Twenty-five years ago I called a number in a small ad in the back of Dr. Dobb’s Journal to order six copies of Resource Workshop. The guy on the other end wouldn’t let me off the phone for over an hour.
As a self-taught programmer I was ruled by insecurity. But Peter Eden’s love for programmers was so overwhelming that if you came into his orbit and wanted to be his friend, he would be your friend. And what a gift that friendship was. If you didn’t learn something about programming, music or life from being in his presence then you were not paying attention.
My memories of him run deep and wide. I can’t count the number times he let me crash on his couch or saved my ass when I was stuck in a vortex of workplace hell.
There was a period in the 90′s when his software office was on College Ave. in Berkeley behind the movie theatre. The office next to him was a scream-therapy clinic. That meant that any conversation you tried to have with Peter would be interrupted every few minutes by a top-of-the-lungs blood curdling scream through the thin walls. Peter would look at you and shrug and say “Welcome to Berkeley.”
But he wasn’t always so nonchalant. His passion often translated into glorious frustration. When I got to Borland (thanks to his sponsorship) our offices were perpendicular. I got the shock of my life when an IBM OS/2 manual came hurtling down the hall, past my office, fluttering like a bird that had lost its power, bouncing on the ground several times before sliding to a stop.
It’s not a coincidence that the guy who I couldn’t get off the phone 25 years ago is the last friend I had that insisted on using the phone to stay in touch. (I have more than one voice message from him in my queue as I write this – what was it like using Ruby on Rails? did I ever get my iOS project to build?, and to just, you know, give him a call sometime…)
The last time I talked with him was a few weeks ago when he called and I eagerly picked up because I was in a car passing his hometown on Long Island. He reminisced about his youthful days spent around the Hamptons and , of course, he had very stern advice about the best route to get back into Manhattan.
I think Peter struggled to be happy but in that he showed me how to do it. As a software entrepreneur he often generated success out of an itch he needed to scratch. (And by “itch” I mean a screaming rage at some lame behavior of Windows.) As a person I learned from him that if you want to be happy the answer is fairly simple: surround yourself with the things that would most likely make you happy! In his case: programming, music and friends. In my case: programming, music and Peter Eden.
I am still reeling from the news of the sudden death of my dear friend Peter. I owe so much to him and it wounds me that I’ve been robbed of the opportunity to repay him. He really was a Good Guy, so generous and loving and tender and I’ve been crying or fighting back tears since yesterday when I was told he was dead.
Please honor Peter by doing the following: be unconditionally sweet and lovely to the very next person you encounter – whether on the phone or in person, the UPS delivery guy or your kid or your boss – just be as respectful and kind as you can muster because that’s what Pete would have done.