Computer History Vignettes

By Bob Bemer

Although working for a mainframe company (Honeywell), I was easily intrigued as reports of microcomputers started to come out. I had no hand at all in their development, but I could see the significance before Honeywell management did. So while they were dumb and happy I made a formal request to represent the company for microcomputer interests. It probably seemed unimportant, for they agreed with virtually no comment.

I was obviously delighted that ASCII was the internal code for all PCs that I heard of.

Then I started to goad the hardware designers, asking them that if one could run FORTRAN faster on a chip than on their mainframe CPU, why didn't they just put such a chip in the mainframe? What do you think? Did I ever get answered?

Obviously I had to get my information from magazines. Interface Age was one, run by Robert Jones, with Carl Warren as main editor. I thought that a story about how to view and use ASCII was overdue, so I called and offered to write one. They in turn were a bit ignorant of the mainframe world, so I had to give my qualifications.

In 1978 August, a month after the third installment came out, I was in Michigan visiting my son Jan (pronounced "Yon" in the Dutch manner, and a large proportion of the Bemers in the Netherlands have been so named). He had to take his wife to the University of Michigan for some reason, and we had some free time. I thought to use it to get a set of the ASCII articles for him, so we sought a micro store.

Then happened a miracle that should happen to all fathers whose sons wonder what their dads are useful for (nearly 100%, I think). With Jan close at hand I asked an employee if he had back issue copies of Interface Age for 1978 May, June, and July. "What for?", he asked. "To show my son here some articles I wrote". "What about?", he countered. I said "They're called INSIDE ASCII". [1,2,3]

At this he turned around and shouted "Hey, guys -- Bob Bemer's here!" Jan, knowing that I not given him my name, was impressed.

Other Repercussions from the ASCII Articles


  1. R.W.Bemer, "Inside ASCII - Part I",
    Interface Age Magazine 3, No. 5, 96-102, 1978 May
  2. R.W.Bemer, "Inside ASCII - Part II",
    Interface Age Magazine 3, No. 6, 64-74, 1978 Jun
  3. R.W.Bemer, "Inside ASCII - Part III",
    Interface Age Magazine 3, No. 7, 80-87, 1978 Jul
  4. R.W.Bemer, "Introduction to the TEX language - Part I",
    Interface Age Magazine 3, No. 8, 144-177, 1978 Aug
  5. R.W.Bemer, "Introduction to the TEX language - Part II",
    Interface Age Magazine 3, No. 9, 124-127, 1978 Sep
  6. R.W.Bemer, "Introduction to the TEX language - Part III",
    Interface Age Magazine 3, No. 10, 126-131, 1978 Oct

  7. R.W.Bemer, "Time and the computer",
    Interface Age Magazine 4, No. 2, 74-79, 1979 Feb
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