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The Duntemann Ensmallening Continues

As I lugged box after box from our furnace room up All Those Stairs (people who have been to our Colorado house known of which I speak) it wasn’t just the boxes that were heavy. These were boxes of computer books and magazines, and all of them went into our recycle can for next week’s pickup. With each tip of a box into the recycle can, my heart grew heavier. These were not somebody else’s DOS programming books. Uh-uh. These were copies of Degunking Windows, Degunking Your PC, Degunking Your Email, Spam, and Viruses, Jeff Duntemann’s Drive-By Wi-Fi Guide, and Assembly Language Step By Step, 2E (2000).

Lots of them.

When an author writes a book, the publisher typically sends him one or more boxes of books without charge. I’ve been a published tech book author since mid-1985. Do the math. Ok, sure, I no longer have box quantities of Complete Turbo Pascal. However, I do have the printed manuscript for Complete Turbo Pascal 2E (1986) in a monsteroso 3-ring binder. (See above.) The damned thing is 4″ thick. That book was work. And if I recall (I no longer have it) the printed manuscript for Borland Pascal 7 From Square One was in two binders, each 3″ thick. I also found the original submission manuscript for Pascal from Square One with Pascal/MT+, from mid-1984. That manuscript was sold, but the publisher prevailed upon me to rewrite it for another Pascal compiler whose name you’d know. (Alas, they changed the title on me. But they’re dead, and I’m still alive, so I win. And there will be a Lazarus from Square One someday.) Do I keep these manuscripts? I still have the word processor files on disk, though I’m not entirely sure about the Pascal/MT+ ones. It’s another ten or twelve pounds of paper, and I freely admit I haven’t looked at either binder since we moved to Colorado in 2003. So I guess they have to go.

How heavy can your heart get before it collapses into a black (red?) hole?

I know a lot of you have been through one or more ensmallenings of your own, because you’ve told me. A couple of you have offered me your complete runs of PC Techniques/VDM. I already have five or six copies of all sixty issues. I’m keeping a full set. The others will feed the can as soon as I catch my breath enough to lug them up the stairs. (I’m not writing this entry because I have time on my hands…)

A lot of other odd stuff has come to light: My original Rio MP3 player, year unknown. A box of 3.5″ floppies. My father’s medium-format Graflex camera. My own trusty but now useless Nikon film SLR. What’s to become of it? The Rio is scrap, as is Carol’s final-generation APS film camera. My SLR is probably not worth much anymore. About my dad’s Graflex I have no idea. I’ll probably keep them both for the time being. A great deal of other stuff is going out on the curb. The concrete people are replacing the garage slab on May 4, and the garage has to be dead-empty by then. What needs to be kept from the garage collection has to come down to the furnace room, which means gobloads of other stuff must exit the furnace room first, and forever.

Man, this is work. And work at 6600 feet, at that.

You’ve heard me say this before, though I’ve forgotten who said it originally: Not everything from your past belongs in your future. Keep everything that reminds you of your past, and you end up turning into a museum that only you ever enter…

…if you ever actually do.

Time’s up. Another load or six needs to go up the stairs. They say it gets easier after the first twenty loads. I guess I’ll find out.


  1. Michael Black says:

    There was a long time when I was happy to find older computer books at book sales and recycling bins. I can remember when the best there’d be were Fortran books, and then things like “101 Things to do with your Home Computer”, until finally I’d find useful books.

    I guess because despite getting my first computer in 1979, a KIM-1, it tapered off at some point, so I was trailing edge for a long time. So the discarded books were just right, or even in the future by my standards.

    Now that’s not happening, I am likely to turn down such books. It’s hard to tell, many of the used book sales here won’t take computer books, so I’m seeing less. Of course, I’ve also accumulated a lot of computer books, so how many more Linux books do I need when I already have a bunch?

    I think it was February, I was walking the dog, and found a big pile of computer books waiting for recycling. I poke a bit, they seemed fairly old but also mainstream, but the dog, who spends so much time sniffing garbage and recycling wasn’t in the mood to wait. And it didn’t nag ne that much, wondering if there were really great books buried beneath.


  2. Tom Roderick says:

    One of the few words of Thai I was able to learn while stationed there for a year in the early 1970’s was ok-hak (when written in English the “O” and the “A” have grave accents) which sorta kinda means brokenhearted or it breaks my heart. If I were doing what you are having to do I think that would describe my feelings pretty well.

  3. Vince says:

    Ouch. I’ve never read those books in the photo, but still, as part of a bygone era, they still tug at the nostalgic heart. Wish there was some charity willing to take these books in.

    Wondering if you can show what a page of the printed manuscript for Complete Turbo Pascal 2E looks like?

    1. I could do that. Give me a day or three. Ironically, I’ve been posting more lately because physical labor at 6600 feet gets me out of breath, and I have to take half an hour off periodically to recharge and reoxygenate. Writing on Contra is a great way to kill half an hour without hyperventilating.

  4. jon spencer says:

    Here there is a local estate / moving sales outfit that will, for a percentage of the cut will have everything that is not sold hauled away. Then they have the cleaners come in. Leaving a empty and clean house.

  5. Rich Dailey says:

    When I first saw the picture, something inside me cried, “NO!” (shouted in an agonizing, trailing off kind of way).

    Then I thought, “Yeah… lunky, outdated computer books. Assembly language. Back issues of computer magazines. Weight. Space.”

    Then I glanced at the photo again, and cried, “NO!!”

    1. Yes. This. It was almost like throwing away the 90s, which (for reasons most here will understand, not excluding the fact that I was a vigorous young cub in my 40s) I consider some of the best years of my life so far.

      Now, becoming a famous SF writer could put the teens up there with the 90s, and I’m going to have a good strong run at it once the Big Move is complete.

  6. Rich Shealer says:

    I really can relate to your quote. Especially the tag at the end.

    Before a fire in 2008 I had decades of PC Magazine, Byte and others. I had bookcases filled with computer books and old software. Some for machines that predated the PC. A few computers and boxes of old computer peripheral cards, small capacity hard drives (who needs more than 80 megs), etc.

    All had great memories, but after the fire I let most of them go and after two additional moves since then culled the list even further and have avoided picking up the nostalgic items that at one time I lusted over.

    The key being the “…if you ever actually do.” part of your quote.

    Most of the stuff I lost or trashed were things I never had time to touch because there is always something newer that I am working with that will keep food on the table today.

    But then again I didn’t write those books so it can’t be the same.

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