As I look back at 2021, I remember a few blogs I wrote that I never published. This is one of those.
“Please drop me at the Stacey’s book store”, I requested my sister-in-law while you go shopping. It was in 1986-87. I was spending most of my time in Sata Cruz, CA and my wife made a trip to stay with me for 3 months. Her sister lived in Palo Alto, and we used to spend a few weekends there.
Getting dropped in a book store while my wife went to meet friends or went shopping, was a recurring pattern. It worked well for both of us. She could spend as much time as she wanted without me constantly harassing her to finish fast. I could spend as much time as I wanted gawking at books, sampling a few passages here and there and generally wandering around, once in a while striking up conversations.
It was Stacey’s, Barnes & Noble’s and later Border’s. There were specialty bookstores like The Computer Literacy Club and a few quaint ones like the Books Inc. Used book stores were some of my favorites.
These were not just book stores. They were meeting places (especially when Barnes & Noble’s started embedding Starbucks coffee shops. The experience of wandering through shelves completely lost was one of my favorite past times.
After I moved to the US in 1990, we lived in Forest Hills, NY for about 7 years. I used to visit Redmond and the Silicon Valley for conferences. We attended many tech events and exhibited in a few. While at the Santa Clara convention center, I used to make The Computer Literacy Club my main shopping place. I recall that in one visit, we spent over $1000 buying books. It was a great investment because one chapter in one book inspired us to add one feature to our product called Objectrieve. I have fond memories of bookshops. I used to pick them as meeting spaces.
I am not sure why closing Fry Electronics affected me so much. I think because it came after a long series of closures of businesses I used to love. The first was Digital Equipment Corporation. The king of mini-computers lost its relevance and was bought by Compaq. I think I had tears in my eyes when I heard that. DEC PDP-11 and VAX-11 were the computers where I learned about hardware, architecture, assembly language programming, Basic Plus, Cobol and even C (Yeah, Decus C was my first exposure to C language)!