John Diebold, an early promoter of computer technology, died yesterday in his Bedford Hills, N.Y., home from esophageal cancer at the age of 79. Credited with popularizing the term "automation," Diebold designed an electronic network linking records at New York City's Bowery Savings Bank in 1961 and was appointed by President Kennedy to the U.S. delegation taking part in the first United Nations Conference on Science and Technology for Developing Countries.
He also helped establish a data network at Baylor University Hospital, eliminating paperwork in the accounting, inventory, payroll and purchasing departments. This network also put medical records and statistics in an electronic form which facilitated medical research.
At first, however, not everyone was happy with Diebold's ideas, and -- according to Jeffrey Cruikshank's book The Rule Breakers -- the management consulting firm Diebold worked at in the early 1950s fired him twice over his "obsession" with computers. When they fired him a third time, he began his own consulting firm, John Diebold & Associates, in April 1954.