Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image



We’ve had soil subsidence issues here for some time–years, in fact–the most recent occurring when the soil pulled down on our gas meter feed so hard that it cracked the pipe. Our driveway looks like someone carpet-bombed it. My garage slab sank enough so that my lathe pulled its wires out of the junction box in the ceiling. Now the slab on the lower level has sunk enough to cause cracks in the plaster. We’ve been patiently waiting for the settling to stop, but issue piled on issue suggests that the time to get the soil stabilized and the concrete fixed is now.

We’ve been talking with a local contractor and may get a deal done in the next few days. That means, of course, that a lot of stuff is going to be moving around, especially on the lower level of the house. Carol’s office is Ground Zero, and everything will have to be moved out of there to somewhere else. I have to move several bookcases, including one stacked full of QST, which is probably the only magazine ever printed that was denser than National Geographic. I am going to get my strength training in the next few weeks, is for sure.

What we’ve begun doing is going through boxes, setting aside things for the various charity pick-ups, and trying to restack the furnace room shelves for maximum density. This is a time-intensive business, and time I would rather use writing has gone into sorting and stacking. That said, I’ve unearthed a number of things I thought I had long-since dumped or lost. One is the stack of Paradox reports I used to track manuscripts and issue lineup for all ten years of PCT and VDM. The database itself is gone, unless it survives (doubtful) on a 5″ HD floppy in the box of 5″ floppies I mentioned some time back. I found the 1882 copy of Oliver Twist that is certainly the oldest paperback book I’ve ever owned, or even seen. Inexplicably, it was tucked into a box full of archival copies of my own books, probably to fill a crack too small to accept yet another copy of Assembly Language Step By Step. Careless packing is a peculiar and little-understood hazard. (I’m understanding it better all the time.)

I also found a Russian-manufacture metal construction set; something like Meccano but Metric. I don’t entirely remember where I got it.

And although I knew it was there, I just unpacked a peculiar machine: A Z80 CP/M computer I put together solely to run Borland’s virtually unknown Turbo Modula-2. I assembled it in my garage in California in 1988, and ran it once or twice more early in our Arizona tenure. It’s been sealed in a box since 2002, when I tried and failed to sell it for $5 at the Fort Tuthill hamfest near Flagstaff. It uses the Ampro Little Board Z80 board, plus two DS/DD 5″ floppy drives, and a spare IBM PC power supply. I would fire it up except that it uses serial I/O, and the time to locate cables and rig a link to a serial window is time I need to spend moving other stuff out of the way. Let’s say that it worked fine when it went into the box in 2002. I’m not sure I want to keep it, but I sure hate to just heave it into the trash. Still thinking.

I’ve culled a hundred pounds or so of boxed technical books, most of which I intended to sell on Amazon Marketplace some years back and found no market for. (And now I’m ineligible for Marketplace because of Amazon’s sales tax squabble with Colorado.) I’m putting the word out that the books are here to grab, cautioning that some of them are mighty old as computer books go, though a few may still be useful. If I don’t find homes for them in the next couple of weeks, they’ll be in the recycle bin.

Other stuff needs Carol’s processing, like her Barbie dolls and other childhood odds and ends, but we made some real process in opening up space in the furnace room, to which Carol’s office furniture is likely to be evacuated in the very near future. I’ll need an Aleve tomorrow, but the work–heh, that’s only beginning.


  1. May I suggest renting a Pod? They basically drop it off in your driveway, and provided it doesn’t sink directly to hell, the center of the earth, or whatever through your driveway, you load your stuff into it, then they haul it off to an air-conditioned storage facility. When you’re ready, they bring it back and you unload.

    Or professional movers. A back is a terrible thing to waste.


    1. Yes; we had a Pod when we cleaned out Carol’s mom’s house to sell in 2006. Worked well, but there were weight limits that my lathe bench violates, um, severely. There’s not a lot of different pieces to be stored, but as the pieces are mostly metal, it will take stronger backs than mine to do the storing. I intend to hire a moving firm to get the lathe, drill press, and metal collection down the hill to a storage locker, and then bring it back after we re-pour the garage slab next spring. A lot of the other stuff in there either hangs on the wall or is headed for a garage sale or charity pickup. All in all, a good opportunity to tidy up bigtime.

