My Dear Friend Dick Shoup

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A brilliant, sweet guy with many diverse interests, including bad movies

This past weekend, the family and friends of Dick Shoup gathered to honor him at the Computer History Museum in Mt. View. We will all miss him and he will be thought of often. Nancy (his wife) asked me to speak and I followed the remembrance given by Alvy Ray Smith, one of Dick’s long time friends and the founder of Pixar. Below are my words

It feels right to be here in the computer history museum honoring Dick Shoup – surrounded by all this cool, nerdy computing stuff. This storehouse of byzantine logic bearing testimony to human digital creativity – but like all history, it really only means something if you know the context, otherwise it’s just a blur of chips and code. It was more fun to come here with Dick than anybody else I know because he understood the context broadly and had great instincts to share. He was a true pioneer in the computer industry — which meant he was also a pioneer in nerdishness.

You all know what I’m talking about. Dick brought an informed nerdy and enthusiastic passion to his remarkably broad interests. It mattered to him if you referred to table tennis as ping pong – and he would try to educate you on the correct name – but he’d want to play it with you regardless. He loved playing and talking about tennis, tennis matches and tournaments and would have been anxiously waiting and cheering for Serena Williams to pull off the Grand Slam in a couple weeks at the US Open.

I would have loved to have seen his depositions and court testimony for intellectual property cases. I’m sure the attorneys he worked with appreciated his ability to make nuanced arguments about the minutiae separating revisions 7.03 and 7.04 of some video recorder firmware. I accompanied Dick on a quest to find some 25 year old recording gear in a pawnshop on the Alameda just so he could make a salient point that might win a case. I suspect it didn’t matter all that much if we found the thing or not – it was the exploration back into long past knowledge that was both the journey and the goal. The emotional satisfaction of seeing and knowing things that had passed conscious thought in a career branch 10 to 12 turns in the past. A reunion of machinery and one of its most avid users of it.

I loved watching movies with Dick because he always had some interesting observation about the CGI techniques or the story or the sheer wonderful stupidity of a concept taken to absurd levels. I will always remember sitting in Dick and Nancy’s living room – anxiously awaiting the next turn of events in Sharknado 2 and all of a sudden a flying inflatable shark appeared overhead and proceeded to dive bomb us. – leaving us in complete and utter shock and mirth. I still don’t know who was behind the attack because Alex was at the controls of the flying tiburon, but Dick had the ultimate arms and legs flailing reaction as he performed a watusi-like backstroke in a recliner (see the picture at the top of this post). Sharknado was a catalyst of sorts because Dick was one of the ultimate internet searchers and it did not take him long to find the next over-the-top inanity – Big Ass Spider, which he invited me to watch with him, but I was honestly too afraid. I did, however, take him up on his invitation to watch the far less entertaining and much more alarming Citzenfour several months ago. He wanted to share both the ridiculous and deeply unnerving with his friends.

Dick was constantly driven to see things that could inform his thirst for knowledge and understanding of the big picture we all experience together. We went to Santa Cruz to see the documentary Chasing Ice in 2012, but our plans were foiled by a drifter gunman who shot and killed two policemen near the theater and the shock of the news and the necessity of law enforcement to protect and serve gave us a decidedly different experience than the one we planned. A few months later we drove up to Stanford to see a screening of it that included a discussion with the film maker. Dick had a 6th sense about things of import and quality – and 2 years later Chasing Ice won an emmy for natural documentary. In case you didn’t know climate change was a big deal to Dick – as it is to many that are here today – and one way that we can honor his memory is to continue to build awareness and understanding of this very complicated and worrisome global transformation.

Many of us here today shared with Dick the beautiful, short-lived window of raising a pack of boys boys together and I have many memories of doing things with Dick in support of Alex, Bret, Eric, Mikoto, Danny, Yosuke, Mitsohiro, Gary, Benjamin, Nicholas, Nick, Alex Strawa, Takashi, BIlly, Grant, – kids at school, kids in scouts, kids that played on the West Valley Blizzards – or was it Blizzard? These boys are now scattering to various places and futures and are well on their way to becoming men. It was extremely important to Dick that he was there to share their experiences whether they were victories or losses (and with the blizzards – there were a lot of moral victories). How else were these young men supposed to know how to behave in public if they had never seen grown men adorning pizza boxes as hats and screaming “Go Blizzard!” at the top of their lungs?

