Kevin Warnock

Entrepreneurship, ideas and more

Archive for the ‘Martha Warnock’ tag

Why in 1978 I moved to San Francisco from Chicago

without comments

The Memorial Church at Harvard University photographed by user Siim Teller, April 22, 2011

The Memorial Church at Harvard University photographed by user Siim Teller, April 22, 2011

Tonight, September 2, 2012, I learned why in 1978 I moved to San Francisco, California USA. I never knew why until today, because I never thought to ask the right questions.

I was born in Chicago, Illinois, USA, at the University of Chicago, where my mother worked as a Pathologist.

My parents had married soon after she graduated from Harvard Medical School, where she was one of five women in a class with 145 men.

My mother met my father Robert Warnock at Harvard, where he earned his PhD in Physics.

My father and my mother got married in The Memorial Church on the Harvard University campus, a church I visited in 2000 when I was in Boston, Massachusetts, USA meeting with storage vendor EMC to discuss an investment by their venture capital division in my startup Hotpaper.

When I visited The Memorial Church, it was just another church. When I told my father about my tour of the Harvard campus, courtesy of my EMC provided limousine with two eager salesman trying to sell me an unnecessary USD $1,000,000 dollar storage array for my startup, my father said ‘your mother and I got married in that church!’

After they wed, my father decided to move with my mother to Chicago so that he could work at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).

My mother was doing research at the University of Chicago, discovering that asbestos is even deadlier than was known at the time. Amazingly, the University of Chicago did not have a spectroscopy attachment for its electron microscope, and my mother needed this device for her research. IIT did have the needed equipment, but they charged money to use it, and IIT was a lengthy drive from our house at 5138 South Dorchester in Hyde Park, on the South side of Chicago. My mother rode her bicycle to University of Chicago, and it would have not have appealed to her to have had to drive to IIT on a frequent and regular basis.

My mother’s research was funded by the National Institutes of Health. I would think that a grant could have been won to order a spectroscopy attachment, but for whatever reason, that was not the path my mother took. Instead, she wrote to a friend she had worked with for a year some twenty years earlier in Seattle, Washington, USA. During that two decade span, that friend had become Chair of the Pathology Department at the University of California at San Francisco.

My mother explained her research and that she had heard that UCSF had a spectroscopy attachment for its electron microscope. My mother asked her friend if she could move to San Francisco and work at UCSF so she could use the required hardware. Her friend said ‘yes,’ and my mother started at UCSF as a full professor.

I learned tonight that my mother was promoted to full professor at University of Chicago just one month before she left for San Francisco. She had been an Associate Professor before that, and I remember as a kid the day my mother was granted tenure. Since I was young, I hadn’t heard that word before, so I thought she said ‘ten year.’ I assumed it was her tenth anniversary of employment. I told my mother that story tonight — perhaps for the first time.

I have a suspicion that University of Chicago panicked when they found out she was leaving for UCSF and rushed through the promotion to full professor, because the timing is so unlikely to have happened naturally. Even if that’s the case, I am sure my mother was pleased that she got to be a full professor at University of Chicago and University of California at San Francisco. My mother retired from UCSF years ago, so is now Professor Emeritus. She still has a website on the UCSF web server.

My mother decided to move our family to San Francisco, since my father had made the decision to move to Chicago. I did not know this until today.

I had always thought we moved to San Francisco because of its reputation as a great cosmopolitan city with superb weather. I had sometimes considered that perhaps UCSF had recruited my mother, but she dispelled that notion today. She did not have to interview for the job at UCSF. She did not have to compete with dozens of candidates. She asked her friend if she could work at UCSF and he said ‘yes.’

I am so thankful my mother needed a piece of equipment that University of Chicago didn’t have. She moved us to the center of the Internet world, and had we stayed in Chicago, I probably would not have become an Internet entrepreneur, which has allowed me to build a richly rewarding life that I cherish.

Thanks Mom! I love you.

