Bob Bemer, father of ASCII, has died

From: Michael Everson (
Date: Thu Jun 24 2004 - 12:15:29 CDT

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    Sad news from

    Not long ago I had the pleasure of communicating with Bob, who took
    some interest in seeing how Unicode was unfolding. His website can be
    visited at

    Om mani padme hum.

    Michael Everson

    Bob Bemer, computer pioneer Bob Bemer, dies at 84

    The Associated Press
    6/23/2004, 7:58 p.m. ET

    POSSUM KINGDOM LAKE, Texas (AP) - Computer pioneer Bob Bemer, who
    helped invent the widely used ASCII coding system used by computers
    to represent text, has died from complications related to cancer.

    Bemer, 84, died Tuesday evening at his home along Possum Kingdom
    Lake, said his stepson, Glen Teeler.

    Bemer was born Feb. 8, 1920, in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and later
    attended Albion College.

    He began his programming career in 1949, working at companies
    including RAND Corporation, IBM, Univac and Honeywell.

    It was his time with IBM during the 1950s and 1960s where he
    contributed to the development of ASCII.

    Pronounced "As-kee," the American Standard Code for Information
    Interchange is an encoding system used in nearly every computer. It
    allows computers to see text as a series of numbers. He contributed
    10 ASCII characters, including the escape, or "ESC," key and the

    As recently as a month ago, "he was on the computer every day,"
    Teeler, 48, said Wednesday. "He is a man who literally worked just
    about every day until he died. He felt at home sitting in front of a
    (computer) screen."

    He first published warnings of the so-called Y2K computer problem in
    1971 and again in 1979, and made frequent appearances to discuss the
    issue on CNN, the BBC, the New York Times and other media.

    For his accomplishments, Bemer received the Computer Pioneer Award
    from the U.S.-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics
    Engineers, or IEEE, in May 2003.

    Bemer and his wife, Bettie, moved to Possum Kingdom Lake in 1998,
    about 120 miles west of Dallas, working as a consultant for the state
    of Texas and others, Teeler said.

    On his Web site, he described himself as a "Computer software
    consultant, futurist and raconteur."

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

    His son, Jan Bemer, said his father also had a love of the outdoors.

    "He was a rock hound," Jan Bemer said. "He loved to camp. He loved to
    explore out in Arizona."

    In addition to his wife, he is survived by five children; two
    stepchildren and many grandchildren.

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