Robert W. Bemer

Award Recipient
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Robert W. Bemer, becoming a programmer in early 1949, has worked at RAND Corporation, Marquardt, Lockheed, IBM, Univac, Bull GE, General Electric, and Honeywell.

    • At Lockheed, he devised the first computerized 3-D dynamic perspective, prelude to today’s computer animation.
    • At IBM, he developed:
      • PRINT I (the first load-and-go computer method),
      • FORTRANSIT (the first major proof of intercomputer portability, and the second FORTRAN compiler),
      • Commercial Translator (a COBOL input), and
      • XTRAN (an ALGOL predecessor).
    • In March 1957, he was the first to describe commercial timesharing publicly, which you now see as the Worldwide Web.
    • In 1959, his internal IBM memo proposed word processing.
    • 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 coined the terms “COBOL,” “CODASYL,” and “Software Factory”.
    • 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 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.
    • As editor of the Honeywell Computer Journal (the first A4-size publication [1971] in the U.S.) he innovated fiche-of-the-issue and multimedia publishing.
    • He has published more than 115 articles in technical journals.
    • In 1995, he received the Albion College Distinguished Alumnus Award.
    • 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.


2002 Computer Pioneer Award
“For meeting the world’s needs for variant character sets and other symbols, via ASCII, ASCII-alternate sets, and escape sequences.”
Learn more about the Computer Pioneer Award