Bob Bemer – the man who developed the ASCII coding system, pioneered the Escape Key (found on all PCs and Macs), and introduced the backslash into computer use – has died at his home in Texas following a battle with cancer. He was 84.
Bemer worked at RAND Corporation, Marquardt, Lockheed, IBM, Univac, Bull GE, General Electric, and Honeywell.
At Lockheed, he devised the first computerized 3D dynamic perspective, prelude to today's computer animation. And in 1959 his internal IBM memo proposed word processing.
Pronounced "As-kee," the American Standard Code for Information Interchange is an encoding system that allows computers to see text as a series of numbers. He contributed 10 ASCII characters, including the escape, or "ESC," key and the backslash.
Bemer invented the escape sequence concept, which is critical to terminals (for colours and screen movement), and for laser printers (which won't work without it). It is also the critical coding concept now used in hyperlinks. At its most basic level, the escape sequence is a command that tells a computer to make a shift in its processing – allowing a user to move up, down or sideways through files, programs or networks.
He is recognized as the first person in the world to publish warnings of the Year 2000 'Millennium Bug' problem – first in 1971, and again in 1979.