Me? I’m a guy who does the following: I write; I edit my own material and that of others; I work in, with, and on technology (with my own hands) of several kinds; and I think about almost everything from as many different perspectives as possible. My contrarianism is conscious and deliberate. Why? If you don’t regularly require yourself to think beyond your own habits and suppositions, you end up in a very deep mental rut. I do not always take every contrarian position, but I consider each one I encounter. I may support things, but for the most part I don’t join them.
I was born and grew up on the northwest side of Chicago, in a neighborhood called Edison Park. I grew up a Catholic, and attended Immaculate Conception parochial school on Talcott Road. The teaching there, both intellectual and moral, was rigorous.
I graduated from Lane Technical High School in Chicago in 1970. At that time, Lane had many shops and labs (fewer now) where I had plenty of opportunity to learn by doing—which, as I have found, is the only way to learn anything well. I learned basic electricity, woodworking, metal machining, and computer programming (FORTRAN IV) while there. The college prep curriculum was primary, and included biology, chemistry, physics, Spanish, and four years of mathematics. I graduated 30th in a class of 1,337.
In the fall of 1970, I attended Illinois Institute of Technology for one semester, and found that engineering was not my calling. Intending to pursue a teaching career, I entered De Paul University in Chicago in the spring of 1971, and graduated with a B.A. in English, summa cum laude, in 1974.
Since graduating from De Paul, I have taken numerous continuing education courses in many things, primarily technology topics, including electronics, database design and programming in several languages, but also including book and magazine editing and management.
I will answer pertinent questions about my work history on request; however, I generally do not do so for publication.
- 2008-Present: Independent contractor
- 2002-2008: Editor at Large, Paraglyph Press, Scottsdale, Arizona
- 1989-2002: Vice President/Editorial Director, The Coriolis Group, Scottsdale, Arizona
- 1988-1989: Independent Contractor, technical writing
- 1987-1988: Editor in Chief, Turbo Technix Magazine, Borland International, Scotts Valley, California
- 1985-1987: Senior Technical Editor, PC Tech Journal, Ziff-Davis Publishing, Baltimore, Maryland
- 1979-1985: Programmer/Analyst, Xerox Corporation, Rochester, New York
- 1976-1979: Branch Data Analyst, Xerox Corporation, Chicago, Illinois
- 1974-1976: Technical Representative, Xerox Corporation, Chicago, Illinois
Short Nonfiction Publications and Magazine Work
My books will be listed separately below, under Bibliography. Listing each short item I’ve published separately would take too much space, so I will summarize:
I have been a published writer since I was an undergraduate at DePaul. Both my first piece of fiction and my first piece of nonfiction appeared in commercial magazines in 1974. In following years, I wrote technical articles for Byte, PC Magazine, Creative Computing, Kilobaud, Computer Graphic, PC Week, 73, and smaller newsletters and specialty anthologies.
I wrote frequently for PC Tech Journal between 1983 and joining the staff in 1985. While on staff I wrote regular reviews and short technical items, and the “Product of the Month” column.
In 1987 I was hired by Borland International to create and edit a magazine for their programming language customers. The magazine was Turbo Technix, and it ran bimonthly for six issues. I wrote both editorials and technical items in almost every issue. The magazine was sent free of charge to all registered language customers (in excess of 200,000) so it was an expensive effort. Borland shuttered the magazine during a corporate downsizing in 1988.
After leaving Borland’s staff I wrote material for Borland on contract, including a great deal of the OOP Guide included with the object-oriented release 5.5 of Turbo Pascal, in 1989. (These efforts were not bylined.)
In early 1989 I began writing the “Structured Programming” column in Dr. Dobb’s Journal, which appeared under my byline for 43 months, until the pressures of my other work prevented me from continuing. The column emphasized the “non-C” structured languages of the time, primarily Pascal and Modula 2, but touching on others here and there.
In 1989, fellow writer Keith Weiskamp and I created The Coriolis Group in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the purposes of publishing a magazine for programmers in the spirit of the popular Turbo Technix. The first issue of PC Techniques appeared in March, 1990. As with Turbo Technix, I contributed both editorials and technical pieces throughout the publication’s ten-year run. In 1994 I wrote an idea piece, “The All-Volunteer Virtual Encyclopedia of Absolutely Everything,” that anticipated today’s Wikipedia. (I was wrong about its distributed nature—hard disk storage was much more expensive back in 1994.)
In 1996, we redesigned PC Techniques and renamed it Visual Developer Magazine, reflecting the industry’s shift to programming tools like Visual Basic and Delphi. PCT/VDM ran for ten years, until we were forced to shutter it for financial reasons in 2000. A longer, less formal description of my experiences in magazine publishing (along with some of my editorials and idea pieces) can be found here.
Nearly all of my short-item writing since the folding of Visual Developer in 2000 has been for the Web.
