Dr. Dobbs Journal

Dr Dobbs Journal was a computer reference magazine which was started in 1976 and contained many of the pre-cursors to much of the personal computing industry. Published by the People’s Computer Company of Menlo Park, California with Dennis Allison at the helm, the magazine ran in some form including the World Wide Web and the Internet until 2014 with then Editor in Chief Andrew Binstock announcing the end of the run.

He also had three of the best known programmers of the time in his cadre of contributing authors. They were Bob Albrecht, John Arnold and Dick Whipple. Jim C. Warren, Jr was added as the Editor of Dr. Dobbs Journal from the 2nd issue of the magazine in February 1976.

Below are the 15 compilations of the first years of the magazine in PDF (Zipped) format for all to enjoy. We have also included the two articles from the Editors at the end of the page.

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What’s DDJCC&O all about?

Issue No 2, February 1976

My gawd! Not another computer hobbyist magazine! That was my first reaction when People’s Computer Company approached me about becoming Editor of their one-issue-old infant, DR DOBB’S JOURNAL OF TINY BASIC CALISTHENICS & ORTHODONTIA. PCC had originally planned on publishing three issues of the JOURNAL. The response to the first, patchquilt issue, however, convinced them (and me) that an area of badly-needed information is not being covered by the presently existing publications. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that the other publishers will choose to cover that area; they have their hands (and pages) full just covering hardware and small bits of software.

What is this area; this information vacuum? It’s free and very inexpensive software. One of the primary thrusts of DR DOBB’S JOURNAL will be to present detailed informa­ tion concerning low-cost systems software; interpreters, compilers, structured assemblers, graphics languages, floppy disc file systems, etc. This will include user documentation and examples, documentation on implementation including complete source code listings, up­ dates giving errors and their fixes, explicit and detailed notes on the design and imple­ mentation of such systems software, and so on. This JOURNAL is explicitly available to serve as a communication medium concerning the design, development, and distribution of free and low-cost software for the home computer.

We encourage you to send in documented software, as you develop it. We hope that you will use the software that we publish in this JOURNAL; that you will study it and modify it to expand its capabilities, and that you will report any bugs you may note to us and to the authors.

We are also quite interested in publishing evaluations of any software and hardware that is being sold to the home computer user. We are supported by readers’ subscriptions rather than advertising. We will not hesitate to publish positive and negative evaluations. We adamantly hold the position that, if a manufacturer of some hardware or software is going to peddle it to unsuspecting consumers for a healthy profit, their product damn well ought to perform as well as their advertisements and profit imply it will!

There are some other areas of information that we expect to cover, not seen in most of the other major computer hobbyist publications. These include complete indices to all of those publications, directories of computer stores and distributors, listings of computer clubs and organizations, listings of users and their equipment, etc. Another tidbit: as long as we can afford to, we will carry classified ads.

We also plan to begin reprinting articles and schematics from the club newsletters. We have heard the comment, over and over, “I wish I could see the stuff that’s being printed by all the homebrew groups, but I just can’t afford to subscribe to all of them.” We expect to help with this desire.

Finally, we will be doing some fairly detailed “blue skying.” Everyone is wondering where home computers are going, and what the potentials are. We have a number of ideas (with more rolling in, every day) about what can be done in the immediately foreseeable future. We will be presenting them and encouraging their realization. The Votrax articles on page 32 of this issue are one small example of this.

Thank you for reading. We want your suggestions. We want your contributions of software, hardware designs, evaluations, and anything else you’re willing to share with other home computer enthusiasts. And, of course, we want your subscriptions. The more subscriptions we have; the more pages we can print; the more information we can pass along to you and your friends. If you like what you see here, we hope you will spread the word.

Nuf sed, for now. More in a coupla weeks.

-Jim C. Warren, Jr., Editor

Editor’s Preface from the Compilations

21 January 1977
Jim C. Warren, Jr., Editor

First of all, some mundane details: this is not one of those “Best of . . . ” digests; it’ s everything from the first year’s pub­lication of DDJ (except subscription forms & questionnaires, and propaganda concerning other PCC offerings. . . which we have managed to squeeze in at the end of the book). It con­tains all the rest of the content of the original issues—all ten issues of Volume 1. Please note that this includes now-obsolete product announcements, product pricing that is sometimes no longer valid, definitive predictions of things that didn’t happen, and all of our original, authentic typographical errors. We hope that you will also find that it contains considerable useful in­ formation, program listings, and reference material.

A Reference Periodical

From the beginning, we have viewed Dr. Dobb’sJournal as a reference publication rather than merely as a periodical. Thus, as we ran out of back issues, we repeatedly reprinted them as the demand for them continued and increased. Now that a year of publication has passed, and we find a consider­ able number of new subscribers requesting all back issues, we have chosen to bind Volume One into a more convenient form and continue to make it available. We expect to continue to reprint it, as long as there is a demand for it. We believe this is an appropriate policy for a reference periodical.

A Year of Hindsight

A more personal commentary: when Dennis Allison and Bob Albrecht first approached me about editing DDJ, I thought of it as an entertaining spare-time effort—an interest­ ing project with which to diddle for a while. I’m an inveterate project phreaque, and had been a computer fanatic for most of a decade. I had been following the development of hobby computing ever since I stumbled into one of the early meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club in April, 1975, and had written a couple of obscure articles for some of the early issues of Byte. But, when I took over as Editor of Dr. Dobb’s, I actually did so with little foresight—little vision of where DDJ could go, and little vision of where personal computing could go.

The vision remains misty, certainly, however some very exciting features are taking shape. The changes and growth that have taken place in this past year have been phenomenal, and they do little more than imply still greater development in the immediate future.

