Robert William Bemer (February 8, 1920 – June 22, 2004) was a computer scientist best known for his work at IBM during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
He served on the committee which amalgamated the design for his COMTRAN language with Grace Hopper's FLOW-MATIC and thus produced the specifications for COBOL. He also served, with Hugh McGregor Ross and others, on the separate committee which defined the ASCII character codeset in 1960, contributing several characters which had not previously been used by computers including the Escape character, the backslash character, and the curly bracket characters. As a result he is sometimes known as The Father of ASCII. In 2000, Bemer claimed to have proposed the term octet (rather than Werner Buchholz' "byte") while heading software development at Cie. Bull, France, between 1965 and 1966. He also proposed the term hextet for 16-bit groups.
Bemer is probably the earliest proponent of the Software factory concept. He mentioned it in his 1968 paper “The economics of program production”.
Other notable contributions to computing include the first publication of the time-sharing concept and the first attempts to prepare for the Year 2000 problem in publications as early as 1971. Acting in an advisory capacity, Bob and Honeywell employees Eric Clamons and Richard Keys developed TEX, the Text Executive Programming Language. Introduction to TEX, p.144 Interface Age - Aug 1978
In the late 1990s, as a retiree, Bob invented an approach to Y2K (Year 2000) date conversion, to avoid anticipated problems when dates without centuries were compared in programs for which source code was not available. This involved detecting six and eight character operations at run time and checking their operands, adjusting the comparison so that low years in the new century did not appear to precede the last years of the twentieth century.
Bob Bemer maintained an extensive collection of archival material on early computer software development still online at www.bobbemer.com.