1983, February 5: Letter from Peter to G&H

The previous letters were from mid-1981; this one is from early 1983. A lot happened during that year-and-a-half or so.

For example, as Helen obliquely mentioned in that last letter, Peter had gotten involved with a woman named Joya; at some point, Joya and her daughter Maya moved in with us in the Cowper St house that Peter and Jay and I moved to in mid-1981. I have no memory of either Joya or Maya, beyond vaguely recalling their names.

I finished 8th grade in 1982, and decided that instead of going to the high school that most people from my middle school were going to (Henry M. Gunn High School, known as “Gunn”), I would attend the other high school (Palo Alto High School, known as “Paly,” which rhymes with Sally). I vaguely recall being told that I was allowed to choose between the two schools because we were living right near the boundary between the two regions of the school district; but two or three of my friends also decided to go to Paly, and they didn’t live near that boundary, so I dunno what the deal was.

Sometime in 1982 or 1983, we moved again, to our third Palo Alto address. (I’ve now updated the map of places we lived.) Peter’s relationship with Joya had ended, and he got involved with a woman named Susan, who I don’t remember at all. Apparently the involvement was very serious—the below letter and my letter in the next post both casually refer to a plan for Peter and Susan to get married. That never happened; their relationship also ended.

Another thing that apparently happened was that Peter bought an ADAM computer, made by the company he worked for, Logical Business Machines. This letter and the next one indicate that Peter and I wrote a program that let us write and print letters on the ADAM, but I’m not sure why we needed to write a special program to do that. Maybe it just took input and sent it to the printer, not sure.

These printed-out letters are on narrow paper, about 5½" x 11"; it looks like we printed them on ordinary letter-sized paper and then cut a couple of inches of very wide margin off of the right side of each page. The printing is dot-matrix, in a not-very-easy-to-read font.

I think I haven’t listed everyone’s ages since a 1979 letter. Here are our ages in early 1983:

Name Age
Helen 75
George 70
Peter 43
Jed 14
Jay nearly 13

Content warning for the following letter, for discussion of the sudden death of a teenager (from illness).

I think this and the next two letters must have been mailed together, so I’m giving the same date for all three. (I just noticed that I’m posting these in late January 2023, almost exactly forty years after they were written!)

Address elided by Jed

Palo Alto, CA 94306

5 February 1983

Dear Parents,

Well, you’ve known for a long time that writing letters, even socially obligatory letters, is not my long shirt... I’m sorry, but we can’t all be perfect.... Anyway, here is a letter, in fact three of them.... Jed and I put together this program on the ADAM which will enable us to write letters easily and print them on the ADAM printer.... So now I don’t have any excuse not to write you....

Well, I have been extremely busy at work, often working ten-hour days.... Yesterday I took a day off, because Jed wasn’t feeling well, and that was a good excuse to stay home... so I used eight hours vacation time. He had had a slight headache for several days, and I took him to our co-op clinic.

Ordinarily, we would not have been concerned, but about four days ago, the 17-year-old son of Jed’s computer teacher died of meningitis, only 12 hours after exhibiting the symptoms: a severe headache, nausea, a sore throat, and a stiff neck. Jed had contact with some of the boy’s friends in some of his classes, so we wanted to be sure he was OK. (He is.) The strange thing is, ten percent of the population carry these bacteria in their throats: I think nobody understands how they get into the meninges.

Aside from that, we are all well, and all very busy at home, and at school, and at work. Susan and I are enjoying going to jazz concerts a few times a month. Last night we went to an auction benefitting Joaquin ́s school (Wilbur). It was most enjoyable: I was top bidder on an old Chinese landscape scroll, I believe worth several hundred dollars, and paid $35 for it. Susan was top bidder on a "grasshopper pie"... no, it’s not the insect, but rather refers to the creme-de-menthe drink...

Well, your Christmas present was certainly a B I G  H I T! We all pigged out on doughnuts, granola bars, and lefse for a week, and loved it, and loved you for making and for sending them...

Tomorrow there will be another ad in the Sunday Mercury-News (San Jose) for John’s ADAM... It’s for sale in the computer column, for $4250.... maybe someone will respond this time.... I’m paying for these ads from my pocket, since John is broke. I wish I could help him more, but I don’t have a whole lot of money myself after all our expenses: rent, utilities & phone, food, clothes, insurance, car payments, loan payments, payments on this ADAM, and so on... About ten sentences redacted by Jed. I also believe that if any of your friends or Vicky or any of her or of John's friends wanted to learn programming, the ADAM is a superb machine to learn it on.... I further believe that it is a money-making machine, if only the people around it can come up with imaginative ideas of how best to utilize it. One such way, which has not been tried, is to demonstrate the machine to potential buyers, and earn a commission on the sale of a Logical Machine to a businessperson who could use it to do all the accounting jobs for a small- to medium-sized company....

Well, anyway, I hope and pray that it will work out for the best.... I am sure we have all learned something from this experience.... I have learned not to sell a computer to someone unless I am in a position to buy it back, in case they’re not satisfied... What have you learned?

Work is going fine; I guess I told you about the bonus I got, bringing my salary to $42K+, and about the 5000 shares of Logical stock I was granted. Now, if I work very hard, this stock will be worth something.... if not, it will be good only for wallpaper....

So I am glad you recovered from the pneumonia you contracted at Paul’s. Maybe I can use this program to send them a letter too, to thank them for their thoughtful Christmas gifts. Thanks for the picture: I am enclosing the letter from Jason -- pretty nice!

Well, I guess I’ll print this and set it in the mail -- hope you both are feeling well... hope you can come here for the wedding, whenever we set a date and get our scene together....

Love and Light,



“Jed’s computer teacher”
She wasn’t exactly my computer teacher; rather, she ran the computer lab at Paly. She was great. I think a couple years later, she got married and moved to another state, and I lost contact with her. When I drive by where she used to live, I occasionally wonder how her life went after that. …I imagine that her son’s death must have been totally devastating for her, but I didn’t know him, and at the time I didn’t know her well enough to talk with her about how she was doing.
They were trying to sell Dobe’s ADAM for the equivalent of about $12,500 in today’s money. Granted computers were more expensive back then, but even so, that seems like an awful lot to pay for a home computer. (And I’m guessing that Dobe had paid even more than that to buy it.)
The ADAM had been released in 1976 (one page says 1974), so it was about seven to nine years old by this time, and Logical had released about three later models/generations of computers since then. I don’t know what ended up happening to Peter’s or Dobe’s ADAMs, but I suspect they ended up selling them for much much less money than they were hoping for.
So Peter was making the equivalent of about $123,000 a year in today’s money, including his bonus. …Sadly, as far as I know, the stock was never worth anything. I think the company probably went out of business within a couple years.

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