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Announcing the Publication of Odd Lots

Odd Lots Paperback Front Cover - 500 Wide.jpg

It is with considerable pleasure (and a great deal of relief) that I announce the availability of my newest book, Odd Lots. It’s available in both ebook ($2.99) and trade paperback ($12.99) format.

I announced the project here last October. It’s taken a lot of time to put together in part because I had to OCR so much of it, and I hate OCRing. The other time-consuming element was trying to decide what-all should be in it. The bulk of what I’ve written on programming is now obsolete, and what isn’t obsolete is in published books that are already available. But my DDJ columns? DOS programming? Modula 2? Extinct. I suffered over those decisions more than I should have. I gave myself a 250-page topstop for the paperback. It came in at 235 pages, so I could have thrown in another Contra entry or two. At some point I simply had to say, “It’s done.”

What’s in it? Five topical sections:

  1. Essays, idea pieces, and editorials from PC Techniques/Visual Developer.
  2. Entries from Contrpositive Diary
  3. Parody (most of which came from the magazine)
  4. Memoir
  5. None of the above.

Part 1 contains pieces from the magazine that I felt had lasting interest, like “The All-Volunteer Virtual Encyclopedia of Absolutely Everything,” a few essays about the wearable computers I called Jiminies, “Pay Them Forward,” and “Hail the Millennium!”

Part 2 contains entries from Contra, again items I felt had lasting interest. I threw in my oddball series “50 Days’ Meditation on Writing,” which I posted on Facebook on fifty consecutive days way back in 2014.

Part 3 contains humor and parody, some of which was originally published in the magazine, and some in fanzines that now go back almost fifty years.

Part 4 contains excerpts from my memoirs, along with the very first written item I ever sold for money, which ran in 73 Magazine in December 1974. Some of that appeared here on Contra. A great deal of it is published in Odd Lots for the first time.

Part 5, well, some things don’t categorize well. Whatever didn’t fit in the first four categories ended up here. A couple are funny, including one that might be considered a parody of myself. The others might be classified as “inspirational,” depending on what inspires you.

The cover photo, some might remember, came out of a 2015 Contra entry called “Samples from the Box of No Return.” I think it qualifies as a collection of odd lots, just not written ones. It’s a shame I couldn’t photograph everything in the box, which has a lot more stuff in it than shown here.

Again, I assembled the book because I regularly get emails from people asking where they could find one or another editorial or idea piece from the magazine or Contra. I posted a few on my site. I don’t have word processor files for most of them, and had to OCR them. It’s almost a private publication for my fans, some of whom have been reading me since I launched Turbo Technix at Borland in 1987. I freely admit that some of it sounds like bragging. Hey, I really did predict Wikipedia in 1994, using technology we had in the early ’90s. Keep in mind that I wrote a great deal of that early material with a grin on my face. It was blue-sky stuff, satire, and primarily entertainment. I’ve never been one overly given to seriousness. Please read it with that in mind.

And I once again thank all my long-time readers for giving me a reason and a forum for writing interesting and funny stuff, and for (finally!) having a place to put it.

It’s done. Whew. Go get it! And if you think Odd Lots was odd, heh–just wait until you see my next publishing project. (Stay tuned.)


  1. David Stafford says:

    Got the Kindle version on my iPad. Looking forward to a few odd and pleasant hours of reading. Thanks, Jeff!

    1. David Stafford says:

      Just finished Odd Lots. I’m biased because I read many of these when they were fresh and revisiting them took me back to another time. The best parts were the new commentaries you added — I wished for more. And “Doing Doughnuts on the Edge of Darkness” really should have come with a warning label to avoid drinking coffee while reading. I busted out laughing. Thanks for the memories, Jeff.

  2. Rich Rostrom says:

    “… some in fanzines that now go back almost fifty years.”

    Did you recover anything from “Grin Without a Cat” or “Dead Rat and a String to Swing it On”?

