ASCII and the Mark of the Beast

Computer History Vignettes

By Bob Bemer

On 2001 Aug 07 I received an odd e-mail query. On the off chance that Satanic rumors are circulating about ASCII, I thought to let everyone know my rebuttal. Here is the question:

"Recently there came to my attention a possible religious reference in the ASCII Code. I have been trying to research this, and the ASCII Code's origin.

When developing this code, were any "hidden messages" encrypted into it? I don't know if it is mere coincidence, or if you or one of your colleagues purposely made the code to reflect the following:

The word "Christ" in ASCII equates to the total sum of 621. Subtracting this number from the designated number for the antiChrist, 666, you end up with a difference of 45. The ASCII code for 45 is the "-" symbol. Putting those two together for a total of 666 you get "-Christ" as in "Minus Christ". Which in turn is the meaning of antiChrist.

Please respond. I am very interested in your work, and puzzled by this observation."

Your question is easily answerable by the following:

On the day when ASCII was first approved as a standard, John Auwaerter and I shook hands outside the meeting room, and agreed that we would go with what the working committee had confirmed 15 or so minutes prior. John was then VP of Engineering for Teletype Corporation, which was awaiting the new code to build it into their new line -- Models 33, 35, and 37 to begin, with an 8-track perforated paper tape. I was in charge of the Logical Systems Standards Group for the IBM Corporation, a company of formidable force in those days.

This was at the end of a strong presentation I had made to the committee. At the beginning of the meeting they were still working on the model that had the alphabets beginning in the first position of each column. I had been talking to the European Computer Manufacturers Association and the British Standards Institution, and was told in no uncertain terms that those bodies would not give international approval unless the alphabet started in the second position. I argued that this should be done, and, seeing no big reasons not to do so, it was thus changed then and there.

And that's the way it is today, when you say that some person has added the decimal ordinal ranking numbers for the 6 characters in "Christ" and found them to sum to 621. And, when the minus sign is added with a value of 45, yielded 666 -- the ominous number associated with some Biblical references.

This contrivance is pure hogwash:

So you can see that neither I nor any colleague made a deliberate Satanic plot. But I can tell you how to get to 666 anyway -- just add enough 1's together.

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