Guest post by my grandmother Edith Lawall – ‘Twasn’t All Bad’

without comments

Edith Lawall certificate of award May 9 1980

Edith Lawall certificate of award May 9 1980

[This post is special. I am transcribing a story my late grandmother Edith Lawall wrote starting on October 29, 1979. She submitted it to a writing contest organized by The Illinois Federation of Women’s Clubs. The organization presented my grandmother on May 9, 1980 with a Certificate of Award for winning Second Place for the Tenth District.  Edith Lawall is the mother of my mother Martha Warnock. My grandfather was married to my grandfather Russell Lawall. Here is a PDF format file that contains a scan of the original typed story: Edith Lawall story about 1929 market crash]


The manuscript enclosed is one I wrote in a week’s time, beginning October 29, 1989. (This is the same date the U.S. stock market collapsed 50 years earlier.)  For several days prior to this anniversary we were repeatedly informed by the media about this approaching event, which ushered in the Great Depression of Thirties. A quick review of my life at that time indicated it was a particularly exciting time for me too, but in a different sort of way. In my family’s situation little money and no stocks were involved. Immediately I felt impelled to record my memorable recollections. I began the story that day. And so it was.

As it worked out there were two incentives for me to write on this subject: 1. I hoped it might add personal interst for any Mabie family posterity. 2. I wanted to have something to enter in the Annual Creative Writing Contest, sponsored in various categories by the 10th District of Federated Women’s Clubs of Illionois, and possibly, the State Federation Contest. It seemed that the “Crash” was a timely subject, due to tis Worldwide repercussions.

Since my recollections came very easily, I did enjoy writing it, and I suppose I’m the only “Leaf” left on the Mabie-Westcott Family Tree, who might even know about these particular family events.

This “‘Twasn’t All Bad” narritive is being sent to Robert and Martha Warnock in San Francisco, California; David and Willa Samors Lawall of Charlottesville, Virginia; and Gilbert and Sarah Nesbit Lawall in Amherst, Mass. and their families. We hope the grandchildren will read it too.

Edith Roe Mabie Lawall, January 29, 1980


Edith Mabie Lawall
Short Story
2485 Words
Class II


Today is October 29, 1979. Newspapers, television, and radio, have reminded us constantly that it is just fifty years since the Stock Market Crash. Pictures of wild crowds in the streets, and tales of the millions of paper assets which vanished, have been harrowing. Only those fifty-ish and upwards, can remember it, and the succeeding years that were affected by it. However, I am also reminded that it wasn’t all dismal, and I particularly recall one bright spot from this period, which I wish to sketch.

For the Mabie family, our personal Depression had already peaked, and begun to decline. Our scanty assets had never been invested in the Market. Instead, they had gone into higher education necessary for my sister, Helen, and myself, in tune with our desires to reach our musical aspirations. The minister father, Harry Mabie, and devoted wife, Esther, musically inclined themselves, cheerfully supplied the necessary funds, with the result, that by 1929, Helen and I had received Bachelor of Music Degrees, from the University of Cincinnati.

In September of 1929, father received a “call” to the pastorate of the East Baptist Church of Lebanon, Ohio, 25 miles by bus from Cincinnati. Coincidentally, Helen signed a contract to become Music Supervisor of the Bay Villiage Schools, (suburban Cleaveland) and I was made teacher of piano classes in our nearby Madisonville School.

I’ll never forget the thrill of packing the Chevy, full of overflow from our van, (including our pretty white cat); the lovely drive through lush Warren County; and getting settled in our new home. I had secured a suitable place to live in Cincinnati, in the home of one of our church members, near my school. I could go home to Lebanon for weekends and summer vacations. Helen had arrived in Bay Village in time to see many sad situations, following the Crash Day. Numbers of her school children had come from families that had been forced to give up their cherished Lake Shore homes, and seek cheaper living elsewhere. Farewells were hard!

In Lebanon, I was asked to take over the organist’s duties; teach in the Sunday School; and steer the young people’s Sunday Evening group.

An unexpected delight that both Helen and I could enjoy, was the golf course, nearby, where all the privileges were free to the local ministers and their families. A dear friend gave us some of his old clubs, balls were cheap, and we were most happy to get up at sunrise, hike to the Park, avail ourselves of the small mounds of dirt provided for “tees”, and do our practicing. Nearly always, we had the Park and the spacious golf course to ourselves and birds.

On a certain bright Monday morning in July, 1931, all of us rose early, for this was the day Father and Joe, (our adopted 12-year-old brother), were embarking on a combined business and fishing trip. The business entailed a church conference at Green Lake, Wisconsin, for father, with plenty of time on the side, to supervise Joe’s fishing in the Lake. They would camp out, as did many others, and cook their own meals. After an hour of frenzied thought and furious packing, they were off on the grand excursion.

