2011 — George Cogar

A mini-history :-)

George Cogar

Typical engineer, heh? In fact, his daughter (Cherylyn) was kind enough to share some delightful memories of her father with me. Here's a portion of our email exchange:

I was just having fun surfing the net, after typing in my dad's name (George Cogar) and found your reference to him. Just curious about why you think he was a genius (yep he was) and how you know about him.

Merciful heavens, isn't the web wonderful? Hello, and you are a very lucky lady to have had such a talented father. My only contact, alas, was via the delightful Cogar C4, aka Singer 1500, aka (ultimately) ICL 1500 Series machine for which I wrote a number of programming and general self-teach training packages many years ago when I worked for ICL at their Education and Training HQ in Beaumont, Old Windsor, somewhat west of London here in the UK.
I've tried from time to time to find out more about this man as he was evidently (to my mind, at least) a genius. If, as I suspect, he was more or less responsible for that machine and some of its programming utilities, he was quite an engineer. He features briefly in David Lundstrom's book (A few good men from Univac) but it is disappointingly sparse and commits the cardinal sin of lacking an index! You need to scour chapter 12 "Whatever became of George Cogar?"
George also fails to turn up in Herb Grosch's "Computer: bit slices from a life" and, even less excusably, in Paul Ceruzzi's "A history of modern computing" just to save you the bother... Nor in Steve Lohr's "Go to"
We are bad at documenting our own recent history, which is not a good sign, methinks.
As I said, I had the interesting job of teaching lots of people how to program the C4 (I must ask: did your dad invent the term "diakoptic", do you know, in the acronymic phrase DPL-1 -- diakoptic programming language 1?) by writing a series of self-study training packages. Of course, to do that, I first had to learn it myself. You can discover a lot about a designer by working on a machine "down" at the assembler level. And the C4 minitape utility was a complete gem.
Interestingly, I was contacted a few months ago by a lady named Jane Blando (she signed herself Jeezee Blando) who worked at MDS (Mohawk Data Sciences) cataloguing George's many pages of patents.
Kind regards, and I hope I've allayed your curiosity.

I think this photo was taken around 1974. As you can see he fits the stereotypical engineer profile (pens in the pocket!) My sister and brother and I don't know a lot about the actual history of my father's role in the computer industry. I do remember sitting in tears trying to program the Cogar 4. My dad had left me the manual (about 3 feet high if I remember correctly). He didn't understand why I couldn't begin to comprehend what I was suppose to be doing!
We grew up in a very small town and my dad was a local (and international) celebrity. My parents did their best to shelter us from his fame in the computer world. Matter of fact we didn't know of his success until we saw it on the front page of the local paper. I was in 8th grade at the time and once the article was published my teachers at school thought I should be a good resource for stock tips!
Growing up in a home with a genius was often a challenge. My mom truly understood my father and was definitely a guiding force for him. [She] told us a story about how one night my dad said he had to stop at his office for a few minutes. We were all very young at the time. We ended up sleeping in the car that night because my dad had an idea that he needed to work on. He didn't even realize that hours had passed. My mom remained patient because she understood that my dad had an uncontrollable thought process. He would sometimes be so engrossed in thought that I would have to shake his shoulder to get his attention. He was forever writing his ideas on anything he could find — restaurant napkins, the back of paper bags, scraps of paper, etc.
My dad had a passion for many things. I have inherited his love of photography. My dad also loved the outdoors, hunting, fishing, reading, writing, law, politics and most of all, his wife. He may have died young but my siblings and I know that he touched many lives and made this world a better place. It's been 23 years since his disappearance and yet when his name is mentioned in our community there's always a "George" story to be told. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts. To the world he was a genius, but to me he was my dad.

Date: 20 January 2006