Book Publishing and Bibliography
The Coriolis Group was founded to publish a technical magazine, but in the early 1990s we decided to create a parallel effort to publish technical books. Our first book appeared in January 1994. Technical book publishing was strong in the 1990s, and by 1997 Coriolis Group Books (as that part of the business was called) had become the largest book publisher in Arizona, employing 107 people at its peak and publishing over 130 titles per year.
The bursting of the Internet bubble took much of the profitability out of technical publishing by late 2000, and shortly afterward spun publishing in general into a recession that worsened post 9-11. Even after reorganization and several rounds of layoffs, The Coriolis Group could not regain its footing, and closed in March of 2002.
In the summer of 2002, Keith Weiskamp, Steve Sayre, Cynthia Caldwell, and myself (all former Coriolis staffers) created Paraglyph Press, again in Scottsdale, Arizona. The corporation was designed from its outset to be fully virtual: There is no central office, and we conduct our business via the Internet and phone. This allowed me to move to Colorado in 2003 and still continue my work with Paraglyph. We are too small to be specialists (yet), and my role there is what circumstances demand at any given time: I acquire books, develop concepts for books, promote our titles with the media, research publishing technology, and actually write a few of our books themselves when time allows.
My first book, however, was published long before Coriolis was founded, and I published books regularly with several large NY houses between 1985 and 1995.
Books Published as Sole Author
- Complete Turbo Pascal: Scott, Foresman, 1985
- Complete Turbo Pascal, 2E: Scott, Foresman, 1986
- Turbo Pascal Solutions: Scott, Foresman, 1987
- Complete Turbo Pascal, 3E: Scott, Foresman,1989
- Assembly Language from Square One: Scott, Foresman, 1989
- Assembly Language Step By Step: John Wiley & Sons, 1992
- Borland Pascal from Square One: Bantam,1993
- Assembly Language Step By Step, 2E: John Wiley & Sons, 2000
- Jeff Duntemann’s Drive-By Wi-Fi Guide: Paraglyph Press, 2002
- Jeff Duntemann’s Wi-Fi Guide, 2E: Paraglyph Press, 2003
- Degunking Your Email, Spam, and Viruses: Paraglyph Press, 2004
- Assembly Language Step By Step, 3E: John Wiley & Sons, 2009
Books Published With Other Authors
- Windows Programming Power with Custom Controls (with Paul Cilwa): Coriolis, 1994
- Inside the PowerPC Revolution (with Ron Pronk): Coriolis, 1994
- Mosaic & Web Explorer (with Urban Lejeune): Coriolis, 1994
- Mosaic Explorer Pocket Companion (with Ron Pronk and Pat Vincent): Coriolis, 1994
- Web Explorer Pocket Companion (with Ron Pronk and Pat Vincent): Coriolis, 1995
- Netscape & HTML Explorer (with Urban Lejeune): Coriolis, 1995
- Delphi Programming Explorer (with Jim Mischel and Don Taylor): Coriolis, 1995
- Delphi 2 Programming Explorer (with Jim Mischel and Don Taylor): Coriolis, 1996
- C++Builder Programming Explorer (with Jim Mischel): Coriolis, 1997
- Degunking Windows (with Joli Ballew): Paraglyph, 2004
- Degunking Your PC (with Joli Ballew): Paraglyph, 2005
My books have appeared in translation in many languages, including German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, Croatian, Polish, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese.
I have been a blogger since long before that awful word came into being. In June of 1998 I began posting daily or near-daily observations on the Coriolis Web site, at the encouragement of my ad sales rep for Visual Developer. As she put it, the advertisers liked my writing, and given our limited page count, it was an opportunity to work in a lot more product mentions. I’m not sure it ever sold us any ads, but VDM Diary gathered a following, and morphed into ContraPositive Diary after Visual Developer folded in the spring of 2000.
ContraPositive is not themed as many blogs are. It’s not “about” computing, or Wi-Fi, or religion, or politics. It’s a record of my life as an emergent process, done in the hope that others can use or at least enjoy some of the things I’ve learned and seen and done. It’s something like a public “day book,” as writers call it: The place to keep those strange ideas and vivid impressions that occur to one on a walk in the mountains, so that they can be put to use in later writing. It’s also good writing discipline. ContraPositive is now almost 3,000 items long, with many photos and individual entries as long as 1000 words.
I’m sure that ContraPositive is neither the oldest nor the longest-running blog on the Web, but it’s right up there, and I claim (with Lisa Marie Hafeli, God love her) independent invention of the concept.
I have programmed in quite a few computer languages, beginning with FORTRAN on an IBM 360 mainframe in high school. My primary experience, however, has been with APL, COBOL, BASIC, Pascal, Modula 2, and x86 assembly. (I wrote code for a few in-house languages at Xerox that are best left forgotten.) That said, most of what I have done has been in Turbo Pascal and its visual descendant, Delphi. Post-Xerox, the bulk of my programming has been to support writing and hobby projects, but I fielded a little mortgage calculator program with SofSource, a “$6.99” discount software publisher, in 1992. The program, albeit for DOS in text mode, was hugely popular with real estate agents and sold over 35,000 copies until the company ceased operations in 1996.
