"Father Of ASCII" Dies

Neil Jones
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Joined: Thu 11 Sep, 2003 20.03
Location: West Midlands

From BBC News Online:
Key computer coding creator dies

The man who invented the Esperanto of the technology world enabling computers to swap information freely has died.

Bob Bemer developed the Ascii coding system to standardise the way computers represent letters, numbers, punctuation marks and some control codes.

He also introduced the backslash and escape key to the world of computers and was one of the first to warn about the dangers of the millennium bug.

Before Mr Bemer's work most computer systems had their own way of representing alphanumeric characters.

But in May 1961 he proposed using a common underlying code for alphanumeric characters to enable computers to communicate more easily.

Soon after the American National Standards Institute broadly accepted this proposal and Mr Bemer directed the team that developed the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (Ascii).

His legacy has been long-lasting because today almost all computer systems still use Ascii codes.

The registration plate of Mr Bemer's car declared: "Yes, I am the father of Ascii."

He is also the man who introduced the escape key sequence to computers which gave people more freedom to move about in a program.

In the early 1970s Mr Bemer was among the first to warn about the impending millennium bug.

According to Glen Teeler, Mr Bemer's stepson, he was a prolific computer user until only a month ago.

"He is a man who literally worked just about every day until he died," said Mr Teeler. "He felt at home sitting in front of a (computer) screen."

"He never got the coding out of his system," he said. "He was a coder until he couldn't code any more. He lived it and breathed it."

In 2002 he was honoured with a Computer Pioneer Award by the IEEE Computer Society.

Mr Bemer died at his home in Possum Kingdom Lake, almost 200 kilometres west of Dallas.
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