JWG (jwg) wrote,

A memorial for a deceased colleague

On Friday I went to a memorial for an ex-colleague of mine, André Bensousson, who died earlier this year.

I first met André when I went to work on Multics as a GE employee in 1967 when it was a joint MIT-GE-Bell Labs project. The Bell Labs guys went off to build Unix (emasculated Multics) several years later. At that time GE was a part owner of Bull, the French computer company. They had sent André over for a year in 1966 to learn about Multics. This year got extended and except for about a 1/2 year he remained in the US associated with the Multics project (while GE's computer business was sold to Honeywell, Bull was nationalized, Honeywell's computer business was sold to Bull) until it was killed in 1986 and stayed a bit longer working on my next project before he returned to France. He remained a Bull employee during this whole period - probably a world's record for a foreign temporary assignment.

André was a methodical designer and analyst who always worked from first principles and derived an elegant solution to whatever problem he was working on. See the André Bensousson story on the Multics web site as an illustration of how he worked. I have rarely met anyone in the computer software business (and I have met many many people) who even came anywhere near to his style and methodology.

It was a low key gathering organized by a women who had among other things been with him for about a year while he was ill. There were some pictures of him including one when he was about 6 years old and another in his Algerian army uniform! as well as some more contemporary pictures. Among the attendees were about a dozen of my old colleagues (rsc included) and some of us went out to a delicious dinner at the Harvest Restaurant afterward.

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