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<--- You'd be happy too if you were six weeks old and on your mothers arm
Six months old, and time for a bath --->
| I can't believe I had
that much hair in 1974 --->
<--- My mom and oma's proudest moment, June 13, 1975, graduating from Caltech
Who is that handsome devil with all that curly red hair? ME! in 1980 --->
|My brief, and not brilliant career on stage. --->|
Back in April of 2004, we had a great big birthday party for Henry here in Mazatlan. As part of it, I thought that I should write a short biography so that all the guests could know me a little better. Now you can enjoy reading it too!
On June 17th, 1954, at approximated 10:00 AM, Henry Herman Laxen, son of Herman Bernard Laxen and Ingeborg Minna Laxen, is thrust out into the bright, noisy world. I remember everything, except for the part about being born. I was named after my grandfather on my father's side, who was a first generation American, after his father emigrated to the USA from Germany. My father, was the first in his family to escape the family farm, located in Winstead, Minnesota, by joining the US army and getting shipped off to invade the mainland of Japan in 1945.
Meanwhile, my mother, born Ingeborg Minna (... name withheld for security reasons), was growing up in Berlin, Germany, where she supported the family through the depression by dancing in the chorus of the Berlin Opera Company. After Berlin was captured by the Red Army, she and her mother (Emma Marie ...) walked from Berlin to Heidelberg, in order to live in the American sector. It was there, on Dec. 6, 1952 that she married Staff Sargent Herman Laxen, attached to the 4th Base Post Office of Heidelberg Germany.
Two years later we find ourselves in Fort Benning, Georgia. In the meantime, my Oma (German for grandmother) arrived via boat to join the family, and my father was transferred for a short tour (18 months) to Seoul, Korea, where he was attached to the MPs. Oma was already in her late fifties, and learning English at this point in her life was not going to happen, so since my father wasn't around, and only German was spoken in the home, my first language naturally was German. There was only one small problem, my father didn't speak German, so when he returned from Korea I started learning English. For the first six years or so I had a very heavy German accent when I spoke English. I remember saying things like: De ding is like dat.
Growing up in the army means you travel a lot. Starting out in Georgia, we lived in New Jersey, New York, Mainz, Bad Kreuznach, and Heidelberg Germany, Kansas, Pirmasens, and Kaiserslautern Germany, and then settling down in California in 1968. I've lived in California ever since, until last year when we moved to Reno Nevada.
Now normally modesty would prevent me from disclosing this, but I know my mother would want you to know. I was in ninth grade when we moved to Fort Ord California, and the junior high school I was attending decided to try an experimental program for first year algebra, where the students could study at their own pace. This ultimately proved to be a disaster, with over half the class not finishing the requirements, but it was a boon for me, for I not only completed ninth grade algebra, but tenth grade geometry as well. As a result, I was chosen to attend a tri-county math contest, which I won. The result was that we were approached by a small private high school in the area, and encouraged to apply for admission. After the test results were back, the not only offered me a full scholarship, but as an additional incentive allowed me to skip tenth grade. From there, and with a lot of hard work, I got into the California Institute of Technology, which had always been my mother's dream.
The four years at college were the hardest four years of my life. I was used to being the best student in the class, but now everyone in the freshman class was the best student in their class. What a rude awakening! Still I graduated 11th overall in my class, and the only one to complete a Masters in Mathematics as well as a Bachelor's in both Math and English. It was also here that I met my lifelong friend, and sometimes roommate, Steve Colley, who went on to found a company called ncube, that made supercomputers before being acquired by Larry Ellison of Oracle Systems.
After graduating, I starting working at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in A-division. We were assigned to do numerical modeling of thermonuclear processes, in other words designing hydrogen bombs. Later I transferred to the computer sciences division, worked on the STAR operating system, which never worked and was very frustrating. I left LLNL after a couple of years, worked for a small computer typesetting company in San Francisco, called ADAPT. While there, I met a couple of guys and we decided to strike out on our own and formed a company called Orthocode. It had a brief existence, and the main impact it had on me was that I learned a new programming language called Forth. I became rather fluent in Forth, and actually wrote several articles about it in the Forth Dimensions magazine, as well as gave a few talks at various conferences. It was enough to attract the attention of Rick Meyer, who worked for a small company called Friends-Amis. They were working on the worlds first hand held computer, and were using Forth to do the programming of the operating system. The HHC (Hand Held Computer) actually made the Oct 1981 cover of Byte Magazine. Eventually Friends-Amis was acquired by Masushita of Japan, but by then I had met my best friend and future partner, Alex Lusthak.
