Evanston resident Robert “Bob” Schwabach, a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune and the long-running author of a syndicated column on computers, died on Aug. 9 from a stroke. He was 85.
Schwabach was born and raised in Chicago, which he once described as “a city of bad public schools and great museums and libraries, which is where education is actually to be gained.”
He did his undergraduate studies at the University of Chicago, which gave him the chance at age 21 to join the excavation of a Carthaginian city in Morocco, dive onto sunken Roman warships in the harbor of Tangiers and explore the tombs and pyramids of Egypt.
He went on to graduate studies at State University of New York in Cooperstown and the University of Delaware. The graduate studies were in the history of science and technology and were arranged by the Smithsonian, which wanted him to be a curator at the Museum of History and Technology. So the studies centered on art and technology.
Around the third year of this, he said: “I decided to enter the real world — whatever that is — and went down to the nearest newspaper, the Wilmington, Delaware, News-Journal, and told the city editor I wanted to be a reporter. On a whim, he didn’t throw me out.”
He 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. He was a feature writer in Philadelphia and a food and restaurant writer in Chicago.
His first day at the Tribune the managing editor came over to him and said he needed a food writer and did he know anything about food. Schwabach said: “Well, I eat,” and the editor said: “That’s good enough for me.”
One day back in Philadelphia he tried to figure out whether to get a Commodore, an Atari or an Apple for a Christmas present, and it was so confusing that he wrote an article about it.
As Schwabach later recalled: “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.”
He continued to write a weekly syndicated column, carried most recently by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Worcester, Massachusetts, Telegram. The column began around 1980 and is one of the longest-running in the U.S.
Schwaback was also the author of two books on using the computer to analyze the stock market, the “Dow Jones-Irwin Guide to Investment Software” in 1985 and “The Business Week Guide to Global Investments Using Electronic Tools” in 1994
He is survived by his wife Joy Schwabach, sons Aaron and Jonathan Schwabach and daughter Karen Schwabach.