Dick was incredibly supportive – I’m sure many of you benefitted from his support as I have – and he eagerly volunteered. A few months before his death, when he was too sick to do it, he participated on a career day panel at Moreland Middle School – exposing kids to the idea of what it was like to invent things on computers. As things tend to go at Middle School events, there were last minute changes to schedules and locations and Dick had to walk all over the school grounds to get where he was going but was doggedly determined to make sure the kids could get a view of the great things he had witnessed and been a part of and to paint the picture of a meaningful and fun career. I can’t believe I tried to talk him out of it because it was pointless. And he paid a real price in pain to do it – but wasn’t about to abdicate his responsibility. .

The number of jazz players and fans assembled here today is unusual for an event that isn’t a concert. As you know Dick loved jazz – especially big band jazz. and wanted to share his love of it with anybody that showed the smallest interest. He was a very good trombonist who loved just about everything about these strange things, including jokes about trombonists, like:
Q: What’s the definition of an optimist?
A: A trombonist with a mortgage.
Q: How do you make a million dollars playing the trombone?
A: Start off with 2 million.
(By the way – at the ceremony, members of the audience piped up with the answers – members of the Daddios and fellow trombone players)

Dick played with an highly talented, little known ensemble called the Daddios with a collection of incredible players that could blow your socks off: Dick loved the arrangements and the sound of the whole band – especially guys like Ed Morrison who articulates insanely gorgeous and powerful high riffs on trumpet or Aaron Lington who can completely channel the whole history of the sax in a 2 minute solo. Dick cherished the fleeting moments of brilliance – and the jazz world misses his ability to hear and appreciate in depth and beauty. By the way, if you want to hear Dick’s playing with the Daddios, just google Dick Shoup and the title of the song – “Don’t worry ’bout me”. You might remember it because Dick didn’t want his friends to worry about him and went out of his way so we wouldn’t. I’ll say it again to help you remember – Dick Shoup Don’t worry about me.

I remember coming here to this place with Dick to see the Babbage Difference Engine with him. We just stood in amazement at the enormous, intricate contraption. It was blissful. it really was. He just wanted to share that experience with me. Like sharing his sublime Midleton Single pot whiskey or wonderful Amarula liqueur from South Africa, to sharing many wonderful and provocative movies and shows – the last one we watched together a fascinating and very slow Tim’s VerMeer – to sharing the music he loved – including pulling out deviously intricate transcriptions of trombone solos to look at while listening to great trombone players during halftime of a game during the Golden State Warriors championship run.

Yep there was one Dick Shoup and we were all very lucky to know him Thanks for the memories Dick.

Richard G. Shoup
1943 – 2015 | Obituary

Richard G. Shoup
July 30, 1943 – July 18, 2015
Resident of San Jose
Richard (Dick) Shoup, computer graphics pioneer, passed away peacefully at his San Jose home on July 18, after a long battle with lung cancer.
Born July 30, 1943, Dick was a native of western Pennsylvania. He earned a BSEE and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University. His Ph.D. thesis was the first to explore programmable logic and reconfigurable hardware, now widely used in computers and consumer electronics. Dick was one of the first employees at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, where he developed the SuperPaint system, one of the first to use computer animation in television and movies. He received both an Emmy and an Academy Award for this foundational work. In 1979, he left Xerox to found Aurora Systems, a video graphics and animation company. Dick later worked for Interval Research Corporation in Palo Alto and founded the Boundary Institute to further explore a lifelong interest in physics and parapsychology.
An avid musician in his spare time, Dick played jazz trombone for many years in various Big Bands throughout the Bay Area.
Dick was most proud of his family. He leaves behind a wife, Nancy, of San Jose, and four children, son Randall of Pacifica, son Eric and wife Christina of San Mateo, son Alexander of San Jose; and daughter, Celanie, of Pittsburgh, PA. He is also survived by four wonderful grandchildren and a sister, Judith Sharp of Santa Cruz.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 1pm on Sunday, August 23 at the Computer History Museum, 1401 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial donation to the thoracic oncology research fund of Dr. Joel Neal, Stanford Cancer Institute. Please indicate that gifts are in the memory of Richard Shoup for Joel Neal Research-GHBYM. Make checks payable to Stanford University and mail to Stanford University Development Services. P.O. Box 20466, Stanford, CA, 94309-0466, or go online to https://makeagift.stanford.edu.

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