Cross eXam: Dr. Charles F. Goldfarb

What You Always Wanted to Know; But were Afraid to Ask:

Interview by Dianne Kennedy for the XML Files

What is your favorite color? And what is your sign?

Purple. No right turn. (Actually, Sagittarius.)

Do you have brothers or sisters? Where were you in birth order?

Yes. First.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Why the past tense? Actually, I don't recall, but I'm sure it wasn't this.

What was your major in school?


Tell us about your first job.

When I was a kid I delivered packages for a neighborhood drug store. The closest I got to document processing was cranking the mimeograph to produce the sale flyers.

How did you get started with SGML?

After Ed Mosher and Ray Lorie and I completed our GML project, I decided to pursue some of the ideas further. I felt that a DTD could be created in a form that computers could read, and therefore be able to validate markup without actually processing the document. I proved it in 1974, so I consider that the start of SGML. Of course, it took another decade -- and hundreds of talented people -- to develop it into an International Standard.

What has been your biggest professional challenge?

Enlightening people -- helping them to understand why SGML is a good thing for them. It's a challenge that all of us face.

What accomplishment are you the proudest of?

Professionally, I'm very proud of having invented SGML, of course. But I'm even prouder of having been entrusted with technical leadership of SGML standards development for the past 19 years. I've been able to work with some wonderful people, and we've formed close friendships that span both continents and generations. Just last week we were meeting and someone came up with a great improvement in the Standard. He was asked "where were you when we did the original design" and he said "in school"!

Give us your prediction about the impact of XML on publishing

XML will follow in the successful footsteps of its family -- SGML and HTML -- because it's got the breeding. It's not some instant expert's bright idea, it is a core subset of proven SGML functionality. The Web is the most important publishing development since moveable type and XML will dominate the Web. You can't say more than that!

You can find Dianne Kennedy on the Web at XMLXperts.

To Charles F. Goldfarb's SGML Source Home Page.

Copyright © 1998 Charles F. Goldfarb. All rights reserved.
From an article in the Graphic Communications Association's XML Files