A great calm descended on the household, but not for very long. Mother, Esther Westcott Mabie, was very much interested in family history, and had cherished records from many past generations. A Mr. Whitman, a (distant) Westcott was compiling a history, and he was very grateful for information which Esther had sent him. He wanted to host a reunion of all living Westcotts within reach, and had invited mother. He lived in Milford, N.Y. and had access to historic regions nearby. Mother planned to stay for at least a week, including visits with friends after the reunion. Her departure was scheduled for noon of the next day. There were still many things to be done.

Tuesday morning mother was out, doing errands, and Helen was busy in the kitchen, when the doorbell rang. I answered, and there stood a very personable young man, who introduced himself as Jesse Lyons, a Senior from Wooster College, and part of a “Peace Caravan” representing the American Friends Service Committee. He had gone to the office of our church, and asked where he might find the minister. He told the Secretary that he hoped to make arrangements, for himself and co-student, for a meeting where they could explain the mission of the Caravan. He was referred to our residence, and there he was. I invited him to come in, and explained that the minister was out of town for a week, but I was sure the arrangements could be made. Then he told me he was looking for a place for himself and his co-student Wendell, to stay for a few days. Without a moment’s hesitation, I said, “You can stay here”, and that was it.

Soon mother returned, and she was impressed with his serious interest in the cause of peace. She volunteered to arrange with a lady friend, to stay nights, as a chaperone during her absence. Jesse soon left to pick up his friend Wendell, and offered to help mother for errands, and to drive her to the bus station when needed. Meanwhile, Helen had come in, and she was happy to meet Jesse, and assumed the lunch preparations. And thus began a most delightful 8-day period for us all!

After seeing mother off, we soon worked out a cooperative routine. Naturally, Jesse and Wendell were eager to fall in with our early-rising golf routine, and we had enough clubs for all. Also, they indicated a desire to help with the housework. Jesse chose to do the vacuum cleaning and dusting. Wendell volunteered for dishwashing, in which he claimed exertise from camp experiences. Each would take care of his own washing, and either one would be available for driving to market, and odd jobs. Of course, Helen and I would be the cooks.

Plenty of time was found for long, deep discussions of philosophical problems. W did not ignore the Depression, but neither did we let it disturb us unduly. There were other subjects which we wanted to know about, for instance, how did they get started on this summer activity? We gathered that the Peace Caravan was instigated by the noted Quaker, Rufus Jones. it seemed to have some of the emotional and spiritual drive, that would in later years become the central motivating force of the Peace Corps of the John F. Kennedy era.

Both young men were keenly interested in their College Dramatic Department. A recent performance in which they had participated, was “Death Takes a Holiday”, a semi-serious play putting forth the possibility that there were always people who knew that their time had come, and were praying that it might be as soon as possible.

Another matter about which they were concerned, was their College Fraternity System. Both men belonged to Greek-letter Fraternities, but they were constantly running across fine students who had never been pledged. They felt something should be done about it. Jesse had finally persuaded his fraternity brothers to host a special monthly party for non-pledged people. The parties had been quite successful, and they hoped this would become a part of college activity programs.

One morning after our customary 2-hour period on the golf course, while we sipped cool lemonade, Jesse confided his future plans and problens. For some time he had been considering preparation as a missionary in the foreign field. However, with his uncertain home situation due to the frailty of his mother, he felt that he might set aside those plans, in favor of entering the ministry at home. He also expressed his firm belief in “Providential Guidance”, or “The Inner Light” as the Quakers expressed it. He said that he never made any of his talks, without a preliminary, prayerful meditation hour. Wendell had similar ideals, but apparently had not chosen a life work.

Another day, which turned out to be one of the warmest, around 100 degrees, we spent a part of our leisure time, getting ready for the evening appointment. Helen had been asked to furnish some music for a gathering at the local retirement home for “genteel” widows. She had a number of songs in mind, and seized the opportunity to try them out on us. It was lots of fun. Sometimes we all joined in, and Helen was never happier than when she could play the piano, and go from oone song to another, as fancy chose. Of course, some were appropriate, and some were not, and the decision for the evening finally boiled down to several which we all approved.

