Karlin died Jan. 28, The New York Times reported Saturday. There was no word on cause of death or where Karlin died.
He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Feb. 28, 1918, and moved to the United States after receiving a master's degree in psychology from the University of Cape Town.
In the United States, Karlin earned a doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1942. He later became a research associate at Harvard, studying electrical engineering there and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Karlin joined Bell Labs in 1945, where he and a team of subordinates created the touch-tone phone key pad layout, which became the basis for designs on countless other commonly used items, including as ATM's, gas pumps, door locks, vending machines and medical equipment, the Times said.
"He was the one who introduced the notion that behavioral sciences could answer some questions about telephone design," said Ed Israelski, an engineer who worked under Karlin at Bell Labs in the 1970s.
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