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Carl Chang, Computer Science, (515) 294-6516
S.S. Venkata, Electrical and Computer Engineering, (515) 294-3459
Carole Custer, University Marketing, (515) 294-3134
Debra Gibson, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- Computing experts from around the world will assemble on the Iowa State University campus for the International Symposium on Modern Computing, Oct. 30 -- Nov.1, in the Scheman Building.

The academic symposium will recognize the late John Vincent Atanasoff, inventor of the electronic digital computer and former Iowa State physics and math professor. Atanasoff was born 100 years ago this month.

Leading experts will discuss new computer technologies with the potential to again change the electronic world. Symposium attendees will participate in workshops within the broader areas of computational intelligence, application-specific IT infrastructures and high-performance and grid computing. Heading up the symposium are Carl Chang, professor and chair, ISU Department of Computer Science; and S.S. Venkata, Palmer Chair and professor of electrical and computer engineering.

"Dr. Atanasoff is considered a giant in the history of modern computing," Chang said. "In celebrating his 100th birthday, we, as educators, are obligated to bring alive the same aspiration that the young professor, Dr. Atanasoff, once had for finding new pathways in education."

Plenary speakers at the symposium include Gordon Bell, senior researcher for Microsoft, San Francisco; Douglas E. Van Houweling, president and CEO, Internet2 and professor, School of Information, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and George Strawn, chief information officer, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA and former professor and director of the Iowa State University Computation Center.

Also attending will be Emil Yalnazov, Deputy Ambassador of Bulgaria to the United States. That country awarded Atanasoff, whose father was Bulgarian, its highest science award. Atanasoff also was a member of the Bulgarian Academy of Science.

During the Oct. 31 breakfast, a panel will discuss the court case, Honeywell vs. Sperry Rand, that, in the early 1970s, legally established Atanasoff as the creator of the first electronic digital computer. Panel members will include Alice Rowe Burks, author of the recently published "Who Invented the Computer? The Legal Battle that Changed Computing History," Ann Arbor, Mich.; Charles G. Call, an electrical engineer and patent attorney who represented Honeywell on what has become known as "the ENIAC case," West Yarmouth, Mass.; and John Gustafson, principal investigator for Sun Microsystems Inc. and a former ISU professor who helped build a replica of Atanasoff's original computer, Mountain View, Calif.

The Friday evening symposium program, which is open to the public, will include remarks by John Atanasoff II and a live video conference withStephen Wolfram, CEO of Wolfram Research and creator of Mathematica. The talk will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Benton Auditorium.

"We have assembled such a large group of distinguished scholars from various institutions that events of comparable magnitude simply do not exist," Chang said. "I see this as the most appropriate way to honor Dr. Atanasoff in recognition of his scholarly accomplishments, as well as help propel more modern computing innovations in the Internet era."

"My father was a unique individual -- very bright, very creative and very hard-working," John V. Atanasoff, Jr., of Boulder, CO, added. "These attributes enabled him to invent a computer that was different, with a very low probability of success and few supporters."

Registration for the symposium is available online at, or by calling ISU Conference Services, (515) 294-5366.


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