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Mitch Altman

Mitch Altman

Inventor, hacker | Cornfield Electronics CEO | Class of 1980

His most famous campus contribution is long gone — RIP, Hash Wednesday — but many of Mitch Altman’s favorite UI places and spaces are still here. 

“When I think of places that were important to me from my days at the U of I, I think of places that are still important to me, since they helped form my love of community," says the Cornfield Electronics CEO.

Among them:

"There's Bubby and Zadie’s on Green Street, where I met some of my first longtime friends.

"There's The Daily Grind coffee house in Johnstowne Center, where I met more longtime friends.

"There's Espresso Royale in what was then Treno’s but is now The Bread Company, where I met yet more longtime friends in the wee hours.

"There's the Advanced Digital Systems Lab in Everitt Laboratory, where I met my first geeky longtime friends, and where I created my first real music synthesizer and learned about the importance of community in creative geeky endeavors.

"There's the Apple Duck Pinball Arcade on Green Street, where I became a pinball wizard and chilled out till late in the morning with others taking long breaks from schoolwork.

"There's WEFT, the community radio station, where I learned about how fantastic it can be when people pool their skills, experience and knowledge with a common vision — and also how awful it can be when people in a community resort to infighting.

"And here's The Red Herring Coffee House and Vegetarian Restaurant, in the Channing Murray Center.  The community at Channing Murray was an inspiration to me. It was the first physical space I was ever a part of that was intended as a community center. It attracted a very diverse set of misfits, of which I was one. I felt right at home. 

"Together, we had inspirational meetups, put on all sorts of musical events, from jazz to folk to rock to noise. We opened the first vegetarian restaurant in Champaign-Urbana. We had art openings, poetry readings and a friendly place to hang out. I grew a great deal as a result of my days and nights there.

"Whenever I go to C-U, I always go back to the Red Herring and enjoy the food and people, glad that it is still there and thriving.”

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