I was nudged into starting this today when I came across a brief mention of Ken's passing in a publication that I dare say very few people reading this will have any awareness of. For the past couple of years, I have been in the process of cleaning out my stores of equipment, software, stuff accumulated from many years in the Pick community.
Today I found a packet of Dick & Data newsletters published by the Pick Software Developers Association, a short lived experiment in the late 80's.
Here is my In Memoriam article and letter from Chuck Thomas from Dict & Data Vol 2, No 1 dated March 1989:
As many of you know, Mr. Ken Simms of Automatic Programming Inc. passed away last November after a long illness. Many of us remember Ken as the architect and author of the Pick/Basic programming language. He also developed and marketed "Wizard," the first and probably the most widely known application generator for the Pick system. Mr. Chuck Thomas sent the following letter and a copy of the original "SBASIC" documentation. In reading through the SBASIC documentation (it even pre-dates me!), I was struck by how far the language has come over the years and and by how robust the basis was. Note that SBASIC did not support variable length strings, had no constructs for dynamic arrays, and only allowed one file open at a time. I wonder where the Pick System would be if Ken had not developed a compiled language for it back then.
Sadly, I must also report the passing of another Pick system pioneer. Mr. Dennis Auler passed away on February 15th. You may not have heard of Dennis because he tended to stay in the background. But if you had anything to do with Bisync communications on the Microdata Reality, you probably talked to Dennis at some point. Later, Dennis worked for the Ultimate Corporation for many years developing and supporting their communications and network software.
Both of these men were charter members of the association and their presence will be sorely missed. TLK
(letter from Chuck Thomas) When Ken Simms passed away in November, I was reminded of his contributions to PICK, especially the PICK BASIC language compiler and run-time. I think all of us owe a debt of gratitude to him for his creativity and foresight.
While I had only met Ken and knew him just to speak with in passing, in the Fall of 1974, the advent of SBASIC changed the course of my future by cementing my interest to REALITY. "SBASIC" was preceded, I believe, by MBASIC (meta-language BASIC, perhaps) and followed by DBASIC, which became DATA/BASIC, but what I had was SBASIC with the enclosed runoff notes describing it (the chronology may be off a bit, due to old age). My copy came from Microdata's "Fishbowl" demo/development system, and was "unofficial".
Prior to SBASIC, we wrote our applications using PROC, BATCH, and English, with some assembler modes. You see, we were waiting for Microdata to release RPG, which they said was "coming". SBASIC caused us to lose interest in RPG. Even though the first release had serious weaknesses, you can imagine that it was a dramatic improvement.
PSDA shouldn't let Ken's passing go unnoticed. His was a milestone contribution.
Chuck Thomas Concept Systems Incorporated
See also An Incomplete History of Pick/BASIC