Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Who Am I?

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.

Education

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.

Employment Experience

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.

ContraPositive Diary

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.

Computer Programming

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 descendent, 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.

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 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.

Science Fiction

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.

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

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 now have four, and Carol shows two regularly in Colorado dog shows. We now reside in Colorado Springs, about seventy miles south of Denver.

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?

18 Comments

  1. raymond youmans says:

    What can be done with compactron and other tubes? I’d hate to just throw out the 200-300 tubes I still have. I don’t know if I’d be interested trying to make amps (for example) with these…to sell. I’d love to know there was someone (or a few someone’s) who would like to buy these, or some of these, for a small price-( just to make something on the deal.) Looking over your history…you look like you have been VERY busy. Just thought I’d ask someone who might have answers. Enjoyed your sites I have visited! Thanks for your time.

  2. Earl Green says:

    Hi Jeff, I found your site by accident looking for some info on obsolete Miller inductors. Didn’t find the info but started reading your blog. I too have been a tinker all my life and really enjoyed what I have read so far. I retired after 22+ years at McDonald Observatory just down the road from where we now live and was struck by your reference to Jean Texereau and know of his legacy at the observatory. Prior to that job I served 20 years in the USAF retiring as a Major. I had a BSEE when I entered the AF and they sent me back for a MS. I mostly worked in research labs, application engineer for comm equipment, and program manager while in the AF. Saw and built some really neat stuff plus worked in some strange places. My first computer was a KIM, then I got a PET and went through all the Commodore line before finally getting a PC and now am pretty much locked into the PC world. I’ve been experimenting with some of the really cheap TI “430″ boards and recently purchased two of the Raspberry-Pi “B” units so am now learning Linux plus program development for them. I’m also interested in 1-wire and have built some hardware over the years and now planning to move that to the R-Pi. During the time I have worked at the observatory, we built our current home in a fashion similar to “Earth ships.” You can see most of the construction details at my salukiman site. When my wife and I met in college she had been a saluki owner since she was around 5 so we have had a long sequence of salukis. We used to show them and lure course a while back. I designed and built some of the early electronic equipment used to control the speed of the lure and even published two articles in a national saluki magazine.
    It has been great finding you on the web. I’ll be back to finish all your articles. Thanks, Earl

  3. Richard Consales says:

    Your information on carbon microphones was priceless for me. I’ve been looking for a source for microphone carbon for a high school science lab project. I plan on having students construct microphones and create a telephone system in the classroom. I have an old book called “Electrical Things Boys like to Make” from the 40′s that describes how but over time the material availability factor fades. Can’t go down to the local hardware for what they spec. I’ll scan the pages and send them if you wish to see it. Do you know of any other sources for effective carbon granules to use other than the antracite coal method? I’m not too familiar with how to bake it down and would do better with a source of carbon already done. Any info you can provide would be appreciated. Thanks, Rich Consales Tech Teacher Morris Hills High School Rockaway NJ rconsales@mhrd.k12.nj.us

  4. jones says:

    Hiii Man,..You’re one of My Idol,…Great Jobs,..That You’ve Done So Far…:Salute::

  5. Craig Anderson says:

    I just stumbled across this site and I’m enjoying it immensely. I’m a 60 year old geezer software developer living in Pueblo. I head up to Colorado Springs for things like the Raspberry Pi Mix and 3d Printer meetups. I also read a lot of fiction, so I’ll take a look at what you have written. Anyway, I’m finding your
    online diary a hoot.

    1. I’m not entirely sure being 60 qualifies one for the Geezer Cluster–I’m there right now. Granted, I’m sure I did when I was thirty. But the targets keep moving. I hadn’t heard about the Raspberry Pi Mix but will look it up, and it’s possible that I’ll see you there. It’s a big part of my current research.

  6. Len G says:

    I remember Top Flite and Hi-Flier kites from my childhood, mostly Top-Flite because that was what was readily available. If I couldn’t find a box kite I tried for a Jolly Roger, they sold out pretty quick, but I remember the Biplane, 30, and Littleboy, too. I truly miss the paper kites.

    I preferred the box kites and didn’t find them all that fragile, BUT … I learned how to reinforce them with parts from defunct kites, usually ones my younger brothers had crashed.

    I’ve built quite a few from spruce strips and silkspan bought at a hobby store after the paper ones became hard to find. A couple of them were 6 foot high.

    A four footer ripped the passenger mirror off my car (I had tied it there after getting three full spools of lie out) and the weight of the mirror was enough to create drag and the kite kept going up until it was out of sight.

    One of the 6 footers had over half a mile of line out before a gust of wind broke it free. Lost it, of course.

    I purchased a nylon box kite for my granddaughter, just to get her started, and get her away from those awful plastic delta kites. I’ve begun building diamond kites with wrapping paper and 30 inch marshmallow skewers, and have a box kite in the planning stage.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  7. russ costanza says:

    Jeff, i remember those man on the moon kites so vividly,also the Dragon kite was one of my favorites, It was yellow back round with a green dragon, those were the two kites i bought the most, Great memories.

