Artifact Details


Do it by the numbers (digital shorthand)

Catalog Number







Bemer, R. W.

Biographical Notes

Robert “Bob” William Bemer was born February 8, 1920 in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. He received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Albion College in 1940. Bemer then went on to receive his certificate of aeronautical engineering at the Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute in Santa Monica and work as a contract for the aeronautics firm Douglas.

In 1949, Bemer switched over to programming and was hired as a programmer at RAND Corporation in 1951. Between 1952 and 1957, Bemer worked at Lockheed, where he worked on mathematical analyses of wings and flow profiles and devised the first computerized 3-D dynamic perspective, a prelude to today’s computer animation.

Between 1957 and 1965, Bemer worked at IBM where he co-developed the ASCII standard in 1961. He named himself the “father of ASCII.” He contributed six characters, the ESC key, FS, GS, RS, US, and the backslash.

Bemer also worked at Bull GE in Paris from 1965-1970, organized the software departments at GE from 1970-1974, and worked as an independent consultant at Honeywell from 1974-1990. He officially retired in 1982 but continued to work from his home office and publish articles.

In 1958, Bermer discovered a problem with using two digits numbers instead of four to represent years in computer code. He developed his thoughts on this problem and published many papers and articles regarding what would later be known as the “Millennium Bug” and Y2K problem. His first warning to the public on Y2K was published in 1971. In 1997, Bemer founded BMRSoftware (Bob Bemer Software), which he eventually sold to BigiSoft, to sell software for the Y2K problem. All warnings regarding the Y2K problem were ignored and eventually an estimated $122 billion was spent in the United States alone to fix the issue.

Other companies Bemer worked at were Marquardt and Univac. Bermer also helped Grace Hopper create the computer language COBOL, whose name Bermer coined himself. The terms CODASYL and Software Factory were also coined by Bemer. In 2003, Bermer received the IEEE Computer Pioneer Award for his lifetime achievements.

Bermer was married to Bettie, a Texas oilwoman. He passed away in June 22, 2004 from cancer at his home in Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas.


International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)


15 p.

Copyright Holder

International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)


National Convention of the Association for Computing Machinery (Milwaukee, WI - August 23-24, 1960)


Technical Paper or Note


IBM Project Stretch


Gift of Harwood G. Kolsky

Lot Number