Marconi's famed transmission was a (1-letter) word in Morse
code, aural because duration told whether it was a dot or a dash
element of the code. Today ASCII (American Standard Code for
Information Interchange) has superseded the Morse, Baudot, and
Successful communication demands recognition. For aural and
voice signals, the sounds heard are usually self-identifying.
For visual facsimile, that seen is also self-identifying. But
networks do not now recognize visual and aural commands for
switching and control. What they do recognize is ASCII, which is
also the ISO Code, and also Alphabet No. 5 of CCITT, the
International Consultative Committee for Telephone and
Bob Bemer, at IBM, foresaw eventual computer involvement in
communication. In 1960 July he described a communication method
using computers at both ends, the originator compressing the
text, the receiver reconstituting it.
The 1961 June Reader's Digest (origin Kiwanis Magazine) said
Bemer headed a group of programmers devising languages by which
"machines can talk with machines - languages that will facilitate
the exchange of information, by radio, microwave, or telephone
wire between computers at widely separated centers ..."
Bob Bemer was a major force in the creation of ASCII:
Realizing that the primary ASCII content is but a tiny subset
of the alphabets and symbols which must be accommodated in a
worldwide communication system, Bemer devised (in 1960) the
universal switching concept in use today, via the Escape
character he caused to be placed in ASCII and its registered
- making and publishing a survey, of over 60 different computer codes
in use, which raised awareness of need and triggered a common effort,
- creating the program of work for the standards groups developing it,
- forcing the U.S. standard code to be identical to the international,
- making the major proposals for its content and form,
- writing the bulk of the published articles about it,
- conceiving and proposing formal registry of ASCII-alternate symbol
and control sets to permit interchange of all of the world's
- creating, for this to work, the escape sequence mechanism, which he
placed in the public domain.
ESC followed by (N tells the receiving device that the
following characters will be the Cyrillic equivalent of ASCII,
until further changed similarly. Why? Because that sequence
introduces Set #37 of the International Register of Coded
Character Sets to be used with Escape Sequences, maintained in
ESC [31;42m tells video screens all over the world to change
to red letters on a green background. Why? Because that is in
the standard, both national and international, for controlling
Not all video screens now accept and display the Cyrillic
alphabet. But they do in Russia, on the Internet. Nearly 200
other sets are now registered. Soon all users worldwide will
have equipment that displays a wide range of the world's symbols
and characters, alphabets or ideographs (Japanese was registered
As most communication (even television) now changes from
analog to digital, the combination of ASCII and escape sequences
is ever more useful, for more than alphabets and video control.
Modems that connect to the networks all have their own escape
sequences for handshake and control, sometimes proprietary.
Sender and receiver addresses for E-mail, the Internet, and the
Web are all given in ASCII characters. Escape sequences
introduce and identify many types of data - characters, fax, TV,
pixels, audio, photocomposition, etc.
Marconi "saw the realization of the free flow of information
between peoples as a unifying bond that no force could resist."
But data communication can occur without recognizing information
content. ASCII and embedded escape sequences identify which process
to use to convert freely flowing data into intelligible
This is the very essence of the HTML file you are now viewing!
Bob Bemer played a very large role in making it all possible.