Lorinda Cherry

Lorinda Cherry is a computer programmer. She received her Masters in computer science from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1969.[1] She joined Bell Labs in 1972 as an assembly language programmer, and worked there on the Unix operating system for several years.[2]


Cherry has worked on mathematical tools, such as bc and dc,[3] and co-authored eqn with Brian Kernighan.[4] Her work on libplot inspired the later GNU plotutils package.[5] She also worked on "analyzing the federalist papers and compressing digital phone books."[6]

Her non-mathematical work included the dictionary for the Unix spell checker [7] and the Bell Labs's Writer's Workbench (wwb).[8] The Writer's Workbench was meant to help students learn to edit their work:

My feeling about a lot of those tools is their value in education is as much pointing out to people who are learning to write that they have choices and make choices when they do it. They don’t think of a writing task as making choices per se. Once they get it on paper they think it’s cast in stone. So it makes them edit.[9]

Cherry also contributed to the Plan 9 operating system,[10] cowrote "Typing Documents on the UNIX System: Using the –ms and –mcs Macros with Troff" with Mike Lesk for the Unix Tenth Edition Manual,[11] and coded up the non-dictionary based spellchecker, typo, conceived by Bob Morris.[12] Lorinda Cherry also worked with Lee McMahon along with Morris collecting a substantial corpus of text and studying it statistically. "Some of their tools, particularly uniq and comm became staples. Out of that work came the remarkable typo, which spotted typing errors by statistical inference."[3]

"Cherry’s work on approximate parsing and Aho’s on fast pattern search turned out to be just the right foundation for an English style-appraiser suggested by Prof. William Vesterman of Rutgers. That in turn was elaborated into Writer's Workbench by Nina MacDonald and others in the Human Performance Engineering Department."[3]

Cherry is one of three co-inventors for AT&T's patent on a "Method and system for verifying the status of 911 emergency telephone services".[13]

Cherry raced rally cars as a hobby.[14] Cherry has always been fascinated by text processing.[3]


  1. ^ "Lorinda Cherry". Retrieved 2009-08-22.
  2. ^ Mahoney, Michael Sean. "Interview with Lorinda Cherry". An Oral History of Unix. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d McIlroy, M. D. (1987). A Research Unix reader: annotated excerpts from the Programmer's Manual, 1971–1986 (PDF) (Technical report). CSTR. Bell Labs. 139.
  4. ^ Seth, Malika. "Lorinda Cherry". Retrieved 2009-08-22.
  5. ^ Maier, Robert. "Appendix F History and Acknowledgements". The plotutils Package. GNU. Retrieved 25 November 2012. Most of the work on tying the plot filters together and breaking out device-dependent versions of libplot was performed by Lorinda Cherry.
  6. ^ Mic. "17 Rare Images Tell the Real Story of Women in Tech". Mic. Retrieved 2017-02-02.
  7. ^ IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, vol. PC-1, 1982?
  8. ^ Smith, Charles R.; Kathleen E. Kiefer; Patricia S. Gingrich (1 July 1984). "Computers come of age in writing instruction". Computers and the Humanities. Springer Netherlands. 18 (3): 215–224. doi:10.1007/BF02267225. Six years ago, Lorinda Cherry, a computer scientist at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey, added several programs to analyze English texts ... Building on her work, members of the Documentation Technologies Group at Bell Laboratories in Piscataway, New Jersey, added dozens of complementary programs, creating a series now known as the UNIX Writer's Workbench Software.
  9. ^ Silverman, David. "Text Processing and the Writer's Workbench". Unix: An Oral History. Michael Sean Mahoney. Retrieved 25 November 2012. They knew that the ultimate lesson was to teach students that writing is a series of choices, not a matter of pretty formatting on a laser printer. Cherry expressed her vision of the Workbench’s use....
  10. ^ McIlroy, Doug (March 1995). "Preface to the Second (1995) Edition". Plan 9 Manual. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
  11. ^ Unix Research System: Papers (Volume 2). Saunders College Publishing. 1990. ISBN 978-0-03-047529-0. Archived from the original on 2015-02-03. Retrieved 2012-09-24.
  12. ^ McIlroy, Doug (1997). "History of Computing at Bell Labs". research!rsc. Russ Cox. Retrieved 25 November 2012. Another of my favorites, and again Lorinda Cherry was in this one, with Bob Morris, was typo. This was a program for finding spelling errors.
  13. ^ US patent 8208606, Killian; Thomas J. (Westfield, NJ), Cherry; Lorinda (Gillette, NJ), Schryer; Norman (New Providence, NJ), "Method and system for verifying the status of 911 emergency telephone services", published 2009-06-25, assigned to AT&T Intellectual Property I, LP (Atlanta, GA) 
  14. ^ Rodimer, Don. "The Early Days of NNJR". History. Northern New Jersey Region - Sports Car Club of America. Retrieved 25 November 2012.

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