About Bob Schwabach

Here is a bio, or “vita,” as it’s sometimes called. But if it’s all right to call it a vita, should “bio” be called “bia?”

Bob Schwabach — compressed. bob-schwabach
Born and bred in Chicago, Illinois, a city of bad public schools and great museums and libraries, which is where education is actually to be gained.

–Undergraduate studies, University of Chicago; graduate studies at State U. of New York in Cooperstown and the U. of Delaware. The graduate studies were in the history of science and technology and were arranged by the Smithsonian, which wanted me to be a curator at the Museum of History and Technology. So the studies centered on art and technology, which are closely related.

Around the third year of this it got so boring that I decided to enter the real world — whatever that is, and went down to the nearest newspaper, the Wilmington, Del., News-Journal, and told the city editor I wanted to be a reporter. On a whim, he didn’t throw me out.

I spent three years there, won some prizes, hosted a radio talk show, and then moved on to a dozen more years with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Chicago Tribune. I was a feature writer in Philadelphia and a food and restaurant writer in Chicago. I know the food stuff sounds strange, but my first day at the Tribune the managing editor came over to me and said he needed a food writer and did I know anything about food. I said: “Well, I eat,” and he said: “That’s good enough for me.” The rest is history and remains with me to this day around my waist. This is the way newspapers really work.

One day back in Philadelphia I tried to figure out whether to get a Commodore, an Atari or an Apple for a Christmas present, and it was so confusing that I wrote an article about it. This became known as Bob’s confused computer article and it went all over the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain and news service, which was desperate for more confusion. That was 40 years ago and I’m still trying to figure it out.

— We’ve skipped over some stuff. For two and a half years I was the “director of technical communications” for Argonne National Laboratory, a huge place built outside of Chicago on the estate of a skinless hot dog king. This was the country’s first national lab and is still one of our largest. It’s where the atom bomb was developed. Though halfway through the project it was moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, after one of the scientists remarked: “You know, if we have an accident, we’re right outside Chicago.” What I did was answer questions like “Whaddaya got?” And I would say: “We got bio-degradable plastics, synthetic chlorophyll, super conductors, maglev trains, nuclear reactors that never need to be cleaned or refueled; we got diamond coatings, silent submarine engines and x-ray movies of chemical reactions. Whaddaya want?” When I was younger I excavated a Carthaginian city in Morocco, rode a camel caravan across the Sahara to Timbuktu and dove for sunken Roman warships in the harbor of Tangiers. I designed telephone switching systems for AT&T, studied architecture with Mies Van Der Rohe and worked in a metallurgy lab on titanium alloys. More recently, I’ve written two books on using the computer to analyze the stock market: “The Dow Jones Guide to Investment Software” and the “Business Week Guide to Global Investing.” But I digress …

For Bob's non-tech columns, click here.

For info on Bob’s search for the lost Atlantis, visit oncomp.com/atlantis/

8 Responses to “About Bob Schwabach”

  1. Mr. Schwabach – FOUND YOU AGAIN & SO GLAD OF IT! I stopped reading the Phoenix Republic when your column was no longer part of it. Glad you are still in harness.

    I have bookmarked your site on this resurrected computer and will search your inventories of info for what I need: How to get my old and reliable WIN 3x//DOS and WIN98 partition put on a newer system that takes WIN xp as an upgrade to the newer side of the partition.

    I am not technical and must rely on others for this but it seems there are real challenges to do this, With the help of your past writings I may be able to find the “right words” to use in conversing with techies. This may enable me to get them to create one good installation on a stout machine that shold last me.

    I will be retiring soon but will want to use my years of academic (WIN3x/DOS) notes for some writing. My quest continues.

    -Best Wishes & thanks for all or your work, Bill Roe

  2. If you just need to move text from one computer to another, there’s Mozy online backup, or Dropbox, or SugarSync, or the Skydrive on WindowsLive.com. They’re all free for basic storage needs, usually two gigabytes worth.

    With the sync programs, such as Dropbox or SugarSync, your files will show up on the new computer automatically, if you’ve downloaded the program on both computers. All you need is an Internet connection.

  3. Your column is almost the only reason that I continue to subscribe to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. I’m often out of town, but my wife always carefully sets aside you column for me to read when I return. I enjoy the way that you and Joy write. I read you with a bright orange highlighter in hand and mark the items that interest me.

  4. You just made our year.

  5. Bob & Joy – Hello Again. Glad you are still out there. I wrote in 2010 and have since retired. I still have the challenges of using my WordStar and related bibliography programs and notes on current machines but have had some success in bridging the gap. Had a tech person find me a serviceable Win98 computer and they programmed a partition to keep my use of the old “notebook/bibliography” with the WordStar software alive and printable on my older printer. The tech person is now gone so I will now need to learn enough about these basic systems so I can use the kind of suggestions you offered in 2010. I Don’t care about web access on this kind of dedicated machine. THE QUESTION: Besides stockpiling a library of old DOS through WinXP “how to” books and learning from them by trial-and-error, WHAT RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE (old Heath Kits/documents, etc.) for a person to learn the computer modification/software tricks-of-the-trade needed to keep these Winn3x/DOS and WinXP alive (with good printing capability given 16 bit printers are history)?

    Any help to an old dinosaur will be gratefully received… If you can.

    FYI – I still will not subscribe to the local paper because they dropped your column.

    -Best Wishes & Thanks in Advance, Bill Roe

  6. Hi Bill,
    This is Joy typing.
    That’s such a nice comment about our column. You made our day.
    Now this is Bob dictating to Joy:
    “I loved Win 3.1. The problem for Microsoft is when users are satisfied, they don’t have anything to sell.So I think all these changes in Windows are just marketing. I would also love it if you sent your comment about our column to the editor of the paper. Do you have a copy of a program called ‘Nota Bene.’ It’s designed specifically for bibliographies and footnote tracking. It’s a specialized version of XYWrite, which itself was an early desktop version of ATEX, the system used by the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer and a number of papers decades ago. It cost $2 million back then. You can still get NotaBene from NotaBene.com and XyWrite from vetusware.com.”

    (Joy talking now). If I were you, I wouldn’t worry too much about keeping these systems alive. If you keep the dust out with a can of compressed air, you should be fine since you’re not at risk of getting a virus since you don’t plan to go online. Our best tech guru is Kenny S, from helphelpnow.com. He’s kind and competent and a whiz at all things tech. His rates are reasonable. Old printers you can buy on eBay. Or if worse comes to worse, and something goes wrong with a system you need in order to use your software, you could buy a similar system on eBay cheaply. I just saw a Win 98 machine there for $99.

  7. In Bob’s biography, you say “it was confusing trying to make up my mind to get an Atari, Commodore or Apple. That was 15 years ago.”
    More like 30 years ago now (2019). Like Bill Roe, I quit the Arizona Republic when they dropped your column, (and never looked back).
    Now to give Mint Mobile a try. Thanks for the tip.

  8. Phil:

    Thanks so much for your note. You made our day. Sorry we got out of the habit of looking at comments here.
    You can write Bob at bobschwab@gmail.com or Joy at joydee@oncomp.com.
    Let us know what you think of Mint Mobile, if you ended up trying it. We’ll edit Bob’s biography now. Thanks!

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