String on Palo Alto Weekly Website - early experiences at Cubberley 

I think I was "googling" one of the merchants in an old Catamount and came across this "Growing Up in Palo Alto" nostalgia string on the PA Weekly website. I recognize some of the names of the folks there, and share many of the same memories.

This link may be no good in a few months, but it looks like the thread has lasted several months at least... it's at ... amp;t=551.

When I moved to Palo Alto in the early 60s (from Texas, which was also a great place to grow up, but in different ways) I knew I had landed someplace special. The kids at Ohlones (with an "s") were friendly, ougtoing, incredibly smart, and easy to get to know. As a 4th grader with a bicycle, I was all over Fairmeadow, Greenmeadow, Wilbur, Cubberley, Ohlones, Charleston Center, and even as far away as Wright's Petland on El Camino. Nobody thought of there being an issue of safety, except with traffic, so we were careful crossing the streets. Within the first week I had discovered Peninsula Scientific - and I thought that HP and Varian looked like incredible places to work (HP had Oscilloscope waveforms in the bricks up on the hill, and Varian had an Oscilloscope image in their green neon signs). I'm now retired from HP, but doing some consulting there.

I also found out I was a *LOT* healthier when I moved to Palo Alto. In Dallas, I had typically something like 20 absenses per year with various ailments (including Scarlet Fever). But in Palo Alto, I didn't miss a single day of school in 4th through 8th grade - I was out one day with a headache in 9th grade, and perhaps a few spotty times in High School. I attribute this to the several factors -

(1) I had probably developed pretty serious allergies to grasses in Dallas. (The tract where we lived from 1956 to 1960 was initially in the middle of former farmland, and full of weeds - it wasn't built-out until we moved).
(2) The California climate was better.
(3) As a result of (2), we kept the windows open more (and my parents were both heavy smokers - so in Texas I was trapped in a closed house with lots of smoke, but not in California). Also in California it was easier to be outside more of the time.

My first experience at Cubberley was when I was in 4th grade - my teacher (Mr. Richard K Empey) had us walk from Ohlones to Cubberley and back (about a half mile - nice walk on a warm Palo Alto afternoon) to work with some Monroe adding machines they had for business classes. These were not the 10-key type, but had ten keys for each column. The carriage portion would shift so you could do multiplication by shifting and cranking doing repeated ads. Division was possible, but you had to use the index register to count how many times you turned the crank before it went negative. (basically iterative long division by subtraction). Pretty cool.

The next time I was in a classroom there was (I think) in a night school class with my Dad (when I was in 7th grade) called "Introduction to Data Processing" or something of the sort. It was taught by William McKeeman who was then a PhD Candidate at Stanford. After the first session of the class, my dad came home and started talking to me about addresses, stored programs, instructions, data, and all that good stuff, and I was hooked on wanting to learn more about the stuff. The first program I ever worked on (it was a class project) was in machine code for a PDP-1. We put it in on the switch register on the unit at Pine Hall at Stanford. It took a character input from the typewriter, then took a second character, added the two and printed the sum.

So if you typed "11", it would type "2". If you typed "a1" it would type "b". I looked in the manual and discovered that if you could manage to get a particular sum, it would switch the color on the ribbon, and I believe we left the machine typing on the red ribbon rather than the black - leaving it as an exercise for some poor grad student to fix it - or just live with red.

This was also my first exposure to video games "spacewar" on the PDP-1 with telephone-buzzer style button boxes for each player (4 buttons, rotate left, rotate right, thruster, and fire weapons). The sun in the center of the screen exerted gravity. I have a later photo of a Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) display (perhaps the same one?) that I took when I was in High School at the Stanford AI Lab (in the former DC Power Lab Building). But the first time I saw spacewar, it was on the PDP-1, and nobody had even thought about putting video games in an arcade.

Mr. Empey (the 4th grade teacher), and Bill McKeeman are two of the best teachers I've ever run into *anywhere*.

My third experience at Cubberley was when I was in junior high - I took a summer class there in how to type. That was in 1964 - the summer of the Republican Convention where Goldwater was nominated.

(But that reminds me of a story I gotta' tell)... I remember that because I took a day off from typing to actually GO to the convention and watch nominating speeches. Some friends from Texas (Jack and Wanda Eidson) were in the Republican organization down there, and got me a pass that read "Honorary Assistant Sargent-at-arms" or something like that. That got you into the convention hall, but no seat. Between myself and my mom, we had one real ticket (with a great view of the main platform), plus the "Sargent" pass. My mom got onto the floor with a 'borrowed' delegate pass, but I was too young to pass as a delegate, so I stayed up in the seats and in the surrounding areas. We also had access to a hospitality suite through the Texas delegation. When I got away on my own, I "visited" the anchor booths of some of the TV networks - you couldn't go inside, but they were enclosed in glass so you could see all the monitors, plus the video tape units (which were about the size of refrigerators in those days). These areas were separate from the "skybooth" style studios each network had (with Huntley, Brinkley, Cronkite, and friends). I couldn't get close to those.

Anyway, in spite of "playing hooky" one day during the summer class, I learned to type (fortunately - nobody could read my handwriting). There were two teachers, and they were trying an experiment to help us learn to type faster... they had several TV sets around the room, and a camera mounted vertically pointing at a keyboard. The teachers would type stuff on the screen, and we were supposed to look at the monitor ("eyes on the monitor, space") instead of down at the keys. I think it actually worked pretty well.

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