Mike Cowlishaw

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Michael F. Cowlishaw
Mike Cowlishaw 2005.jpg
Born Bath, England
Nationality British
Fields Computer Science
Institutions University of Warwick
Alma mater University of Birmingham
Known for Rexx, editors (STET, LEXX), Decimal arithmetic, DPD
Notable awards FReng, FIET, FBCS

Mike F. Cowlishaw is a Visiting Professor at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Warwick, and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He is a retired IBM Fellow, and was a Fellow of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, and the British Computer Society. He was educated at Monkton Combe School and The University of Birmingham.

Career at IBM

Cowlishaw joined IBM in 1974 as an electronic engineer but is best known as a programmer and writer. He is known for designing and implementing the REXX programming language (1984),[1] his work on colour perception and image processing that led to the formation of JPEG (1985),[2] the STET folding editor (1977), the LEXX live parsing editor with colour highlighting for the Oxford English Dictionary (1985),[3] electronic publishing, SGML applications, the IBM Jargon File IBMJARG (1990),[4] a programmable OS/2 world globe PMGlobe (1993),[5] MemoWiki based on his GoServeGopher/http server,[6] and the Java-related NetRexx programming language (1997).

He has contributed to and/or edited various computing standards, including ISO (SGML, COBOL, C, C++), BSI (SGML, C), ANSI (REXX), IETF (HTTP 1.0/RFC 1945), W3C (XML Schema), ECMA (JavaScript/ECMAScript, C#, CLI), and IEEE (754 decimal floating-point). He retired from IBM in March 2010.

Decimal arithmetic

Cowlishaw has worked on aspects of decimal arithmetic; his proposal for an improved Java BigDecimal class (JSR 13) is now included in Java 5.0, and in 2002, he invented a refinement of Chen–Ho encoding known as densely packed decimal encoding. Cowlishaw's decimal arithmetic specification formed the proposal for the decimal parts of the IEEE 754 standard, as well as being followed by many implementations, such as Python and SAP Netweaver. His decNumber decimal package is also available as open source under several licenses and is now part of GCC, and his proposals for decimal hardware have been adopted by IBM and others. They are integrated into the IBM Power6 and IBM System z10 processor cores, and in numerous IBM software products such as DB2, TPF (in Sabre), WebSphere MQ, operating systems, and C and PL/I compilers.[7]

Other activities

Cowlishaw wrote an emulator for the Acorn System 1, and collected related documentation.[8] Outside computing, he caved in the UK, New England, Spain, and Mexico. He is a life member of the National Speleological Society (NSS), wrote articles in the 1970s and 1980s on battery technology and on the shock strength of caving ropes, and designed LED-based caving lamps.[9]



  1. M. F. Cowlishaw (1984). "The design of the REXX language" (PDF). IBM Systems Journal, vol. 23 no. 4 (PDF). IBM Research. pp. 326–335. doi:10.1147/sj.234.0326. Retrieved 23 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. M. F. Cowlishaw (1985). "Fundamental requirements for picture presentation" (PDF). SID, vol. 26 no. 2. Proceedings of the Society for Information Display. Retrieved 19 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Jim Elliott (6 October 2003). "Description of LEXX". IBM VMARC v-943K. Retrieved 15 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. M. F. Cowlishaw (May 1990). "IBM Jargon and General Computing Dictionary Tenth Edition" (PDF). IBMJARG. Retrieved 15 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Isaac Leung (16 May 2004). "OS/2 eZine Quickies…". OS/2 ezine. Retrieved 15 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. M. F. Cowlishaw. "MemoWiki". Retrieved 19 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Cowlishaw, Mike F. (2015) [1981,2008]. "General Decimal Arithmetic". Retrieved 2 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. M. F. Cowlishaw (2001). "The Acorn 6502 Microcomputer Kit". Retrieved 19 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Mike Cowlishaw". Personal web page. 13 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>