Upon our arrival at the lovely antique-filled old home, the hostess suggested that the men would be more comfortable on the front porch, sitting on the porch swing. Helen and I went in and greeted the ladies, who were just entering the parlor. All very pleasant, so far. Then there was the flurry of the arrival of the Cincinnati soloist, accompanied by two friends. They had to be introduced also, but we soon realized that the soloist knew many of the widows, as she had been there before, to sing. Helen ventured a mild remark about the heat wave we were having. The soloist spoke up, “Oh, was it hot today? I never notice the heat”. It was hard to think about what to say next, so we were very relieved when the hostess announced that the program was about to begin. She introduced the Cincinnati soloist, who went to the piano, sat down, and said, “I hope the piano keys are cleaner than they were the last time I was here.” But soon she started to play and sing, and I could see that she was a very gifted person, indeed. We all applauded enthusiastically. Then it was Helen’s turn. She sand “Du bist die Ruh” of Schubert, and the contemporary, “In the Time of Roses”. Then she smiled and announced that the last number would be, “The Big Brown Bear”, which she played and sang with great gusto. Everyone was carried away with the humor of the lyrics, and her original version of the accompaniment. The applause was almost equal to that of the professional. Then the boys were invited in, to tell about their “Caravan”. Jesse told them something of Rufus Jones, and his greatness as a speaker to the students, and the inspirations he, and many others had received. Cooling refreshments were served, we shook hands with everyone, and departed.

All too soon, the day of the “Caravan” departure arrived. One more early golf game, then breakfast and packing. We expressed our appreciation to them, as they did to us, and off they went!

When Helen and I returned to the kitchen, there were the breakfast dishes, neatly stacked in the sink, but no Wendell to wash them. We were both suffering an acute attack of Self-Pity. We sat down by the kitchen table, looked at each other, and burst into tears. Each of us had known that the let-down would have to come. We knew all along that the “Caravan” was like a ship that passed in the night, but oh, how much fun and inspiration we had enjoyed. Memories would last — well, probably longer than the Depression, and we were most thankful they were all happy memories.

Our return to normalcy was helped very much by two unexpected dinner invitations for the next two nights, from friends in our church. These were to honor former church members, visiting from New York. The next day, as Father, Mother and Joe returned from their vacations, we were ready to resume our regular routine also.

One good thing about writing a factual story about fifty years ago, is that it is possible to know, not just surmise, the sequel.

In June, 1933, when Helen came home for summer vacation, she was accompanied by a devoted girl friend, her brother Wilfred, and his best friend, Russell Lawall. Russell was about to be side-tracked for the rest of his life, by meeting me. Fortunately, he had a good job with the A.T.&T. Co for which he was well qualified by being a graduate of Earlham College, and holding a degree from Case Institute in Cleaveland. He was also a Birthright Quaker. The result of this and other visits, culminated in our lovely Quaker wedding in August. We immediately took up our residence in Detroit. Signs of business stagnation were evident everywhere. But we were very happy, and still are, forty-seven years later. I was often mindful of my good fortune in having learned about the Quaker’s tenets from our “Peace Caravan” students.

We had three children: Martha in July of 1934; David in August of 1935; and Gilbert in September of 1936. They were, and still are, a great joy to us. We moved in 1944 to Oberlin, Ohio and Russell commuted to work in Cleaveland. In 1957, he was transferred to Cincinnati, and it was while living there that I heard about Jesse Lyons again. I was waiting in a dentist’s office, and picked up a newspaper to read, and happened to see the church notices. One was headed, “New minister to be installed.” I soon saw that the new minister was Dr. Jesse Lyons, who would take his place the following Sunday, as one of the Staff Ministers at the Riverside Baptist Church in New York. Immediately, I knew there could be but one Jesse Lyons! And I was right!

Several years later, we were saddened to hear that a younger sister of my father, was dying of cancer in a New York hospital. It was sad to think of Janet, a gifted writer, alone in a big city in her last days, and I decided to write to Jesse and see if he could get someone to call on her. I also wrote about the death of my sister, Helen, of cancer in March of 1949. He responded with a beautiful letter, saying how well he remembered the week in Lebanon in 1931. He reported that he had delegated a staff member, a lady who was particularly good at cheering and counseling people, to carry out my request. Later she reported to him that she had found Janet weak, but still a most vibrant and interesting person, and they had talked together for an hour.

A half century later, how can we evaluated our present situation, so plagued with seemingly insoluable dilemmas in high places, as well as low? At least we can remember that God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform, in season and out of season, in bad times as well as good. We must have steadfast faith that a better world will eventually emerge!

Note — This is a factual story, written entirely from my own memory.

