April 17, 1961 – June 29th, 2021
Garth Conboy passed away at home on June 29th, 2021, with his wife by his side, after a brave and valiant battle with metastatic thymic carcinoma.
Born to James Conboy and the late Mary Ann (nee Van Anda) Conboy, Garth grew up in La Jolla, where he attended La Jolla Elementary, Muirlands Middle School, and La Jolla High. Interested in chemistry and physical sciences, he was awarded 1st place numerous years at the San Diego and California Science Fairs. His precocious interest in computer science would serve him well, as he graduated La Jolla High School early to attend UC Berkeley.
As a 17-year-old freshman, Garth took a part-time job with Prime Computer in Palo Alto. Young, focused, and intense, he quickly proved he was capable of being more than just a “co-op student.” Barely a sophomore, Garth felt he’d absorbed all the computer science that Berkeley had to offer, realizing, like many of his generation, that there was a revolution in the computer industry with exponential advances happening faster than academia could keep up with. So, he left UC Berkeley to join Prime’s Massachusetts office where he was known as a “rock star” facilitating the growth of Prime into international markets such as Japan. He wasn’t yet 20 and he’d filled a passport full of stamps from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Greece while traveling for Prime. Plus, he was able to brag for the rest of his life that he was a UC Berkeley drop out.
Garth wrote the first C compiler for Prime Computers from a small apartment in Boston. With an entrepreneurial spirit and his mother’s help (from the family’s dining room in La Jolla) on the marketing and administration end, his first company, Pacer Software, began. Pacer flourished creating a series of groundbreaking products (including an AppleTalk networking stack, an early message board and a TCP/IP). Over the next 14 years, the Boston office grew to nearly 50 people, with another 10 in La Jolla.
Along with his bi-coastal company, he began a bi-coastal relationship with Laura DuCharme, the project architect designing his parents’ La Jolla home. The house was already under construction before his father made some off-hand remark about the architect’s legs (not exactly politically correct but that was then). He showed up the next day at the job site with some random question that needed an immediate answer. Garth and Laura married two years later, but it would be four more years before he sold Pacer and moved back to La Jolla, finally together on the “right” coast.
Garth was an only child, while Laura came to the relationship with six raucous siblings who incorporated Garth and his parents into their universe, and frequent family gatherings (where chardonnay was never in short supply). They welcomed a son, Dane, in 1997 and daughter Ari in 2003. Both attended the same public schools that had been special to Garth.
Professionally, Garth joined SoftBook Press in 1997 as the VP responsible for authoring and building a team creating the pioneering software in SoftBook reading devices, the world’s first dedicated electronic book. The work that Garth and his team did at SoftBook Press formed the technical foundation of the EPUB format that has evolved into the globally recognized standard for electronic books.
In 2004 Garth founded eBook Technologies continuing the development of increasingly capable electronic book reading systems. This led to the acquisition of the company by Google in 2011. At Google, Garth built and managed a team that was responsible for the Play Books ebook and audiobook reading systems until his passing.
Among Garth’s most significant and enduring contributions to digital publishing and humanity was his unwavering commitment to accessibility, enabling people with disabilities to enjoy the benefits of reading. Between 1998 and 2019 Garth was involved with 40 electronic patents.
Garth was a trailblazer, leader, mentor, advocate, collaborator, friend, and preternaturally good-natured. He was the epitome of self-effacing and the embodiment of humility; someone so extraordinarily accomplished, mind-blowingly brilliant, and yet so incredibly down-to-earth. Garth’s magnetic personality and joyful, humble wit endowed him with a unique ability to bring groups of engineers together to achieve extraordinary things. He will be remembered for his uniquely successful negotiating strategy he summarized as “cave early, cave often” and for his unwavering commitment to “ship it.” Garth didn’t see problems – he saw challenges. Every challenge was an opportunity where he’d muse with colleagues, even when things were going poorly, that he would be happy to share his “happy pills” with them (if only they could bottle that).
Garth was an avid tennis player and fan, enjoying annual trips to New York for the US Open tournament with his father, Jim. He made the most out of any business trip but preferred traveling with his family. Over their 30 years married and despite his work travels, Garth rarely missed a Thursday “Date Night” with Laura. In recent years, travel included trips for Ari’s lacrosse tournaments, joining a different raucous family – the Mad Dog and La Jolla High lacrosse parents (where he may or may not have smuggled Bloody Mary’s onto the sidelines in Yeti flasks). He marveled, with pride, how it was possible that Ari could turn out to be the family jock and socialite. He enjoyed, also with pride, following Dane’s unique pursuits; music compositions, WoW, ITG dance machines, and Dane’s own interest in computer science.
It’s been said that Garth was a quintessential Californian: his head and shoulders lifted by an invisible spirit of sunshine-based optimism. He was a reminder that living in a world so lovely should be experienced and enjoyed.
Garth leaves behind his beloved family – his wife, Laura, son Dane and daughter Ari, his father Jim Conboy, mother-in-law Alton DuCharme, siblings-in-laws Steve DuCharme + Patty Becker, Greg DuCharme, Marc DuCharme, Eric DuCharme + Tracy Elvin, Martha DuCharme, Dawn DuCharme + Charlie Grebing, and a score of nieces and nephews.