I still program in Delphi and occasionally x86 assembly, mostly to support other research and stay current. More recently, I’ve been using the free and open source Lazarus visual development environment for FreePascal, and recommend it, especially to students and hobby programmers.
Professional Affiliations and Awards
I received the Award of Distinguished Technical Communication and Best of Show for my book Assembly Language Step By Step, presented by the Phoenix Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication in 1993.
The Coriolis Group and several of our books (some of which I co-authored) won or placed in the Glyph Awards, conducted by the Arizona Book Publishing Association.
While living in Arizona, I was a member of the Arizona Book Publishing Association between 1992 and 2003. I served as President of the association for two years, 1999-2000.
I was a published SF writer before (if by only a few months) a published technical writer. Shortly after attending the Clarion East SF writing workshop at Michigan State University in 1973, I sold a short SF story to Harry Harrison’s hardcover anthology Nova 4. The book appeared in mid-1974. Since then I have had thirteen or fourteen professional publications in the SF world, depending on what you consider “professional.” All were short fiction. I did well in the 1970s, and in 1981 I placed two short stories on the final ballot of SF’s Hugo award. After I began writing for the computer technical press, my SF output fell off sharply. More details of my SF work can be found here.
My first SF novel The Cunning Blood was published by ISFiC Press outside of Chicago in November 2005. I self-published it on the Kindle store in 2015. In 2016 I self-published my second novel, this time a humorous contemporary fantasy, Ten Gentle Opportunities.
My Life and Other Passions
As I’ve told many people, I’m interested in almost everything except sports and opera. However, most of my spare-time energy has gone into technology projects of one kind or another. I built a simple but large reflecting telescope when I was 14, which is still in use today, though like the Dutchman’s Hammer there’s not much left of the original but the primary mirror. When I was 15 I ground and figured a 10″ Newtonian telescope mirror at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium for an even larger telescope, which is also still in use. I observe with both telescopes regularly. For details of these and other “junkbox” telescopes I’ve built, see my Junkbox Telescope Gallery.
I have been interested in electronics since I was 10, and throughout my teen years I was constantly assembling radios and other gadgets from parts pulled out of broken TVs and radios I picked up off the curb on Garbage Day. I won my 8th grade science fair with a simple robot the size of a cigar box that could follow a white line on the floor, or home in on a flashlight beam. I took a correspondence course in electronics while I was in college (hedging my bets against finding an acceptable teaching position) and while I was at it, obtained an Amateur Radio license in 1973. I have been a licensed amateur ever since then, and currently hold callsign K7JPD. My very first transmitter was homemade (again using tubes and parts yanked out of junk TVs) and I have always had a radio project or two on the bench somewhere since then.
My enthusiasm for electronics led me to wire-wrap a primitive home computer in 1976, from an article published in Popular Electronics. I was never without a computer (or five or six) after that time. I built two separate computers into an elaborate radio-controlled robot named Cosmo Klein in 1978, and appeared with Cosmo on an early Chicago cable TV show that no one saw. For several years Cosmo and I appeared at malls and computer shows, and had a fair amount of press exposure that culminated in a co-appearance (with several other homemade robots) in a 1980 issue of Look Magazine.
I have been building and flying homemade kites since I was seven or eight, and still build them on occasion, and used to fly frequently at kite gatherings in Chicago’s Grant park. I have a popular Web article (originally published in Kite Lines) on the seminal Hi-Flier Kite Company, which manufactured the paper kites that I and my friends flew in the early-mid 1960s.
My wife Carol Ostruska Duntemann and I met when we were juniors in high school, and she only two weeks past her sixteenth birthday. Without quite realizing what we were doing, we transformed one another in subsequent years: She drew me out of my eccentricity, and I drew her out of her shyness. We married in 1976, and I will stand beside her as long as I can stand at all.
We have kept bichon frise dogs most of our adult lives. The most famous of them, the regal Mr. Byte, appeared in all of my magazines and figured in most of my books. After seven years off, we adopted one again in mid-2005, the hyperdynamic QBit (for “quantum bit”). We currently have four, and Carol shows our youngest regularly in local dog shows. We are now living in Phoenix, Arizona (again) after spending 13 years in Colorado Springs.
Well, that’s what I’ve done, and most people feel that what you are is (mostly) what you do. If pressed to describe what I am, I simply claim to be an optimist. I used to say “contrarian optimist” until I realized that optimism itself is contrarian in these cynical times. (I don’t speak of “free gifts” either.) Call it gonzo optimism, then. It stems from an insight I didn’t have until my forties: Life is neither comic nor tragic, because there is no “life”—there are only lives, each of which is subject to forces and freedoms that none truly understand. No one knows how—or even if—it ends, so how in all honesty can anyone prescribe a path other than radical hope?