Thirty Years Later

Last summer I was enjoying a bit of vacation and just surfing around the Internet. I got to thinking that 2006 would be 30 years since I came to Germany, 30 years since I started studying. Whatever happened to those people I started studying with? I have a bit of contact with one guy (we both did our doctorates with the same professor and are now both professors). I wonder what happened to the others? I tried to remember names - just typing "Frank" or "Uwe" into my nearest search engine does not promise much success.

I remembered the guy whose grandmother lived in the same village as my in-laws. I typed in his name and landed on a page of someone who writes Japanese Haiku. Sounded interesting, so I wrote him a letter - are you this guy? Yes, he was. We started mailing about having a reunion - but how to find everyone?

I mailed the university, they do not have any information - all information is sorted by matriculation number, not by program or name. But they could tell us that there were 25 people majoring in Computing. They did not know, however, how many minors there were. Since there tended to be about 30-35 people in lectures, we decided there must have been about 10 minors.

Now, how about those Franks? What were their last names? We started to come up with few. A bit of Google, a bit of online telephone book - and we came up with some leads. We asked everyone we found for more names! We found one of us a professor in the US - he wrote all sorts of great C++ books that I have acutally looked at, but since I only knew his first name during studies, it never rang a bell.

Another one was in Swizerland, but many were still in the north of Germany, many even still in Kiel. We finally managed to come up with 21 names that answered emails, and have 5 more names we could not trace. We set a date and invited the professor who taught the Introduction to Computing course to us and the exercise group leaders. Only one could come, but since he was still at the university, he organized our old lecture hall for the festivities. We had 11 people come!

Despite renovations the room still just had a chalkboard in it, so he had to get an overhead projector and a beamer set up. Our professor had graduated from chalk to overhead, I wanted to use the beamer for an exercise in BS 2000 (the operating system that we had to user 30 years ago). But we started late and our professor had so much to say, that we postponed the exercise to the coffee shop.

We had everyone stand up and give a brief synopsis of what he or she (we were two women, both there!) had spent the last 30 years doing. Many people ended up doing systems programming, moving from company to company (or the company changing names, even though they were at the same desk). They married, had kids, got divorced, have younger girlfriends now. Most have grey or thinner hair and have gained more than a few pounds here and there. The other woman, though, hasn't aged a day although she has 4 kids, no idea how she did it!

We went for coffee and then down to a favorite haunt for dinner. What a bunch of interesting people we are - why on earth didn't we keep in touch? The reason seems to be that most were "local" boys, even the ones from 200 km away went home Friday afternoons to their parents, spending the weekend with friends from school, and then came back to Kiel Monday mornings, more or less on time, depending on how often the cars broke down on the way. So we had very little socialzation together during studies.

Some people played "Go" one evening a week, others did square dancing, but we just did not have a lot of doing things other than exercises together.

Was the very theoretical education we got at Kiel good? We think it was - we learned to think computationally, and have been able to handle most of the new stuff come our way (although a good many had no idea what Skype and Flickr and del.icio.us are - but I wouldn't, either, if I didn't have great students who keep me up to snuff by telling me about the cool new things).

We found ourselves talking a lot about retiring - and all the cool things we wanted to do when we don't have to work any more. We laughed about that, and then got back to talking about geek stuff.

It was a wonderful evening, we ordered another round and had another round of laughs - and have said that we now want to keep in touch, we want to see each other before we have our "Golden Immatriculation".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Wise Woman,

it was good to meet all of you more than 25 years after. I agree, it was a very very theoretical education, that we got from Hans Langmaack. I think, I never used it directly in bussiness.

But he teached us, how to think. That's a great gift. I very often used his "there are certain ..."

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