  8. Steve Moulding says:

    Jeff,
    You may already know about this, but if not, a very interesting archive.

    http://archive.org/details/meccano_magazine

  9. Like others, I stumbled on this by accident while trying to find out why a client’s Windows Update isn’t working. I am so happy to see that one of my heroes from the 1990s has made it into 2014. I had to get out of programming because there’s no money in the USA in a field that has been shipped to India because of the cheap labor there, but I will never forget my days writing my harness race simulator in Turbo Pascal. I still linger on as a network consultant, but programming was lots more fun. There are two great Jeff’s in the computer field, Jeff Duntemann and Jeff Middleton, each always with a special place in my heart.

  10. Jim Boardman says:

    Hi Jeff – I’m a long time follower, starting in your Borland days, and have bought several of your books. You’re a talented author and I have a hard time understanding how you find time to be so prolific when you’ve got so many other interests! I imagine your fingers flying over the keyboard in a blur…

    Like you, I’m a Delphi programmer, a ham (KJ1MBO, studying for my Extra Class license right now) and an electronics tinkerer. I built my first Heathkit, an AR3, in 5th grade and many others after that including an SB-301 and SB-401.

    I’m writing in response to your Jan 21, 2014 “The March of Computer Time” piece. My first job after university was in radar research at a college in Rapid City. As principal software developer on a “maxed out” PDP-8 system, I wrote everything in “PAL” (Program Assembly Language). Our beloved “mini-computer” had three 8 foot, 19 inch racks filled with most of the goodies that a PDP-8 was able to interface with including expanded memory (8K core as I remember) and dual DECTapes!

    That was 1967 to 1971. I still have, in a protected tape tray, a set of paper tapes used to boot the PDP-8 and also run small programs. We had an ASR-35 teletype. I would be more than happy to send some of these tapes – just let me know an address! I’ve got several DEC tapes too if you have an interest.
    73 – Jim

  11. J.D. Hildebrand says:

    Hi Jeff.

    Your name came up unexpectedly in a conversation I was having with a new friend, and your face appeared vividly in my memory. I’m living in Serbia now, of all places, supporting myself with freelance writing and editing while finally raising a family. My first child, little Maja, turns 2 in a couple weeks.

    I stopped by to take this opportunity to embarrass you once more with a flat declaration of admiration and affection. We ran the good race, you and I, and every time I thought I was ahead, I looked up and there you were, slipping past me yet again.

    Be well, and my best to everyone.

    JDH

  12. Stephen Walters G7VFY says:

    Hi there,

    I really liked your Compactron page. I accidentally bought some to experiment with. Big problem… decent sized high voltage mains transformers are hard to find, and expensive.

    However, I found some useful links that you might want to have a look at:-

    http://www.jogis-roehrenbude.de/Leserbriefe/H.M.Sauer/Schaltnetzteil_mit_Roehren/Schaltnetzteil.htm

    http://electronbunker.ca/BplusSMPS.html

    regards

    Stephen Walters G7VFY
    07956-544202

  13. Jason says:

    Your book on assembly is a priceless addition to my library of programming books. As a beginner with assembly even I with a programming background (C/C++) found it was impossible to learn anything useful from other assembly texts. They displayed the information, completely ignoring that they had skipped on teaching or even referring to the prerequisite concepts to be understood, truly as if they were on their “high horse” and were too good to bother explaining the minor details to the laymen. I could not begin to express how other texts had failed where you succeeded, in expressing all of the prerequisite information and concepts to understand and connecting them with their applications in real examples. I personally feel as if you have a civic duty to continue releasing new editions (Hopefully soon, to go over 64 bit architecture).

  14. chenhao says:

    我非常感谢您写汇编语言基于LINUX环境 这本书与众不同 阅读中非常开心 感激之下我一定要表达我的感激之情~!谢谢您 Jeff Duntemann
    I thank you very much for writing assembly language environment based on LINUX distinctive reading this book under appreciated very happy I must express my gratitude ~! Thanks Jeff Duntemann
    I am Chinese, I use the Google translator if there is something wrong places also like him to bear

  15. chenhao says:

    我在网上找到了您的一些照片设置了壁纸~!哈哈太帅了~!您真的很帅~!

    I found online a few photos of your set wallpaper ~! Haha handsome ~! You really handsome ~!

  16. chenhao says:

    我会把您的名字贴在我家的墙上~!我会永远记住您~!
    I’ll stick your name on the wall in my home ~!
    Jeff Duntemann
    I will always remember you

    I like you

  17. Hi, Jeff! It’s been years since we’ve communicated, but I still think of you as a good friend. (Chalk that up to being extremely introverted. I can live a rich, full social life without leaving my home.) Lots to catch up on; perhaps the biggest thing for me is that I quit my job in March with no job to go to and finished writing a book on forgiveness. Now I am trying to figure out how to make an EPUB from the InDesign files. (I’ve got it laid out for print right now, and it looks gorgeous.) Send me an email if you like; I’d like to get back into regular communication with you.

    Warmly,

    Marina

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