Lawrence M. Breed

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Lawrence (Larry) Moser Breed
Born (1940-07-17) July 17, 1940 (age 81)
DiedMay 16, 2021(2021-05-16) (aged 80)
CitizenshipUnited States
  • B.S, Stanford University, 1961
  • M.S., Stanford University, 1965
Known forImplementation of Iverson Notation (APL)
Scientific Time Sharing Corporation (cofounder)
AwardsGrace Murray Hopper Award, 1973
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
InfluencesKenneth E. Iverson

Lawrence Moser "Larry" Breed (July 17, 1940 - May 16, 2021) was a computer scientist, artist and inventor, best known for his involvement in the programming language APL.


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, under academic supervisor Niklaus Wirth,[4] 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 a mainframe computer, an IBM 7090, in 1965.[5][6][7]

He later created APL implementations for an experimental IBM Little Computer, and 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, named Mailbox.[12]

Breed rejoined IBM in 1977. He helped develop the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) APL standard, then joined IBM efforts to port Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) Unix onto IBM platforms. He worked on compilers for the programming language C, floating-point arithmetic standardization, and radix conversion, until retiring in 1992.


Breed became a significant contributor to the Burning Man event, under the playa name of Ember. He coined the term "MOOP" (matter out of place), and conceived and built the first trash fence to capture windborne debris.[13][14][15][16] He created the spiraling, flaming sculpture "Chaotick", the playa’s longest-running art piece besides the Man himself,[15][17][18] and built artistic bicycle light effects.[19] He edited and proofread the Black Rock Gazette newspaper, a role in which he continued as a co-founder and director of its successor the Black Rock Beacon,[20] and edited other Burning Man materials.[21] As co-founder of the Earth Guardians, Breed promoted the "Leave No Trace" ethos, particularly in post-event cleanup.[22][15]

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]

Associated with his Burning Man activities, Breed devised the Gray-B-Gon and the Evapotron evaporators for graywater disposal, and through Bay Area workshops directed construction, by Burning Man campers, of over 100 units, as of 2012.[15][23][24]


  • — (August 1970). "The APL Plus File System". Proceedings of SHARE. 35. p. 392. OCLC 554296375.
  • — (July 1971). "Generalizing APL scalar extension". ACM SIGPLAN Notices. 6 (5). doi:10.1145/1115904.1115906.
  • "Evapotrons". Archived from the original on July 16, 2017.


  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". Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  3. ^ "Larry Breed biography from the Computer History Museum". Archived from the original on July 25, 2011. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  4. ^ [1], An interpreter for Iverson notation
  5. ^ Obituary for Kenneth Iverson, Mathematician, 1920–2004, Monday, October 25, 2004, in the Toronto Globe and Mail
  6. ^ The Socio-Technical Beginnings of APL, by Eugene McDonnell
  7. ^ Falkoff, Adin D.; Iverson, Kenneth E. (1973). "Design of APL" (PDF). IBM Journal of Research and Development. 17 (4): 324–334. doi:10.1147/rd.174.0324. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 30, 2004. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  8. ^ How We Got To APL\1130 by Larry Breed
  9. ^ "Phil Abrams' machine implementation of APL". Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. 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. Archived from the original on April 2, 2012.
  12. ^ "APL Quotations and Anecdotes". Archived from the original on July 5, 2018. Retrieved May 2, 2020. (see Leslie Goldsmith's story of the Mailbox)
  13. ^ "Burning Man History". Archived from the original on December 16, 2011. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  14. ^ Danger Ranger (M2). "Danger Ranger's commentary on the first Trash Fence at Burning Man". Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  15. ^ a b c d Summer Burkes (August 11, 2015). "How the Fence Began". The Burning Man Journal. Retrieved May 2, 2020. (see also the public comments at the end)
  16. ^ Sybil Hatch (May 12, 2016). "The Origin Story of the BRC Trash Fence". The Burning Man Journal. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  17. ^ McCullagh, Declan; Terdiman, Daniel (September 8, 2009). "CNet photo of Chaotick sculpture, by Declan McCullagh". Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  18. ^ ""The Chaotick by Larry Breed", in the Leonardo Gallery". April 17, 2007. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  19. ^ "Lightwire Bike Wheel Luminations, by Larry Breed". Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  20. ^ "First issue of Black Rock Beacon, see staff box" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on April 25, 2012. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  21. ^ "Burning Man's Summer 2000 Newsletter, proofread by Larry Breed". Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  22. ^ "Earth Guardians bio of Ember". April 6, 1999. Archived from the original on July 25, 2012. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  23. ^ Ember (September 14, 2009). "Ember's 2006 Evapotron Report, from the Alternative Energy Zone". Archived from the original on March 14, 2012. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  24. ^ Breed, Larry (March 22, 2009). "Gray-B-Gon wind powered evapotron for graywater disposal, at The Instructables". Retrieved November 29, 2011.