System 1 simulator,[5] MemoWiki,[6] and decimal arithmetic.

He has also contributed to and/or edited various computing standards, including ISO (SGML, COBOL, C, C++), BSI (SGML, C), ANSI (REXX), IETF (HTTP 1.0/RFC 1945), W3C (XML Schema), ECMA (JavaScript/ECMAScript, C#, CLI), and IEEE (754 decimal floating-point).

He retired from IBM in March 2010.

Decimal arithmetic[edit]

Cowlishaw has worked on aspects of decimal arithmetic; his proposal for an improved Java BigDecimal class (JSR 13) is now included in Java 5.0, and in 2002, he invented a refinement of Chen–Ho encoding known as densely packed decimal encoding. Cowlishaw's decimal arithmetic specification[7] formed the proposal for the decimal parts of the IEEE 754 standard, as well as being followed by many implementations, such as Python and SAP Netweaver. His decNumber decimal package is also available as open source under several licenses and is now part of GCC, and his proposals for decimal hardware have been adopted by IBM and others. They are integrated into the IBM Power6 and IBM System z10 processor cores, and in numerous IBM software products such as DB2, TPF (in Sabre), WebSphere MQ, operating systems, and C and PL/I compilers.

Other activities[edit]

Outside computing, he also is known as a caver. A life member of the NSS, he wrote articles in the 1970s and 1980s on battery technology and on the shock strength of caving ropes, and caved in the UK, New England, Spain, and Mexico. He still caves in Spain with Speleogroup and designs LED-based caving lamps. Cowlishaw holds a National Private Pilot License (Microlight).[8]



  1. ^ M. F. Cowlishaw (1984). "The design of the REXX language". IBM Systems Journal, VOL 23. NO 4, 1984 (PDF). IBM Research. pp. 326–335. doi:10.1147/sj.234.0326. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Jim Elliott (2003-10-06). "Description of LEXX". IBM VMARC v-943K. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  3. ^ Isaac Leung (2004-05-16). "OS/2 eZine Quickies…". OS/2 ezine. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  4. ^ Mike Cowlishaw (May 1990). "IBM Jargon and General Computing Dictionary Tenth Edition". IBMJARG. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  5. ^ simulator
  6. ^ MemoWiki
  7. ^ decimal arithmetic specification
  8. ^ "Mike Cowlishaw". Personal web page. 1 January 2014. 

External links[edit]