As a high school student, I wanted to be an inventor. In 1958, I went off to North Carolina State University to study physics. In my second year, became fascinated with computers. So I taught myself how to program from a book and looked for a job.
Two years later when I started my Masters program in Physics, I finally found a programming job. The next two years, I wrote the main programs used by the statistics department.
When I graduated, I worked for IBM at the Pentagon on a system to organize all military information. The system used self defining files. Each file contained a description of all the variables in the file. I saw how I could use self defining files for statistical software.
In 1966, I returned to NC State to build the Statistical Analysis Systems, SAS. My vision was to bring statistics to the masses. In 1976, I and 3 others formed a private company, SAS Institute. Today it is a 6 billion dollar company.
My ability to contribute to SAS was at an end in 1979, so I quit. I was now independent. I tried to build a machine to cut lumber. After one year, I could see that this was going to require a lot of money, so I abandoned the project.
For the next three years, I worked on a system for representing and transforming knowledge.
If total understanding was to be achieved, then descriptions of every object in the system should be immediately available. The system should be self-defining.
I wanted to generalize the concept of language to encompass the meta-systems of computer science: grammars, data types, and data base schemas. The end goal came to be to create a model of reality to be shared by its community of users. In this model one would not think of data, but ideas and concepts.
I became convinced that a new software paradigm could edit language in conceptual space instead of strings of characters. In my programming experiments, I built abstractions that represented ideas in both the real world and conceptual space. The day I penetrated an integer was awesome. I went inside the integer and saw a vector of bits. Inside a bit was either a zero or one. I was back to looking at integers representing integers. I had stepped through “Alice in Wonderland’s” looking glass. I could recursively descend into a language in never ending steps.
This is a very circular way to see the world. Well the world is defined in a circular fashion. It would be enlightening if we could define the world using the smallest circles that everyone could understand.
In 1983, I had to return back to the real world. I was out of money with an incomplete theory. I borrowed money from my sisters and embarked on a sure thing, high performance communications software that would run on the newly released PC. In 1985, we moved the company to Gainesville. The company Barr Systems now has 85 people and a world wide market serving corporate clients with printing solutions.
I believe in “Silver Bullets”. There will be more complete and consistent systems for representing knowledge. The idea of the “Global Brain” will eventually be built where we will navigate smoothly through knowledge space.
My professional life is described at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Barr
Presently, I am working on an Enterprise Model. The Enterprise Model is an agile language for Unity of Purpose, productivity improvement, and quality management. Managers and employees have complete authority and responsibility; there are no gurus.
On the personal level, I have been married 3 times and have 7 children and 3 grandchildren.
I have lived in Gainesville, Florida since 1985. I really feel at home here and will never move.
My youngest is Alexey, who was born in 1998. He is interested in basketball, football, fencing, and golf.
I am a trustee at Trinity United Methodist Church and head the landscape committee.
I bike most places and enjoy swimming.
Summit provided me with an excellent education and has left me many fond memories. It was great to see everyone at the 50th reunion.