stewartFollowing the invention of the first electronic digital computer by John Vincent Atanasoff and Clifford Berry in the 1930s and the official formation of the Department of Computer Science in 1969, ISU has paved the way for amazing innovations by contributing ground-breaking research and outreach to support future generations.

1923: Henry Wallace teaches faculty at Iowa State College - Henry A. Wallace (U.S. Vice President January 1941-1945) used an IBM calculating machine while reaching an Iowa State College course to faculty, illustrating how to calculate correlation coefficients and how to use it for weather predictions

1925-1930: John Vincent Atanasoff enrolls at Iowa State with a teaching fellowship and earns his MA in mathematics. He then earns his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin.

1930: Atanasoff returns to Iowa State College - John Vincent Atanasoff returns to Iowa State College as a professor of physics.

1936: John Vincent Atanasoff publishes paper - John Vincent Atanasoff co-authors an article on the "Application of Punched Card Equipment to the Analysis of Complex Spectra," published in the Optical Society of America.

1939-1942: First electronic digital machine work begins - John Vincent Atanasoff and Clifford E. Berry begin their work on the world's first electronic digital machine.

ABC1942: Atanasoff-Berry Computer tested - The Atanasoff-Berry Computer was successfully tested after a prototype is built in the basement of the Physics building at Iowa State College.

1957: The IBM 650 - Iowa State acquires its first commercial electronic digital computer, an IBM 650.

1959: The Cyclone - "The Cyclone," Iowa State University's first high-capacity computation service is built through a collaboration of faculty and students.

1964: Graduate program finalized - Graduate program in computer science developed and formalized by Clair Maple, Professor of Mathematics and Director of the ISU Computation Center.

1967: Undergraduate program established - Undergraduate program in computer science is established, with 75 IBMstudents enrolled. The program offered 17 courses totaling 56 credit hours in three areas: numerical analysis, programming languages, and systems analysis and design.

November 1968: Department of Computer Science established - Iowa State establishes the Department of Computer Science.

December 1968: Enrollment triples in one year - 187 undergraduate and 82 graduate students enrolled in computer science at Iowa State.

1969: Robert Stewart named Department Chair - Robert Stewart appointed the first chair of the Department of Computer Science (served 1969-1983)

Atanasoff Building1969: Computer science building constructed - The Computer Science Building was constructed to house the growing department.

1983: George Strawn named Department Chair - George Strawn appointed chair of the Department of Computer Science (served 1983-1986)

August 1985: CS 103 introduced for non-majors - CS 103, Computer Applications is introduced for non-majors. Included in the curriculum were MS-DOS, WordStar, Lotus 123, and Pascal.

September 1985: Enrollment reaches a new high - 850 undergraduate majors enrolled.

JVA1986: Arthur Oldehoeft named Department Chair - Arthur Oldehoeft appointed chair of the Department of Computer Science (served 1986-1998)

April 1986: Enrollment milestone - 1000 students enrolled

April 1986: First course by satellite - CS512 is Iowa State's first course taught via satellite, utilizing the WOI satellite uplink facilities.

1988: Computer Science Building renamed - Computer Science Building renamed John Vincent Atanasoff Hall

ReplicaSeptember 1997: ABC Computer replica built - A replica of the Atanasoff-Berry Computer is built, tested, and then displayed in the lobby of Durham Center at Iowa State. The replica was then moved to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

1999: Les Miller named Department Chair - Les Miller appointed chair of the Department of Computer Science (served 1999-2001).

2002: Carl Chang named Department Chair - Carl Chang appointed chair of the Department of Computer Science (served 2002-2013).

50th2013: Johnny Wong named interim Department Chair - Johnny Wong appointed interim chair of the Department of Computer Science (served 2013-2014).

2014: Gianfranco Ciardo named Department Chair - Gianfranco Ciardo appointed chair of the Department of Computer Science (served 2014-2019).

Group photo2019: Department Celebrates 50th Anniversary - During the celebration’s keynote lecture, “Our Digital Future (Through the Lens of the Past),” Douglas Van Houweling (’65 government), explored just how far we’ve come from the days of punch cards and what innovations may be around the corner.

Guests also attended several timely and relevant lectures presented by esteemed department alumni and faculty. Rajesh Parekh (MS ’93 computer science, Ph.D. ’98 computer science), engineering director at Google, live streamed his lecture from Google headquarters. His talk focused on how large scale machine learning and computer vision algorithms can help to build a planet scale map. 

Myra Cohen, Lanh & Oanh Nguyen Endowed Chair of Software Engineering and professor of computer science, demonstrated how programs are becoming biological, and how living programs behave in similar ways to traditional software.

Bamshad Mobasher (’85 computer science and mathematics, MS ’89 computer science, Ph.D. ’94 computer science), professor of computer science and the director of the Center for Web Intelligence at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media, shared innovative ideas on how providers of online information and services such as Amazon, Netflix and Spotify, can learn from context to enhance their personalized recommender systems.

Doina Caragea (Ph.D. ’94 computer science) gave what would be a particularly prescient lecture in the time of COVID-19. Her talk, “Mining Social Media to Aid Disaster Response,” demonstrated how machine learning solutions have the potential to transform the way in which crisis response organizations operate, and, in turn, provide better support to the victims of disasters in a timely fashion.

Other celebration events included a student alumni luncheon, campus and department tours, a graduate student poster competition and a breakfast where current computer science students had an opportunity to network with individuals from more than 20 employer organizations. The celebration concluded on Friday evening with a banquet dinner at the ISU Alumni Center.

Alumnus and former department chair George Strawn (’69 mathematics) traveled from Virginia to attend the festivities. Strawn, a founding member of the department, said, “It has been a great privilege to have watched the department grow and mature over 50 years. I fully expect the next 50 computing years will be even more exciting than the last 50, and I equally expect ISU’s Department of Computer Science will play a major role in those developments.”

2020: Hridesh Rajan named Department Chair - Hridesh Rajan appointed chair of the Department of Computer Science (current chair).