    1. Dave Morgereth says:

      Go to Kindle, go straight to Kindle. Order Jeff’s book. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200

    2. I honestly don’t think so. I had a bunch of WindyAPAs, Grin Without a Cat, and A Dead Rat and a String to Swing it On, and another called The Cult (IIRC) plus a bunch of old Pyros in a medium moving box in my garage/workshop. When we were packing up to leave Arizona for Colorado back in 2003, I picked up the box… and found it was a termite condo. I had to use a shovel to get the whole mess into our trash can. Nothing survived. (I poked at the heap in the trash can to see if anything was intact. Nothing was.)

      I do have copies of just about all the issues of PyroTechnics, because I punched them and put them in a duo-tang binder. I never did that with any of my APAs, alas.

  3. Bob says:

    i’m interested in the tools and processes that you used to do your writing. I did my dissertation in the mid 70s. I wrote it out longhand and then paid a department secretary who was a wizard with the IBM Selectric and its trackballs to type it out with formulas. A few years later, in the late 70s and early 80s, the department acquired a Unix computer system. Then all the students and the secretaries typed in their documents to the computer from terminals on a network. Using nroff they were able to print them out to a high tech printer. This continued until the appearance of Mac computers and the Apple laser printer in the early 90’s iirc.

    1. I write direct to a keyboard. I’ve had keyboards since I was 9, granting that the first three were typewriters. Once I got a CP/M machine capable of running a word processor in 1980, I did no further typewriter work except occasionally on self-adhesive labels. I kept my IBM Selectric typewriter for that purpose until we moved to Colorado in 2003.

      Because I worked for Xerox, I was able to buy a Diablo daisy-wheel printer at employee discount in the early-mid 80s. That’s how I printed everything out until I bought a Canon laser printer in 1987. Although I had a color inkjet printer in the mid-1980s, it was a whole lot of trouble, and mostly I took a PDF to a print shop to get color copies for, say, Christmas letters. I bought an HP Color Laserjet 1518ni in the midlate oughts. That printer is still with me and works perfectly.

      I fooled with nroff ages ago, but it was on somebody else’s Unix machine. I actually wrote a text justifier that emitted text in justified 5″ columns for a fanzine I published in the late 70s and early 80s. I wrote the program in…APL. Hey, it was what I had access to.

      I currently write in Word 2007. It’s paid for and it has all the features I need. I won’t use SAAS. I just won’t. If Office 2007 stops working under a version of Windows I can live with, I’ll go to one of the free office suites.

      And that’s pretty much what my process is. I write, I edit, I print. I publish as well, but that’s a separate process.

      1. TRX says:

        A few years ago I got tired of feeding cartridges to inkjet printers and looked for a laser. After looking at Linux support, toner cost, etc. … I bought a refurbed HP Laserjet made in the 1990s. It cost about $150, and another $15 for the Ethernet add-in card.

        The printer is ancient, but zillions were made, and they have an active support infrastructure. Actual HP service manuals are available, several businesses support their refurb and repair, and they’re supported by every major OS.

        It’s not fancy, but it works every time. My main problem with the inkjets was that sometimes a year would go by between prints (I’m not ‘paperless’; I’m bombed with so much of it I try to avoid making more…) and the cartridges would dry up. Cleaning them seldom worked. And chasing drivers over years and OS changes got to be an annoyance.

        20 years from now, there will probably still be Laserjet 4s out in the world, still working.

  4. This is a great read. Brings back a lot of memories of tech past. Thanks… Rich

  5. TRX says:

    > DOS

    I was looking through some old stuff a while back. Interrupts, UARTs, EEMS, high memory, mode switching, multiple languages… things were so *simple* then.

    No, seriously. I got in late, and scrambled to come up to speed on the stuff everyone knew by the mid-80s. There was a tremendous about of *stuff* you had to know, just to know what was going on.

    Now… it’s exponentially worse.

    1. It’s worse now because computers are able to do so much more than they ever could in the DOS era. The shape of programming changed as well, from the very linear mainframe-like programming in the DOS world, to the stimulus/response event-driven model in the windowed environment world. The shape of the Pascal programs I was writing in the midlate 80s was pretty much the same as the shape of the FORTRAN programs I wrote in high school in 1970.

      In truth, there were not a lot of languages available in the DOS era. Today you need a long integer to count them all–and most of those will be forgotten ten years from now, except perhaps for Python and Rust.

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