On April 3, 2011, Where Books Begin lost its web guru, Paul Bingman,
just five weeks after he discovered he had stage four pancreatic
Paul was a man of many loves, many trades and many puns. Born
and raised in Portland, Oregon, he was fascinated by the development
of communication and transportation in American culture. He found
inspiration in movies, people, books, and writing. PDXflaneur became
Paul's nickname with his legendary strolls through town. "You see so
much from walking at ground level that you never see while driving or
riding the bus. Yards, buildings, people - it's all better at the natural
human speed of travel." When he invariably happened upon one or
more of his many friends, he would engage and enchant them with his
expansive knowledge of Portland.
"All the interesting stuff happens at the edges-where one world rubs
up against and cross-pollinates another," he had said in an article
he wrote for Portland on Fire. "That's always been true of port cities,
and it's definitely true of Portland. This city is one giant convoluted
edge, so many worlds to mix and mash up, so many ways to be
interesting. Film, books, theatre, tech, art, music, religion, politics, the
environment, transportation, living and livability-it all rubs together,
throwing off sparks as it fuses and melds and reflows again."
Paul studied physics at Oregon State University and Portland State
before his first job assembling bikes near the used bookstore Walter
Powell had recently opened. In the 1970s Paul worked as a telegrapher
on the Burlington Northern railroad that traveled through the Pacific
Northwest. As a dispatcher, he had his first experience with the
Burlington's vast computer network, sending wires to other railroads.
Fascinated, he built his first computer from a kit.
"It had 16K of RAM and ran at a blinding 4 MHz. I taught myself
programming: first BASIC, then assembler, and C. "
Paul's love of the railroad remained (especially for his beloved
Milwaukee line), but his passion for computer programming became
his focal point. He worked for several years at Control-C Software as
a support and marketing tech before becoming lead programmer and
manager. In 1988 he left to form Northwest Software Partners with
three other business partners; they built custom device drivers for a
variety of U.S. and international clients. In 1993, Paul moved on and
created his own company, Edgewood.net.
Paul explored the great mysteries of life.
"Over the years I've done a wide variety of custom programming and
forensic software work. I once manipulated an HP logic analyzer into
collecting data over the Internet. The programming work became
more Internet and database-focused, the programming languages
much more web-friendly." More recently, Paul specialized in back-
end website programming for a variety of small clients and creative
studios, helping them to develop interactive, dynamic, interesting
and fun websites. A well-known hacker about town, he was a familiar
presence at web-related conferences and camps, networking with
those who shared his love of computers and communication.
In the summer of 2007, Paul yet again launched a new business
that incorporated his passion for trains and his passion for film. As a
fixture of the Portland International Film Festival and the Northwest
Film and Video Festival, he helped judge student film entries and
estimated he saw 200 to 300 films a year. So he became a railroad
movie consultant. "I've seen railroads done so poorly in some films-
they get so much wrong like equipment and language and operating
procedures, and leave out other things that would make the story
more interesting or give the scene much more character."
Among his favorite things, Paul listed, "The old part of town, any town.
Good beer. Stories. Pipe organs. The green ray. Bruno Ganz. The night
sky. Django Reinhardt. Tableaux vivants. Dirigibles. Rumi and Rilke.
Pie. Kiarostami, Kurosawa, Kaurismaki. People who are good to each
We will miss him.