The Eudemons

1976 to 1984

When Letty Belin purchased 96 Riverside in 1976, the house had at last found a family to live in it, for the first time since the Nethertons left in the 1930s. Letty, her boyfriend (later husband) Doyne Farmer, their friend Norman Packard, his girlfriend Lorna Lyons, and many, many others lived and worked together in a house perfectly suited for communal living, so common in a college town of the era. They brought their "Project" and Eudemonic Enterprises to the house, and inspired subsequently the Friends who bought the house in 1993.

Eudemonic Pie

Doyne and Norman were graduate students in physics at UC Santa Cruz. They were also interested in gambling, using physics to beat roulette, and using their winnings to fund the enterprises of their own choosing, free of academic research grants, corporate affiliation, or need for profits. The story of their project and its near success is told in Thomas A. Bass's Eudemonic Pie. The book is, at this writing out-of-print, but will soon be available.

The excerpt from Eudemonic Pie is reprinted with Thomas Bass's permission. It not only describes the house, but gives an accurate description of the town and neighborhood of the time.

After their summer at Professor Nauenberg's the Projectors moved that fall into a house of their own. Doyne, Norman, and Letty had searched the county for someplace large enough to hold the first Eudemonic household. They finally found a rambling, woodframe structure at 707 Riverside Street, a few hundred yards from the beach and just back from the levees that keep the San Lorenzo River from flooding the town built along its banks. The house and its barn had once presided over this stretch of riverbank as their sole occupants. But the acreage had long since been sold off for beach bungalows and condominiums, the barn was sagging, and the house itself was in need of cosmetic, if not structural attention.

The Riverside neighborhood, in its democratic receptivity, held a smattering of every element found in this sun-drenched town of fifty thousand. Tourists unloaded children and baja chairs into cottages rented by the week. Retired couples turned their gardens into min-citrus groves or Shangri-las overrun with bougainvillea and fuchsia. High-tech emloyees from Intel, after an hour's commute over the mountains, wheeled their Porsches into the front yards of otherwise unadorned condominiums. Other citizens, surviving somehow in an economy dependent on fish, Brussels sprouts, the university, a Wrigley's chewing gum factory, food stamps, silicon chips, and tourism, used their front lawns for planting snow peas, fitting skylights into Dodge vans, rigging Windsurfers, grilling vegetables over hibachis, or reading Good Times, the local newspaper whose masthead slogan is "Lighter than Air."

The flower-lined mall and cafes of Santa Cruz lay just across a bridge spanning the San Lorenzo, or one could stroll instead to the harbor, an expanse of blue water situated where Monterey Bay takes a final nip in the coastline before rejoining the Pacific at Lighthouse Point. Surfers off the Point shot the curl in Steamer Lane, one of the best surf breaks on the coast, while back in the quieter waters of the Bay one found a yacht harbor, a wharf with fishmongers selling the catch of the day, and a boardwalk complete with arcades and a roller coaster. The only incongruity in this pleasant neighborhood --which soon went unnoticed by its residents--was the screaming of riders on the roller coaster as they took the big plunge.

Besides its location, 707 Riverside had much to recommend it. A stone foundation, having already survived numerous earthquakes, supported a bank of stairs, a pillared porch, a clerestory gable whose eaves and upturned roof made the house look vaguely like a Chinses pagoda. Despite its loftiness, the structure contained only one habitable floor, although one so extensive that it contained along its perimieter six bedrooms, as well as a living room, dining room, and kitchen built on a grand scale. The basement held two more rooms, with windows, facing out onto a large backyard and the barn.

Then in her third year of law school at Stanford, Letty paid slightly over fifty-thousand dollars for the house. "Norman and I were considering buying it ourselves," said Doyne, "but no one at the bank would give us the time of day. They thought Letty was pretty suspicious too, until she produced her stock certificates. It was clear sailing from there."

Norman moved that fall from Portland to Santa Cruz and began his first year as a physics graduate student at the university. Letty came down from Palo Alto as often as possible. Juano, on being wiped out as a poker player in the card rooms of Montana, drifted back to town. The house filled up with other residents that included, over the years, scientists, teachers, lawyers, a pianist, a nurse, a volleyball coach, two Dutch film stars, and an Italian leftist from Milan. A way station for travelers and the headquarters of Eudemonic Enterprises, 707 Riverside acquired the air of a commune, a physics laboratory, and a casino all rolled into one.

The Eudemonic family fenced in the yard and planted a garden. They built tables and beds and bought other furniture at the Sky View Drive-in flea market. In a small white chamber off the front hall, Doyne set up the new computer in what come to be known as the Project Room. He lined the walls from floor to ceiling with shelves that he filled with shoe boxes containing electronic parts, technical manuals, spare chips, wiring diagrams, and other paraphernalia needed for assembling and programming the KIM.

What is the KIM? Keyboard Input Module--a computer development kit which included an Intel 6502 microprocessor. And it was going to become a computer, that could fit in a shoe, and beat the roulette tables of Nevada.


Eudemonic Pie: from the paperback blurb:

"Why would anyone," asks the auther at the end of his prologue, "play roulette without wearing a computer in his shoe?"

"The story of how a group of young 1970s computer enthusiasts, physicists and sunny California riffraff together developed a complete microcomputer cum communications system for predicting, using Newtonian machanics, where on a roulette wheel the bouncing ball would halt. Written in the style of electric gonzo journalist, the book shuttles back and forth between the group's Santa Cruz commune and the Las Vegas scene. " --The New York Times

Eudemonic means "conductive to happiness" and is based on Aristotle's concept that a life governed by reason brings happiness. The characters in this book sought to live their lives accordingly--and to finance with this adventure their kind of scientific research, free of corportate or academic constraints. The gambling profits would be divided fairly, each Eudaemon receiving a share (a piece of the pie) equal to the time and money he or she invested.

"As gripping as it is insanely comedic... One is positively awed by the achievement--even The Double Helix that classic about the discovery of DNA, seems to fade a little in memory" -- The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"A saga of near epic proportions." --The San Francisco Chronicle


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