Lawrence M. Breed

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Lawrence Moser Breed is a computer scientist, artist and inventor, best known for his involvement in the APL programming language.


As an undergraduate at Stanford University in 1961, he created the first computer animation language and system and used it at Stanford football half-times to coordinate images produced by a 100 ft-by-100 ft array of rooters holding up colored cards.[1]

As a graduate student at Stanford, he corresponded with APL's inventor, Ken Iverson, to correct the formal description of the IBM System/360 which used Iverson's notation.[2][3] After receiving his M.S. from Stanford in 1965, he joined Iverson's group at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, where he created the first implementation of APL, with Philip S. Abrams, on the IBM 7090 in 1965;[4][5][6] Abrams' academic supervisor being Niklaus Wirth.[7]

He later created APL implementations for an experimental IBM "Little Computer" in 1966, for the IBM 360 in 1966, and for the IBM 1130.[8][9][10]

Breed was the 1973 recipient (with Dick Lathwell and Roger Moore) of the Grace Murray Hopper Award from the Association for Computing Machinery "for their work in the design and implementation of APL\360, setting new standards in simplicity, efficiency, reliability and response time for interactive systems."[11]

With Dan Dyer and others he co-founded Scientific Time Sharing Corporation in 1969, where he led the development of the APL PLUS time-sharing system. While there, in 1972, he and Francis Bates III wrote one of the world's first worldwide email systems, called "Mailbox".[12]

Breed rejoined IBM in 1977. He helped develop the ISO APL standard, then joined IBM efforts to port BSD Unix onto IBM platforms. He worked on C language compilers, floating point standardization, and radix conversion until retiring in 1992.


Breed became a significant contributor to the Burning Man festival, under the playa name of Ember. He conceived and built the first "trash fence" to capture windborne debris;[13][14] created the spiraling, flaming sculpture "Chaotick";[15][16] built artistic bicycle light effects;[17] edited and proofread the Black Rock Gazette newspaper, a role in which he continues as a co-founder and director of its successor the Black Rock Beacon,[18] and other Burning Man materials;[19] as an Earth Guardian, promoted the "Leave No Trace" ethos, particularly in post-event cleanup.[20]

In 1973 and 1974 he took first place, with co-solver Donna Breed, in the Dictionary Rally.[citation needed]

Gray-B-Gone and Evapotrons[edit]

In conjunction with his Burning Man activities, Breed devised the "Gray-B-Gon", an evaporator for graywater disposal, and through Bay Area workshops directed construction, by Burning Man campers, of over 100 units (as of 2012.)[21][22]

See:, his website for those devices.


  • Breed, L.M., The APL PLUS File System. Proceedings of SHARE XXXV, p. 392. August 1970.
  • Larry Breed, Generalizing APL scalar extension. ACM SIGPLAN Notices, Volume 6 Issue 5, July 1971


  1. ^ "A (Spotty) History and Who's Who of Computer Graphics, by Matthew Ward". Retrieved November 29, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Larry Breed biography from Vintage Computing". Retrieved November 29, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Larry Breed biography from the Computer History Museum". Retrieved November 29, 2011. 
  4. ^ Obituary for Kenneth Iverson, Mathematician, 1920–2004, Monday, October 25, 2004, in the Toronto Globe and Mail
  5. ^ The Socio-Technical Beginnings of APL, by Eugene McDonnell
  6. ^ The Design of APL by Adin D. Falkoff and Kenneth E. Iverson, IBM Journal of Research and Development, Volume 17, Number 4, 1973. (dead link behind paywall; Wayback Machine backup link)
  7. ^ [1], An interpreter for Iverson notation
  8. ^ How We Got To APL\1130 by Larry Breed
  9. ^ "Phil Abrams' machine implementation of APL". Retrieved November 29, 2011. 
  10. ^ "APL Blossom Time (song lyrics about the creation of APL)". Retrieved November 29, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Awards – 1973 – Lawrence Breed". Association for Computing Machinery. 
  12. ^ APL Quotations and Anecdotes, including Leslie Goldsmith's story of the Mailbox
  13. ^ "Burning Man History". Retrieved November 29, 2011. 
  14. ^ DangerRanger M 2+ Add Contact. "Danger Ranger's commentary on the first Trash Fence at Burning Man". Retrieved November 29, 2011. 
  15. ^ Declan McCullagh, Daniel Terdiman (September 8, 2009). "CNet photo of Chaotick sculpture, by Declan McCullagh". Retrieved November 29, 2011. 
  16. ^ ""The Chaotick by Larry Breed", in the Leonardo Gallery". April 17, 2007. Retrieved November 29, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Lightwire Bike Wheel Luminations, by Larry Breed". Retrieved November 29, 2011. 
  18. ^ "First issue of Black Rock Beacon, see staff box" (PDF). Retrieved November 29, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Burning Man's Summer 2000 Newsletter, proofread by Larry Breed". Retrieved November 29, 2011. 
  20. ^ "Earth Guardians bio of Ember". April 6, 1999. Retrieved November 29, 2011. 
  21. ^ ember (September 14, 2009). "Ember's 2006 Evapotron Report, from the Alternative Energy Zone". Retrieved November 29, 2011. 
  22. ^ Larry Breed (March 22, 2009). "Gray-B-Gon wind powered evapotron for graywater disposal, at The Instructables". Retrieved November 29, 2011.