Do Something Small, But Useful Now

Bob Bemer, among other things the inventor of ASCII, was guided by “Do Something Small, But Useful Now” during his professional career.

Bob Bemer: Do Something Small, But Useful Now

  • Do Something. You know you have to. Why delay?
  • Do Something Small. That gets you started and makes something to build on.
  • Do Something Small, but Useful. Be sure it’s pertinent and helps to solve the problem.
  • Do Something Small, but Useful Now. 

from Action and Attitude can Conquer Y2K by Bob Bemer – Father of ASCII text (see also his archived home pageWikipedia entry, and bio from the History of Computing Project). Bemer would often write this as:

Motto (original) for a Half-Century:    ((((DO SOMETHING!) SMALL) USEFUL) NOW!)

I have unpacked the parentheses into a sequence as he did in his 1998 Y2K article. He originally wrote about the Y2K problem in 1971 in a paper entitled “What’s the Date” and again in 1979 “Time and the Computer” where he warned “”Don’t drop the first two digits. The program may well fail from ambiguity in the Year 2000.”

In addition to taking small useful steps he was willing to look ahead three decades to anticipate when a standard would break (badly).

Bemer’s motto for 50 years is good advice for any startup team.

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