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In Memoriam: Paul D. Hansen

By steve - Posted on 30 September 2005

I was shocked to find out that my college roommate, Paul D. Hansen, died at age 47 on September 18, 2005.

Paul was a good friend.

He and I would lose touch, then end up finding each other by email after a year or two and catch up on the latest news. Over the years, we had tried several times to get together, but something would always come up. When he lived in St. Louis a few years ago, we were going to be there for a short vacation and tried to hook up. It ended up that he was going to South America, so we weren't able to meet. When he lived in California, he was gone on business the week I was there. Just a few days before he died, we were talking about getting together this fall, after I found out he had moved to the Detroit area. Then the news came from his brother that Paul had died.

Thinking about Paul, many memories came flooding back:

  • Paul and I met my freshman year at Western Michigan University. We hit it off right away. We both worked as Teacher's Assistants for the business computer department. During the first summer we worked through together, we'd wait in the lab for students to come in and ask for help. When we had everything else done, we'd sit and play backgammon for hours. We kept track all summer on the blackboard and the final score was something like 3000 games to 3000 games. I don't remember the final score for the summer, so I probably didn't win, but we were pretty well evenly matched.
  • We took a couple of spring break trips to Florida together. One time, we were standing on the 3rd floor of a four-floor food and drink establishment waiting for service. A girl came up to us and started chatting us up. We're thinking that we must really be something, for her to come up and just start talking to us. "Don't you guys go to Western?" "Aren't you TA's for the computer class?" We say, "Yes.." Then we chat it up a little and as we do she reaches in her purse and hauls out a computer program print out and says, "Great! I'm having problems with the 5th assignment and it's due when I get back. Can you help me with this part of the program?!??!" Ack!
  • We used to get unlimited computer time on the shared PDP-10 Digital mainframe that the school used back then. That was quite a deal because most students were quite limited in the amount of time they could use each week and each semester. What did we do with this 'unlimited' power? We wrote games. Lots of games. I think the two best we wrote were a cave game called 'Cave', similar to Adventure, and another called Mongo. These were pretty popular for new incoming students as one of the things they did as an assignment, to get used to using the computer, was play some of the games. Paul and I worked on these together, playing off each other's ideas and growing the games. We'd also watch others playing the games and get ideas about improving the games and making them more user-friendly (these were old-style text-based games). About 5 years after I finished my degree, I hired a programmer, that had gone to WMU, for the consulting company I was working for (GDS & Associates). When I was talking to her about her college experiences, I asked if she had ever played games on the systems. She responded that she and her boyfriend used to spend hours playing these two games that were just so cool, Cave and Mongo. I just about fell out of my chair (and so did she after she found out that I had co-authored them with Paul).
  • I had a cat named "Squeaky" that loved Paul. When I moved out, Paul kept the cat and took far better care of that cat that I ever did.
  • Paul was always a big lovable bear of a guy. Once though, after a party at our apartment had ended, one of the 'guests' got unreasonable and jumped me from behind and started choking me. I was in the process of getting him off my back when Paul walked up, plucked him off my back, then physically 'explained' to him not to do that any more. Paul was always there for me.
  • He was like me in that he always liked the latest gadgets. The difference between us was that he would actually buy them!
  • Paul was a really good programmer. He went on to a successful 27 year career in IT. He and computers always just clicked.
  • Paul loved golf. We spent a lot of hours goofing/golfing together.

Even though I hadn't seen Paul face-to-face in many years, I will really miss him.


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