Roald Buhler
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Roald Buhler PRINCETON - Roald Buhler, the primary developer of the P-STAT statistical software program, died on Nov. 17 in Princeton, NJ. He was a graduate of Oberlin College, where he majored in music and minored in pinball and bridge. He started graduate work at Rutgers the year they acquired an IBM 650 computer - the "cat's meow" of the day. For him computer programming led not to a degree, but to a profession that he loved: a profession where he would be paid to play. In 1960, Educational Testing Service hired Roald to work on the RCA 501. Soon he began consulting for Princeton professor Harold Gulickson who needed his data analyzed but viewed computers with awe. In 1961 there were no computer application programs. If you wanted computer output, you wrote the instructions yourself or you paid someone else to write them for you in assembler/machine language. Eventually Princeton decided it would be cheaper to offer Roald a job. He jumped at the chance without even asking what his salary might be. His tenure (1963-1979) at Princeton University was during a period of enormous expansion in computing. As computer center director (1966-1970), he was responsible for both the choice of the first real "main frame" computer and the construction of the computer center. The job was a fascinating experience but entailed countless meetings and left little free time for the real fun of writing programs, playing tennis or watching the Princeton basketball and football teams. Princeton's resources were abundant. John Tukey was a strong influence and many of his algorithms were included in what was developing into the program of statistical routines eventually named "P-STAT"(R). These routines were the easy part. The real work came in preparing real-life data such as medical records or survey responses which were keypunched onto cards or tape. Data cleaning, manipulation, and portability is where Roald's programs excelled. P-STAT has been his life's work. It has been commercially available since 1979 and has customers worldwide. His life was not just a working life. The brain that was so brilliant with computer code was also the brain of a musician, a poet with an extraordinary sense of humor, and a word-smith with a zest for life. He was a gentleman, a scholar, an athlete, a good father and a wonderful husband. We will miss him. He is survived by Shirrell, his wife of 62 years; four children and their partners, Eric and Nancy, Sebbie and Chas, David and Karen, Marc and Jenny, and grandchildren, Wade and Owen. In lieu of flowers, you may send contributions in Roald Buhler's name to WWFM The Classical Network, 1200 Old Trenton Rd., West Windsor, NJ, 08550. (online WWFM.org) A celebration of Roald's life will coincide with the 50th Anniversary of P-STAT in 2014. Contact pstatinc@gmail.com for information.


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Published in "The Times, Trenton," on Nov. 29, 2013.
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10 entries
December 26, 2013
I hope that your remembrances of good stories and good tennis will keep him in your heart. I will miss seeing his old recycled computer paper with many notes for me, but will think of him every time I hear Radu Lupu on WWFM!
Ann Zultner
December 17, 2013
Shirrell
What good fortune for me that attendance waned for our monthly girls 'night-outs' and Roald happily joined in. Our acquaintance was short but I will remember his charm and sense of fun.
Thinking of you and Sebbie and sending love
Alexis Traynor
December 15, 2013
Roald and I go back to 1958 when I was an IBM 650 programmer at NIH and made some presentations at the SHARE meetings. One of the best compliments I have ever received was when he introduced himself to me, saying that we ought to get together because I was in his league. We have corresponded off and on over the years and played tennis a few times but I don't think we had seen each other since Princeton played in the eastern regionals in Raleigh. He shared my enthusiasm for tennis and college basketball. Roald is a great loss.
Elliot Cramer
December 10, 2013
Shirrell,
I was so happy to see you and Sebbie in San Diego last summer and sad that Roald chose (typically) to stay home and work.

We will miss him and his sense of humor and deep insight into the mechanisms of data.

Rich
Richard Heiberger
December 4, 2013
Shirrell,
You have so many Roald-gems of words and wit to remember. What a compilation that will make! Love to you and yours.
Jessie Thompson
December 4, 2013
As the days and weeks pass, and as you return to life's routine, may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends.
Rev. 21:3, 4 ~ Kim
December 2, 2013
In remembrance of Roald -- who had a way with racquets and words as well as codes and keyboards—I'd like to share two of the lilting introductions from the many tennis planning memos he prepared in days gone by

To: Tennis Buddies
From: roald@pstat.com (Roald)
Subject: Re:thursday july 10, Ryder, 9:30
Date: Tuesday,July 8, 1997 6:36:05 EDT

I'll take a moment to compose this billet doux of anti prose
which bids you think of two days hence when we emerge from somnolence.

Is it too soon to raise the cry that worthy play looms by and by? Most surely not, so give some heed and state your plans with fulsome speed.

And when the forecast suggested weather unsuitable for outdoor tennis:

From: Roald Buhler [mailto:roald@pstat.com]
Sent: Monday, April 25, 2005 7:13 PM
To: Tennis Buddies
Subject: tennis wednesday ONE THIRTY airport

When the Woden's day sky fills with thunder
and the lightning leaves trees rent asunder,
we're the type who will hide
at the airport, inside,
where it's safe; this is surely no blunder.
Ken Wilson aka k(3)
December 1, 2013
Shirrell, It was such a pleasure whenever I was in the wonderful company of you and Roald. I have fond memories of good food, wine and stimulating conversation! I will never forget Roald's sense of humor, quick wit and twinkling eyes as he entertained us with stories! Love to your family, Barbara Scheese
November 30, 2013
Dear Shirrell,
Imagine, for the past few weeks I had been thinking frequently of you and Roald and our adventure processing the Syrian sample census in Ankara with P-STAT, during the night when the campus was under siege but Ziya Aktas kept the computer center open for us to work at night. Roald, with his humor and joy in life, kept going with you (as long as the sandwiches were in hand). You both padded about in your sneakers, looking forward to Wimbeldon as the reward. We finished the task and got you off to London, and Khaled Mardini to Damascus, just before tanks rolled into the university. Why the two of you have been so much on my mind I cannot say, but the memories remain precious and vivid. My thoughts are with you. Leila (then Erder, now Bisharat)
Leila Bisharat
November 29, 2013
me and my dad at my wedding
I am thankful for the family, friends and neighbors that have shared their stories about Roald, and welcome hearing yours. If you wish to email something for our Gedankschrift for Roald, Festschrift for Shirrell, and the 50th Anniversary of P-STAT on May 4, 2014 contact pstatinc (at) gmail (d0t) com Being Roald's only daughter, I was his favorite daughter and he was so happy walking me down the isle at our wedding on Woji's deck on Culebra 23 yrs ago. RIP Rollo
Sebbie Buhler
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