Iowa State’s Contributions to Modern Computing History

The following is a timeline of contributions that faculty and alumni from Iowa State University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering made to modern computing history.

1937-42

John Vincent Atanasoff, an Iowa State University physics professor, and Clifford Berry, an Iowa State physics graduate student and former electrical engineering undergraduate, build the world’s first electronic digital computer

1956-59

Iowa State faculty and students build the Cyclone Computer, a computer used on campus and located in the Electrical Engineering Building until 1966. The computer provided a powerful tool for the problem-solving and computational needs for all College of Engineering departments, as well as other departments on campus, and it inaugurated coursework in computer engineering and computer science at Iowa State. Two key faculty who worked on the project include Robert M. Stewart, Jr. (BSEE ’45; PhD physics ’54) and Ralph F. Schauer (BSEE ’52; MSEE ’57; PhDEE ’60).

1960s

Bob O. Evans (BSEE ’49) conceives the first compatible family of commercial computers at IBM. He received a National Medal of Technology for his contributions in 1975.

1980

Alumnus David R. Ditzel (BSEE and BSComS ’78) coauthors the famous paper “The Case for the Reduced Instruction Set Computer.” Ditzel was co-originator of the RISC concept. Later, he also was a designer of high-performance SPARC-based computers for Sun Microsystems

1984

Distinguished Professor Arthur V. Pohm (MS physics ’53; PhD physics ’54) co-invents Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM), a revolutionary computer memory technology

1997

The working replica of the Atanasoff-Berry Computer is unveiled in Washington, D.C.

2008

Alumnus James M. Daughton (BSEE ’59; MSEE ’61; PhDEE ’63) receives IEEE’s Daniel E. Noble Award for fundamental contributions to the technology that became known as Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM), a form of memory that is faster, uses less energy, and is more durable than other memory technologies.