[SIGCIS-Members] Charles W. Bachman, 2014 recipient of National Medal of Technology and Innovation

Andrew Russell arussell at stevens.edu
Sun Oct 5 08:09:01 PDT 2014

Hello again everyone - 

On Friday the White House announced 8 new recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.  Among the recipients was Charles W. Bachman, a database and networking pioneer who won the Turing Award in 1973.  

Bachman’s accolades have come primarily as recognition for his contributions to database technology, a subject that the historian Tom Haigh described in a 2011 biography published in the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing <http://www.tomandmaria.com/tom/Writing/BachmanBio.pdf>.  Here are the concluding paragraphs from Haigh’s biography: 

“Bachman’s career was long, varied, and distinguished. He ran a chemical plant, created a capital accounting system, headed an early data processing group, pioneered the application of computers to manufacturing control, led efforts to standardize database and computer communication concepts, won the highest honor in computer science, and founded a publicly traded company. Innovation is a collaborative process, but by creating IDS and advocating forcefully for the concepts behind it Bachman did more than any other person to invent the DBMS [database management system] as we know it today.

"Through all of this he retained an engineer’s zest for the elegant solution of difficult problems and faith in the power of careful analysis and the systems approach to make the world a better place. As he wrote in a note at the end of our oral history transcript, ‘My work has been my play.’”

For those who want to learn more about Bachman and his career:
- Haigh’s extensive oral history interview with Bachman from 2004 is available from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1141882.  
- I also interviewed Bachman in 2011, since I was keen to know more about his experience with computer communication systems and especially his Chairmanship of ISO’s subcommittee on Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) from 1977-1982.  The transcript is available at http://www.ieeeghn.org/wiki/index.php/Oral-History:Charles_Bachman. 
- I wrote about Bachman’s role in a 2013 IEEE Spectrum article “The Internet that Wasn’t” <http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/networks/osi-the-internet-that-wasnt> and in my 2014 book “Open Standards and the Digital Age” <http://www.arussell.org/open>
- 55 boxes of Bachman’s papers are available at the Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota, collection number CBI 125: http://discover.lib.umn.edu/cgi/f/findaid/findaid-idx?c=umfa;cc=umfa;rgn=main;view=text;didno=cbi00125.  
- And, Bachman has a page on wikipedia which could be improved and updated: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Bachman

Congratulations Charlie - and thank you!


Andrew L. Russell, Ph.D.
Director, Program in Science & Technology Studies
Associate Professor, History
College of Arts & Letters
Stevens Institute of Technology
Hoboken, New Jersey 07030

t. 201-216-5400 || f. 201-216-8245
arussell at stevens.edu || @RussellProf
www.stevens.edu/cal/sts || www.arussell.org

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