  2. Andrew from Vancouver says:

    Ah, good times, good times. I won’t let go of my “big” 486 with the combo 5.25″ + 2.88 MB floppy either. I wrote a lot of good code with the Turbo family and a shelf full of the two-tone books.

    I did let go of the souped-up 286 with the IIT 287 that ran TopSpeed Modula-2 so I didn’t have to compete for the awful dial-up mainframe access the other suckers in my University programming course had to use.

    Thanks for the reminder, Jeff.

  3. Stephen Kitt says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Any chance you could list the technical books you have? I’m a fan of old technical books… (In fact I just got a hold of issues of PC Techniques from 1993 and 1994!)


    1. Well, here’s the list I sent to my local crowd. It begins with the books shown in this entry, notable mostly for their sheer bulk:

      There are a couple of other fatties I found in the furnace room, including the VBScript SuperBible. Others include:

      Dylan Programming (Feinberg et. al.)
      The Dylan Reference Manual (Shalit)
      Encyclopedia of Computer Science, 3E (VNR, 1993)
      Encyclopedia of Software Engineering (Marciniak, 1994, 2 Vol)
      Inside Smalltalk, V2 (Pugh & LaLonde)
      Object-Oriented Analysis (Coad & Yourdon)
      Learn to Program (Pine)
      Internet Directories (Greenblatt)
      VBScript Superbible (Simon)
      The Modula-2 Software Component Library, Vol. 1 (Lins)

      This isn’t the whole list, but the books I felt might be most useful. A lot of them were review copies I received unsolicited back in the magazine era (1990-2000, with stragglers still coming in for two years after the mag folded) and some were things I horsetraded for or simply bought and didn’t much like. They’re a very mixed bag, quality-wise.

      I also have a lot of back issues of the magazine, more than I need.

      Are you local? If you are, stop out and I’ll hand them to you.

      1. Stephen Kitt says:

        Thanks for the list, nothing (that I don’t already have) grabs my attention. I’m not at all local, so it’s probably just as well!

  4. Tom R. says:

    Jeff, I have wondered what you ever did with that!

    “also found a Russian-manufacture metal construction set; something like Meccano but Metric. I don’t entirely remember where I got it.”

    I sent it to you at your request since I had found some at an independent hobby shop in Snellville Georgia.

    I sent it to you at your request after seeing your site on Erector/Meccano sets, and I emailed you asking if you had heard of it.

    The fact that it was made in “LENINGRAD” by “The Experimental Factory of Metall Haberdashery & Souvenirs”

    Was enough to get me curious.

    I am glad it made the trip with you up from Arizona!

    1. Still here, though as with a number of things it got put in a box with unrelated stuff when we packed up to move in 2003 and I didn’t remember where it was. I didn’t merge it with my Meccano stock because the standard dimensions are incompatible, and it’s a tangible example of Soviet weirdness that’s worth having as a sort of “Whew, glad that’s over” souvenir. I never met another Meccano hobbyist who’d ever seen or heard of it, so I doubt it was made for very long or distributed widely. It’s not badly made, but as you note the box and the doc are, well, a little peculiar.

      1. Aki says:

        Don’t you have any radios from russkies? EMP immunity, leaking batteries, strange messages from Politburo, … 😉

        “Enigma: The mystery of Russia’s UVB-76 radio transmissions explored”

      2. Tom R. says:

        I think the hobby shop bought the entire output from the factory since when I sent you one they were stacked all around the place. The shop is still there under the same owner and I get by occasionally, but have not looked to see if there are any more of these around. Maybe next time I am there I will. I just love the picture on the front of the box.

        1. I have it now where I can get at it easily, and when I can I’ll take and post a photo. The poor little girl on the box photo looks like she’d rather be anywhere else!

  5. R-Laurraine Tutihasi says:

    Is your old computer something that might interest a computer museum? Contact Chris Garcia if you think it might.

    Sorry about the whole mess, and I hope it gets fixed correctly.

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