January 25, 1980
Edith Roe Mabie Lawall

[Note from Kevin Warnock, the author of this blog — My grandmother lived in the village of Wilmette, Illinois USA when she wrote this story, at 711 Greenleaf, a house I will always remember from my many happy visits there. My grandmother Edith passed away in 1989 and my grandfather Russell passed away in 1994. I inherited his cherished grandfather clock, which I proudly display in my dining room at my house in San Francisco, California.]

300 baud modem from 1964 still works

without comments

Here is a fun video that shows a guy getting on the Internet via his modern laptop from home via a 1964 wooden boxed 300 baud acoustic coupled modem.

Students at my high school were using acoustic coupled modems in 1977. The modems were connected to terminals that I believe were connected to a large computer at University of Chicago.

When I say dumb terminal, I mean pretty dumb, because they didn’t have video displays. They were essentially electric typewriters hooked to a large computer that could support multiple users at once.

You would type a command, which would be printed on the fan-folded computer paper in front of you. The command would be sent ‘quickly’ over a 300 baud modem, and the textual response would be printed on the same green bar computer paper for you to read and act on.

Sadly, I never got to use these terminals, as they were for older students. I was in 9th grade at the time.

Here’s a video of one of these old DEC computer terminals in use with an old DEC minicomputer.

I wonder what advanced technology students at my high school are using today. I have little doubt they have access to supercomputers and exceptionally fast Internet connections. I’ve only used an exceptionally fast Internet connection for a few days, and it was like being on a local network. I downloaded a 500 megabyte file from 6,000 miles away in less than a minute. This connection was at a Dutch military college in The Hague, Netherlands, where I was staying during the ConTeXt conference in 2009. We had to plug our laptops in to jacks as there was no Wi-Fi available due to security precautions.

I understand residents in Hong Kong have similarly fast Internet connections for a low price. We should have these connections in the United States — why don’t we?

Below is a picture of a DECwriter III terminal like I remember from high school.

My mother Martha Warnock used to use at work a DEC PDP/11 minicomputer, but with a video terminal. I used to program on a DEC VT320 video monitor hooked to a DEC VAX minicomputer cluster. My brother Andrew Warnock used to help my mother program her DEC, and I remember to play video games on the DEC he needed a way to press the Enter key rapidly to make the game easier to play and more fun. He took apart the keyboard and soldered wires to the Enter key connections. Then, he made a motorized switch with rotating contacts that would make and break connection with each revolution of the motor. He attached this switch to the wires from the keyboard he had installed and now he could press Enter as fast as required by his game. This might sound rediculous to my readers, but this was in about 1979 or 1980, when the Commodore VIC 20 was considered a hot computer. My brother had one of those, but getting to use a DEC PDP/11 that cost tens of thousands of dollars I suspect was more exciting than using the VIC 20.

LA120 DecWriter III (from

LA120 DecWriter III (from

Written by Kevin Warnock

June 27th, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Visit to Delft, The Netherlands

without comments

Delft, The Netherlands, date unknown. Photo by Flickr user Matthew Kenwrick, published here via a Creative Commons License that permits commercial use.

Delft, The Netherlands, date unknown. Photo by Flickr user Matthew Kenwrick, published here via a Creative Commons License that permits commercial use.

[This entry is from my 1976 handwritten diary. On October 26, 2012 I posted this to my blog and I added this bracketed language and also the photograph, which is recent, not from the 1970s. Thank you to Flickr user Matthew Kenwrick for permission via a Creative Commons license to use the picture. I was in 7th grade when I wrote this journal entry. I typed this post as I wrote it, including the mistakes, so you can see how I wrote back then. Keep in mind this is my private diary, and I’m sure I could have written with fewer errors had I known I would be showing it to the world years later. On March 30, 1976 my family moved from Chicago, Illinois, USA to Amsterdam, Netherlands for about four months. I wrote in my diary frequently during that time, and I plan to post all the entries to this blog. To my knowledge, we did not have an English dictionary with us in Amsterdam.]

We spent most of the day in delft, Aprox 8 hours. It was fun. We saw 2 churches, I took pictures of both. We saw a thing that was sort of a fort. It had gun holes, a moat and draw bridge, the works. We looked at lots of Delft potery Andy and I both bought a small Delft plack that had a windmel on each.

We took a trian there, It cost 48 guilders for round trip. Each way it took about half an hour. It seems sort of expensive to me.

Mom hates me for talking about money all the time, so she would like me to stop. She will give me 100 guilders if I do I’ll think $37.00 I’ll try it.

Written by Kevin Warnock

April 11th, 1976 at 11:00 pm