I have known Yuri Rubinsky for nearly ten years, about the same length of time I have known SGML, about a quarter of my time on earth. I have known him in many ways: as the chief impressario and father figure for SGML, as a close business associate, as an innovative technologist and standards guru, as a conference leader and engaging speaker, as a fellow small company founder. I have known him not just in the business world, but also as a favorite author, delighting me with the unique and wonderful "Christopher Columbus Answers All Charges."
Yet as wonderful as these memories are, they tend to obscure what Yuri represented most of all: one of the most fundamentally decent people I have ever met. For Yuri was not just the person who personified SGML, he was the person who insisted that SGML be used to help the blind. He was not just the person who brought SGML to the Internet, he was the person who ensured the World Wide Web would be ICADD accessible. And he was not just a colleague or associate; he was a friend... someone for whom personal issues could be mixed in with business, who would always do the right thing when it came to it, who would treat people with dignity and consciously reinforce their humanity.
Yuri, in whatever greater plan governs our existence, it is now your role to move on, and ours to tarry here a while longer. But as we reach into our hearts and souls to find a proper goodbye, there are no words powerful enough to describe how much we shall miss you.
Eric Severson - President, SGML Open
We wish to extend sympathy and condolences to family and friends of Yuri Rubinsky. The industry shall surely miss such a man.
I remember distinctly my first encounter with Yuri Rubinsky. I was attending my first ever SGML course in Boston and Yuri gave the opening address. I was a UNIX systems administrator harassed at the inconvenience that this SGML stuff was going to cause in my job but something about Yuri's stories that wove together the beginning of SGML with the French Revolution captured my imagination. I could not fathom at that time what a big part of my life SGML would become - and how Yuri would continue to challenge and inspire me.
I cannot say that I ever had a personal relationship with Yuri but I can say that whenever we had business dealings (such as when our company became a SoftQuad Partner) there was a warmth and honesty to Yuri that is rare in the software business. I regret that I did not know Yuri better but I will always be thankful to him for the inspiration and guidance he has provided to me, to others in my organization, and to the SGML industry as a whole.
Carla Corkern - President, ISOGEN INTERNATIONAL
About six years ago, I met Yuri for the first time, demonstrating Author/Editor and talking non-stop about the promise of SGML. He infused me with such enthusiasm about SGML and its potential that I committed myself from that day forward to help it grow. Yuri Rubinsky, in a way, gave me my SGML career.
I called him, affectionately, the SGML Teddy Bear. A powerful icon, both strong and comforting. I will miss him and all that he, alone, represented. How lucky we are that he left this legacy behind: solving problems, having fun and making money -- all with SGML. How lucky we are that he left his mark in so many hearts and minds, for we will never be truly without him.
Laura Walker - Chief Marketing Officer, SGML Open
"Salut mon vieux!"
Yuri had got into this habit of identifying himself with this French idiom every time he was calling me on the phone. It was some sort of private joke. He would never tell his name. He would simply say "Salut mon vieux!" -- with this subtly mixed English/Canadian French accent which characterizes Ontarians --, and then pause for a while, maliciously observing how long it would take me to figure out who was calling. And of course, I would recognize him almost immediately.
Yuri was able to speak French quite fluently, and had a special attachement for France, where he had some family, and travelled quite often. I don't know whether this was related, but I can attest that he played a major role in development of SGML in France, both directly and indirectly.
I remember exactly when I met Yuri for the first time: that was on June 10, 1988, and I remember this day for very personal reasons. As Michel Biezunski recently recalled, this was the first significant gathering of the French professional publishing community around an SGML presentation. This seminar was organized by Dominique Vignaud -- who happens to be my wife --, under the auspices of the Syndicat National de l'Edition for which she was conducting an "SGML opportunity study". Yuri had been invited to technically chair the meeting and give an Author/Editor presentation.
It was not easy, at this time, to grasp a high-level view of what SGML was, or could be. Everything was dominated by the "syntactic view", markup minimization issues and character entity set definitions. To many people, the connection with the general concept of structured documents was still unclear. Personnaly, I was still trying to understand what SGML was, and whether it was interesting at all.
Yuri had a vision of SGML. A very clear one. But the most amazing thing was how efficiently he was able to communicate this vision to others. He had come the day before to prepare the meeting with Dominique, and after they had been working together all day --Yuri explaining so many things and showing so many tricks on a Macintosh--, I rememember she was very excited and kept saying "I think I understood SGML!".
The seminar itself was quite illuminating. I distinctly remember Yuri starting his talk with one of his metaphoric tricks, showing a toothpaste tube out of his pocket and saying "SGML is like toothpaste..." but I do not remember the end of the joke, because I got so much captivated by the ideas behind the metaphors and the vision which was slowly emerging out of Yuri's talk.
At the end, anyway, I had decided that SGML *was* interesting, enough, maybe, to make it my main focus for a while. This while lasted eight years so far...
Interestingly, several other attendees of this primal meeting -- such as Michel-- who had met for the first time at this occasion, seem to have been influenced in a similar way. Enough to become the group of people behind the development of SGML in France.
What I do not remember, though, is how many times I met Yuri since. It looks like he was always there, at any conference, at any exhibition, at any occasion. Was it in France? Or somewhere else in Europe, or North America? I do not remember, because all these events were fusioned into some sort of continuity. We would be starting a discussion at some meeting, and continue it at the next one, a few weeks or months later, at another location.
But, always, he was greeting me with his cheerful "Salut mon vieux"!
Now, it's my turn to say it.
But not so cheerfully, I'm afraid...
François Chahuneau - General Manager, AIS
When I first heard of Yuri's passing, so many emotions crossed my mind that I can't begin to describe them all. There was, and will be for a while, a deep sense of loss. Yuri was one of my mentors. When I first met him in 1989 at the SGML conference in Philadelphia, I was just learning SGML in the process of developing the Content Data Model which is now the core of the IETM concept. Anyone who is familiar with IETMs knows that they aren't an easy concept to grasp. Throw learning SGML in on top of that and you know where I was. During one of the breaks I ran into Yuri. We introduced ourselves and I explained my predicament. He took the time from a very busy schedule to sit down and answer my questions and give me the feeling that I really did understand this stuff. He gave me so much confidence that I did an impromptu poster session! My career in the SGML field was probably born in those few minutes.
Over the years, I always made a point of finding Yuri whenever we were at the same meeting. No matter how long it had been since the last meeting, it was like old friends who were always in contact. Last summer, on the way to SGML Europe, we ran into each other on the Munich subway and became travel partners the rest of the way to Gmunden. By the time we got there our merry band had grown to 8 and a good time was had by all.
Yuri made such an impact in his life. He was one of the most highly regarded champions of SGML, helping it to break into the mainstream. He helped bring the SGML world, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the realization that the World Wide Web was something that would happen with or without our help and that we could make positive contributions in shaping the future of HTML. He helped to make information acessible with his work on the ICADD committee, including having it included in HTML and ISO 12083. He also showed his lighter side with his Christopher Columbus novel.
Even though Yuri's time on this earth is done, I'm sure he hasn't stopped working. I can just picture him now sitting on a cloud with Columbus asking him how he liked the book. Or working with St. Peter to show him the benefits marking the rolls of Heaven in SGML. Or working with angelic choirmaster to develop some of the first material marked up in SMDL. It wouldn't be Yuri any other way.
Yuri- we miss you. Keep an eye on us all. I'll see you later...
Eric Freese - Sr. SGML Analyst, Information Architects, Inc.
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