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Industrial period II: 1991-1993

On January 7, 1991, I started work at my third startup, Pen Pal Associates. I lived at 18985 Barnhart in the Rancho Rinconada neighborhood in Cupertino, a few blocks from my former Rancho Rinconada home at 10305 Calvert. I was technically sharing this house with my friend Carole Schaffer, although she actually lived with her SO.

Pen Pal was a very good idea very much ahead of its time. We sold a standalone application development environment for the GRiD Pad, an early keyboardless, pen-based tablet. Great software, miserable hardware: short battery life, heavy, and not really up to field use. But the GRiD Pad begat the Palm, which led to the Newton and many many other products whose bad hardware dragged down good software. As I write this in early 2012, I see in the iPad the realization of much of our vision...twenty years later: a useful book-sized computer with no keyboard.

I never planned to move back to Silicon Valley. It was the only job I could find at the time. I did appreciate getting some more time birding the Bay Area and the central coast.

I also got seriously hooked on Indian food, to the point where I had to learn to cook some Indian dishes when I moved back to Socorro in 1993. One Jeanne Bonk, a native of Allahabad, ran a place called Empress of India, on Stevens Creek Boulevard in Santa Clara just a short hop east of Lawrence Expressway. Her place was one of a kind. There was no ordering off the menu; show up and choose from the five or so dishes she had made. Phenomenal food, often unusual, and her spicy dishes were just about a religious experience. They would melt the wax in your toenails and blow the lint out of your ears.

During this period, you could find Bill Gosper at Empress of India almost anytime for lunch and dinner. He ate there because it was one of the few places he could get real heat.

At this writing (January 2012) I have no idea what became of Empress of India or Jeanne Bonk.

See also: Shipman's memoirs
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John W. Shipman,
Last updated: 2012/01/15 23:04:03