Jeff Duntemann's Nonfiction

Once I actually believed my writing was worth something (not trivial in a household where "writer" and "beatnik" were difficult terms to distinguish) I began publishing material in gobs. Almost simultaneously, in late1973, I sold my first SF story and first nonfiction piece. The story was "Our Lady of the Endless Sky," which I'll discuss elsewhere, and the nonfiction piece was the goofily titled "Zillions of Parts for Nothing," which I had submitted to 73 Magazine as "All the World's a Junkbox." Wayne Green sat on the piece for almost a year before publishing it, which drove me totally apeshit.

Nonetheles, I was a changed man, and after that I sold about 90% of the pieces I cared to write. I no longer have them all, or even remember a few of them, but I'll try and summarize what I can here. I know I had several humor/opinion pieces in 73 over the years, but they're all gone for some reason. (I probably loaned my sole author copies to friends and forgot. I've done that a lot.) Keep in mind that I am not including in this list any of the material I published in "my" magazines, Turbo Technix and PC Techniques/Visual Developer Magazine. It's no trick to publish when you're the editor! (I'm also excluding material I published in PC Tech Journal while I worked there, even though I was not the capital-E Editor. Most of that was a department called "Product of the Month," which is not much worth remembering anyway.)

Radio/Electronics Stuff

Computer Hardware Stuff

Computer Software Stuff

The "Structured Programming" Columns in Dr. Dobb's Journal

After Borland cashiered Turbo Technix and laid off the staff (myself included) mid-September 1988, I was approached by Kent Porter, who was doing the "Structured programming" column in DDJ at the time. Kent wanted to start off a graphics column, and recruited me to pick up his column, which was about Pascal and Modula 2 topics. Lord knows I need some way to pay the mortgage, so I dove in with gusto--and ended up doing the gig for 51 consecutive months. Jon Erickson, a prince of an editor if ever there were one, allowed me to continue the column even after I had founded and was operating a thriving (if small) competitor in PC Techniques.

The column ran without interruption from February 1989 through April 1993. This was in many respects the last era of DOS programming, and very little in the columns had anything to do with Microsoft Windows. At the outset I covered Modula-2, but over time Modula kind of withered on us, especially in the wake of Borland's adding objects to Turbo Pascal in May of 1989. I spent about as much time on the Turbo Vision library as anyone in the industry at that time, even though I protested to the end that it was an obnoxious way to program. And now that Windows has taken over, one has to wonder what "structured programming" really is these days. Does Delphi qualify? It's more than structured, actually; it's...well, it's...hell, I'm not quite sure what to call it, other than a full realization of the event-driven, object-oriented dream dating back to Xerox PARC and Smalltalk. The big snag is that most of what people talk about when talking about Delphi is the big dirty clothes hamper of Windows gimmicks one has to use to make the most of Delphi--hardly structured programming. I guess all this is to say that if I ever went back to doing something like "Structured Programming," to be honest, I'm not entirely sure what I'd write about. Programming has become something utterly different since the spring of 1993. I still do it and enjoy it, though there are times when I wonder why.

I hope to get at least the best of the columns converted to HTML and mounted here eventually, but until I find a smooth and fairly seamless HTML conversion utility, it will remain an ugly business that takes a lot of time. I will list them here most recent first.

  • #51: April 1993. The (Shower) Curtain Falls
  • Books

    I am probably known more for my books than for my short work. And how I came to write books is an interesting story by itself. Like half the Western world, I had my own little software company in the early 1980's. I published a handful of titles, sold $50,000 worth of them--while spending about $50,000 doing it. All in all a good learning experience, but not the road even to independence, let alone riches. I sent a few of the titles to Susan Glinert-Cole, who was doing the IBM PC column in Creative Computing. (Does anybody even remember Creative Computing?) She called me one day, saying that the software was so-so, but that the documentation was superb. Would I be interested in writing a book? Her publisher (Scott, Foresman, & Co.) was looking for new titles, and she handed me off to one of their acquisitions editors.

    He was a weird, surly guy, but he heard me out and bought my outline: A book I called Pascal From Square One, focusing on Pascal/MT+, the CP/M compiler I had been using since it appeared in 1981. Doing a language book on a specific language product was very novel--and kind of risky--back then. That approach solved a lot of problems, though, and the book got written between November 1983 and July 1994. One problem--while I was writing the book, a new Pascal compiler had appeared and was rapidly plowing all other Pascal compilers, including Pascal/MT+, right into the soil. By the time I finished the book, Turbo Pascal was obviously the boss Pascal compiler, and my new editor at Scott, Foresman (the formidable Richard Swadley, now of Sams) suggested I take the book back and rewrite it to focus on Turbo Pascal rather than Pascal/MT+.

    This I did, from July 1984 to January 1985. I turned the book in--and it sat on somebody's shelf for four months before going into production, for reasons that were never made clear. While it was sitting, Doug Stivison beat me into print with his book on Turbo Pascal. So while my book wasn't the first on Turbo, it was definitely the second. Scott, Foresman renamed the book Complete Turbo Pascal without telling me (My title was Turbo Pascal from Square One) but it hit the streets in early September 1985 and went totally nuts. The book went through four editions in the eleven years it remained in print, and sold something like 150,000 copies total. (The fourth edition was Borland Pascal From Square One, published by Bantam, after Scott, Foresman got engulfed and devoured in 1989.)

    <more later...>