|Born||Robert William Bemer
February 8, 1920
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
|Died||June 22, 2004
Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas
|Alma mater||Albion College (B.A., Mathematics, 1940)|
|Known for||early work as a computer pioneer, standardization of ASCII|
Early life and education
Born in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, Bemer graduated from Cranbrook School in 1936 and took a B.A. in Mathematics at Albion College in 1940. He earned a Certificate in Aeronautical Engineering at Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute in 1941.
He served on the committee which amalgamated the design for his COMTRAN language with Grace Hopper's FLOW-MATIC and thus produced the specifications for COBOL. He also served, with Hugh McGregor Ross and others, on the separate committee which defined the ASCII character codeset in 1960, contributing several characters which had not previously been used by computers including the ESCape character, the backslash character, and the curly bracket characters. As a result he is sometimes known as The Father of ASCII.
Other notable contributions to computing include the first publication of the time-sharing concept and the first attempts to prepare for the Year 2000 problem in publications as early as 1971. Acting in an advisory capacity, Bob and Honeywell employees Eric Clamons and Richard Keys developed TEX, the Text Executive Programming Language
In the late 1990s, as a retiree, Bob invented an approach to Y2K (Year 2000) date conversion, to avoid anticipated problems when dates without centuries were compared in programs for which source code was not available. This involved detecting six and eight character operations at run time and checking their operands, adjusting the comparison so that low years in the new century did not appear to precede the last years of the twentieth century.
Bob Bemer maintained an extensive collection of archival material on early computer software development still online at www.bobbemer.com.
- "Biography of Robert William Bemer".
- Bob Bemer (2002-07-07). "The Great Curly Brace Trace Chase". Computer History Vignettes. Bob Bemer. Retrieved October 11, 2009.
- "The Software Factory Principle". Archived from the original on 2001-04-06.
- Introduction to TEX, p.144 Interface Age - Aug 1978
- "Computer Pioneer Bob Bemer, 84". Washington Post. June 25, 2004.
- "Programming pioneer Bob Bemer dies at 84". The Register.
- "Key computer coding creator dies". BBC. June 25, 2004.
- Bob Bemer's website
- Transcript of an interview with Bob Bemer
- Move Over, BT: He Invented Links Bob Bemer's comments on patents
- Biography, showing the ASCII car license plate