Werner Buchholz

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For the German historian, see Werner Buchholz (historian).
Werner Buchholz
Born October 1922 (age 93)
Detmold, Germany
Parent(s) Julius Buchholz and Elsa
Awards IEEE Computer Pioneer Award (1990)

Werner Buchholz (born October 24, 1922 in Detmold, Germany) is a noted American[citation needed] computer scientist. After growing up in Europe, Buchholz moved to Canada and then to America. He worked for International Business Machines (IBM) in New York. In July 1956, he coined the term byte for a unit of digital information. In 1990, he was recognized as a computer pioneer by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.


Early life[1][edit]

Werner Buchholz was born on 24 October 1922 in Detmold, Germany. His older brother, Carl Hellmut and he were the sons of the merchant Julius Buchholz and his wife, Elsa. Due to the growing anti-Semitism in Detmold in 1936, the family moved to Cologne. Werner was able to go to England in 1938 where he attended school, while Carl Hellmut emigrated to America.

Because of the threat of invasion in May 1940, Werner with other refugee students was interned by the British and later sent to Canada. With the help of the Jewish community in Toronto, he was released in 1941 and able to visit the University of Toronto. He completed his training as an electrical engineer in the United States at Caltech. His parents were murdered in 1942 (Julius) and 1944 (Elsa) in a concentration camp in Litzmannstadt (Łódź).


Werner Buchholz was a member of the team at IBM that designed the IBM 701 and the IBM 7030 Stretch, IBM's first transistorized supercomputer. His work involved setting standards in the field of character encoding on computing systems. In 1956, he coined the term byte as a unit of digital information. A byte was an ordered collection of bits, which were the smallest amounts of data that a computer could process ("bite").[2][3]

In 1990, Buchholz received the IEEE Computer Pioneer Award, awarded since 1981 to recognize and honor individuals whose effort resulted in the creation and vitality of the computer industry.


He worked 40 years at IBM in Poughkeepsie, New York, where he participated in the development of the computer. Werner now lives in Poughkeepsie, surviving with his wife Anna, who passed in 2007.[4] His brother died in 1970 of cancer.

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