Together we started a company that eventually was called Paradise Systems. We made a lot of wrong turns along the way, but eventually our product line was video cards and chips for the IBM PC and its clones. At the time, IBM had just announced their EGA (Enhanced Graphics Adapter) which used 7 custom chips. My partner, Alex, redesigned it so that it only need one custom chip, instead of seven. Our chip was being used in almost every IBM PC clone then on the market, from Olivetti to Compaq. We were manufacturing the chips in Taiwan and Japan for about $3 per chip, and selling them for $35 per chip. This is what is called, good margins! Then in 1986, Western Digital, a public company that made hard disk drives, decided it wanted to get into the video business, and decided it would be cheaper to buy Paradise Systems than start from scratch. Thus at the ripe old age of 33, I retired on September 15th, 1987. I like to call myself self-unemployed.
A few years later, on May 20, 1990 to be exact, I went on vacation to Club Med in Sonora Bay (Guyamas) and happened to sit next to a pretty blond girl in a red top during the first nights singles dinner. Nadine and I were married exactly one year and one day later, in Jamaica. That following September, we moved to Mazatlan while waiting for Chago to finish building our first house here. The rest is history, as we continue to live happily ever after.
So, as Sargent Friday would stay, those are the facts, ma'am. Now let me tell you a little about me. Perhaps the easiest way to get to know someone is through their friends. I count myself lucky in having three best friends. My first best friend I met in ninth grade while we were both attending Fitch Junior High School in Fort Ord, California. His name is Robert (Bob) Bernhardt, and we have been best friends since 1968. I was best man at his wedding, and have enjoyed his company and his great sense of humor ever since. He now lives in Albany, California, with his wife Debra and their daughter Mikaela. All through high school, and summer vacation in college, we were together all the time, going to movies, bowling, playing tennis, and just hanging out and enjoying each other's company. Even though we see less of each other today than I would like, when we do get together it is like we've never been apart.
My second best friend is Alex Lushtak, the man I met when I first started working at Friends-Amis, and with whom I started Paradise Systems. He has always been my hero, and I consider myself lucky to have met him and become his friend. I know that without him, I would never have been able do something like the Paradise Systems startup that we did together. We have seen each other through many relationships and marriages, and have always know that we would be there for the other. After Paradise Systems, Alex went on to start two other companies, Accumos, and Paradise Electronics, both of which were acquired by larger public companies. He is now retired and living in Ross, California, with his wonderful wife Anna, and their two great children, Sammy and Ariana.
My third best friend happened to me because of the maztravel.com website that I put together as a hobby. For those of you who don't know, back in 1995 I decided to write up our experiences living here in Mazatlan, and post it on the then fledgling Internet. Well, apparently it has become quite a popular web site, as it comes up as the first non-sponsored link in a search for the word Mazatlan on the www.google.com web site. Anyway, as a result, in 1999 we got a phone call from a couple who had a weekly radio program in Mazatlan, called Que Pasa Mazatlan. They asked us if we would consider being interviewed for the program. We said sure, and invited them over to our house to chat. We knew as soon as we met them that we were going to become good friends. Since then the hardest thing about going back to the US during the summer has been leaving them behind. Also one of the parts about this friendship is that not only am I best friends with Jack, but Nadine is best friends with Jack's wife, Valerie. The four of us often get together for games night, or any other flimsy excuse.
So, what kind of person am I? Well, I can only give you my own jaded viewpoint, but here goes. My politics are basically bleeding heart liberal, which these days I guess means Democratic. My religion is a born-again atheist. I think Stephen Hawking puts it best when he describes us as an advanced form of ape, living on the third planet of an average star. If I had to crusade for something, it would be for tolerance. Here we are, in the 21st century, and we are still killing the guy next door because he doesn't believe what we believe. My favorite book is Letters to his Son by Lord Chesterfield, which I was introduced to by my friend Alex. My favorite movie, I guess, is Memento, and my favorite Star Trek series was The Next Generation. There is nothing I like better than to be sitting at my desk in my office, which my Chihuahua Aphrodite asleep on my lap. I also love taking a siesta with my sweet Belle dog, and watching our babies Belle and Venus running free on the beach. Needless to say, the best thing that ever happened to me is Nadine, and just being with her is enough to keep me happy. So there you have it, Henry in a nutshell. Gracias Adios.