Roald Buhler, the primary developer of the P-STAT statistical software program died
November 17 in Princeton, N.J. 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 expan-
sion 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, 4 children and their partners; Eric and
Nancy, Sebbie and Chas, David and Karen, Marc and Jenny, and grandchildren Wade
In lieu of flowers, you may send contributions in Roald Buhler's name to WWFM The
Classical Network, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor, NJ, 08550. (online
A celebration of Roald's life will coincide with the 50th Anniversary of P-STAT in 2014.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
P-STAT (R) will continue to grow and support our customers, thanks largely to
Shirrell wrote over the last 50 years.
For months I have been thinking about organizing an on-line Festschrift
for Roald & Shirrell, in honor of the 50th Anniversary of P-STAT in 2014
(the first printed manual was in 1964). Roald knew about, and liked the idea.
There is an online guest book to send condolences
For any additional information, please email PstatInc@gmail.com
|Athelete: Roald played tennis, squash, and basketball.|
| Programmer: Roald collaborated with his wife Shirrell on the P-STAT (R) |
software, and projects like 1970 WCBS Election Night Prediction.
| Musician: From an early age he played different instruments, |
including a Sax in a Swing Dance Band during College.
In recent years his radio was permanently tuned to WWFM classical, 89.1 fm
|Poet and Thinker: spoken and written words were a passion, double dactyls too.|
|Husband and Father: He loved his family without question. We miss him terribly. RIP|
|R-Fish was named in Roald's honor in 1982.||R-Fish has united friends and family across the globe.|