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Friday, January 6, 2012

Along the Iowa Computer Trail - Iowa City

Iowa's two major state universities are separated by a 140-mile drive.  While Ames, in the West was developing engineers, the University of Iowa in Iowa City was busy developing people with Computer Marketing skills during the 1930s.  One of these people was Edwin S. McCollister.  McCollister held senior marketing and management posts at IBM, ElectroData, Univac, RCA and Burroughs over the course of the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s.

Ed McCollister's great-grandfather was Judge Charles McCollister, perhaps the first Judge in Iowa.  A large farm of around 4000 acres along the Iowa River across the road from Napoleon Park was accumulated and maintained in the family for over a hundred years.  Now, of course, the description, "the McCollister farm, south of Iowa City" no longer applies.  This sign, at the entrance to a nearby subdivision tells the story.  There is also a fairly new McCollister bridge on McCollister Boulevard, nearby.  The picture below on the right is of the McCollister farmhouse.  Naturally, it is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Ed McCollister and his wife retired and returned to the area in the 1980s.
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Two other prominent graduates of the University of Iowa with significant contributions to the computer industry were James Birkenstock, a Burlington, Iowa native and very key member of Tom Watson Jr.'s team at IBM and Bob Barton, regarded as the architect of the Burroughs B-5000.  Just how Barton, who was born in Connecticut became interested in Iowa is still a mystery to me.

After taking a few photos in this McCollister - Napolean Park area, we drove two miles north into downtown Iowa City and found an interesting group of restaurants on Linn Street near Market Street and had lunch.

It was a tough decision, but we chose Oasis, The Falafel Joint.  Not quite the same as a meal in Cairo but better middle-eastern food than we were expecting in Iowa.

1 comment:

Catherine Woodman said...

I live in the McCollister Farm House,and while there is not much of a farm left, we have tried to restore the inside to the era that it was built in--something that had not been attended to for a very long time when we bought the house.