Bob Bemer.

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Anuj Dhawan
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Bob Bemer.

Postby Anuj Dhawan » Tue Dec 17, 2013 11:51 am

Bob Bener.jpg

Robert William Bemer was a computer scientist. He is best known for his work at IBM during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Bemer began his career as an aerodynamicist at Douglas Aircraft Company in 1941, then worked for RAND Corporation from 1951, IBM from 1957, and Honeywell from 1974. He also worked for UNIVAC. 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.

Bemer is probably the earliest proponent of the Software Factory concept. He mentioned it in his 1968 paper “The economics of program production”. 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.

Below, an attempt is made to list his accomplishments, in the process, some of them might be repeated from above:

    • At Lockheed, he devised the first computerized 3-D dynamic perspective, prelude to today’s computer animation.
    • At IBM, he developed:
    1. PRINT I (the first load-and-go computer method),
    2. FORTRANSIT (the first major proof of intercomputer portability, and the second FORTRAN compiler),
    3. Commercial Translator (a COBOL input), and
    4. XTRAN (an ALGOL predecessor).
    • In 1959 his internal IBM memo proposed word processing.
    • He invented the escape sequence and registry concept, and is called the “Father of ASCII”.
    • The Identification and Environment Divisions of COBOL are due to him, as is the Picture Clause, which could have avoided the Year 2000 problem if used correctly.
    • He was the major force in developing ASCII, contributing 10 characters — ESCape (see that key), FS, GS, RS, US, {, }, [, ], and the backslash).
    • He invented the escape sequence and registry concept, and is called the “Father of ASCII”.
    • He coined the terms “COBOL”, “CODASYL”, and “Software Factory”.
    • He wrote the original scope and program of work for international and national computer standards, and chaired the international committee for programming language standards for eleven years.
    • He was Program Chairman for ACM 70, promoter of National Computer Year (when the Y2K problem should have been solved), and edited the proceedings as the book “Computers and Crisis”.
    • Three Pioneer Days have honored him — SHARE, COBOL, and FORTRAN.
    • In 2000 he was named in the Delta Tau Delta “Rainbow” as one of the “100 Most Influential Delts of the 20th Century”.
    • He is recognized as the first person in the world to publish warnings of the Year 2000 problem — first in 1971, and again in 1979. For this he has appeared on CNET, NBC Nightly News, CNN, Good Morning America, the BBC, Good Morning Australia, and local TV stations; and has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, New York Times, Time Magazine, Vanity Fair, the Baltimore Sun, Scripps and Gannett.

For inquiring minds here is: Resume of Bob Bemer.


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