At the most obvious level: hardware has gone from strictly glitchy kits to assembled and reliable complete units. Systems software has gone from virtually nonexistent, to where multitasking, multi-user soft-disc operating systems are being offered to the hobbyist community. Average memory capacity on home systems has probably doubled, and possibly quadrupled. Though applications have remained quite limited, awaiting adequate systems software, it appears certain that they will develop much more rapidly in 1977.

The principal actors have also developed significantly. The customers —the hobbyists and users —have become more sophisticated and discriminating in their demands and their purchases. The vendors and manufacturers have, in many cases, overcome start-up prob­lems such as under-financing and inadequate customer service. Although there are still some highwaymen in this frontier community, most of the vendors are maturing into responsible, properly functioning organizations. As is the case with hardware and software, how­ ever, there is still considerable room for further growth and development.

The most exciting aspect of that hazy vision into the future, however, is my growing suspicion that personal and home computing well may have as significant an impact on the general public — the overall society — as has the automobile, the telephone, and tele­ vision . . . all of which were considered to be mere technical novelties of no practical value, when they were first developing. Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since the early 60’s, I have seen a number of attempts made at various forms of social utopias, and seen all of them fail — so I view this new potential utopia, “ computer power to the people,” with a somewhat jaundiced eye. However, the more I see of it; the more I slowly come to believe that the massive information processing power which has traditionally been available only to the rich and powerful in government and large corporations will truly become available to the general public. And, I see that as having a tremendous democratizing potential, for most assuredly, information — data and the ability to organize and process it —is power.

It is an exciting vision to me. I am honored to be a part of it. I wish to point out that you, who have chosen to read this book, must also be a part of that venture. This is a new and different kind of frontier. We are part of the small cadre of new frontiers men who are exploring it. To the extent that we can blaze a trail to new and useful pastures, the larger society will follow, and hopefully the overall culture will benefit. So, pick up your eight-bit musket and forge onward.


Farewell, Dr. Dobb’s

By Andrew Binstock, December 16, 2014

After 38 years of glory, the long run of Dr. Dobb’s has come to an end.

This year, our website will deliver almost 10.3 million page views, which is an unprecedented number for Dr. Dobb’s. It’s up from 9 million last year and 8 million three years ago. That kind of growth is somewhat unusual for a site that has not changed its look or its mission, nor indulged in tawdry tricks like click-bait headlines or slideshows promising 9 quick tips for choosing a coding style. The numbers confirm that there is a deep thirst in the programmer community for long-form technical content featuring algorithms and code, as well as strong demand for explanations of new developer technologies and reliable reviews of books and tools. 

If I were so inclined, this might be the right time for me to move on, and so leave, as they say in sports, “at the top of my game.” And indeed I will be leaving Dr. Dobb’s at the end of the year. But it would be more accurate to say that it is Dr. Dobb’s that is leaving: Our parent company, United Business Media (UBM), has decided to sunset Dr. Dobb’s. “Sunset” sounds like a marketing euphemism to avoid saying “closing down,” but in this context, it has a specific meaning that “closing” does not convey. That is, that there will be no new content after year end; however, all current content will be accessible and links to existing Dr. Dobb’s articles will continue to work correctly. It is the equivalent of a product coming to end of life. It still runs, but no new features will be added.

Over the years, my editorials have frequently analyzed market forces operating on different segments of the developer universe, so it would be wrong for me not to do the same for an event as personal and close to home as this. 

Why?

Why would a well-known site, dearly loved by its readers and coming off a year of record page views, be sunset by its owner? 

In one word, revenue. Four years ago, when I came to Dr. Dobb’s, we had healthy profits and revenue, almost all of it from advertising. Despite our excellent growth on the editorial side, our revenue declined such that today it’s barely 30% of what it was when I started. While some of this drop is undoubtedly due to turnover in our sales staff, even if the staff had been stable and executed perfectly, revenue would be much the same and future prospects would surely point to upcoming losses. This is because in the last 18 months, there has been a marked shift in how vendors value website advertising. They’ve come to realize that website ads tend to be less effective than they once were. Given that I’ve never bought a single item by clicking on an ad on a website, this conclusion seems correct in the small.

So vendors have redeployed their advertising dollars into more fruitful options. This is not a Dr. Dobb’s-only phenomenon. Our direct competitors, BZ Media (parent of SD Times) and c4Media (InfoQ), are experiencing the same pressures. They have responded by putting on small conferences, which generate much of their revenue. Dr. Dobb’s could do the same, but for the fact that our parent company is geared to large tradeshows, rather that many small events. (It owns Black Hat and Interop, among many other events.) Unfortunately, the software market today is so highly segmented that aside from vendor-sponsored events (JavaOne, Google IO, etc.), most successful programmer conferences are small, often very small. UBM argues (correctly, I believe): Why should we tie up resources starting a series of niche events that are unlikely to grow much, when we could put all that time, effort, and management attention into the bigger tradeshows and move the revenue up more quickly? The logic is unassailable. 

So rather than continue with Dr. Dobb’s until it actually loses money, they’ve decided to sunset the site — a sudden end to remarkably robust and wondrous journey that began 38 years ago. 

Personally

No amount of analysis and explanation can mask the deep, personal sadness I feel at writing about this decision. Like many of you, I grew up reading Dr. Dobb’s. For me, as I suspect it was for many of you, Dr. Dobb’s Journal was the lifeline to a thorough understanding of programming. I recall that when the magazine appeared in my mailbox, all other activity for the day came to a sudden stop and the remaining hours were spent blissfully poring over article after article, soaking in the information. I learned C from Allen Holub’s C Chest column, operating systems from the 18-part series on 386BSD, video programming from Michael Abrash’s Black Book, and data compression from Mark Nelson. And so on — each month brought new, enabling insights and explanations of often arcane topics.

Having this deep, passionate connection, I felt lifted in ways not often encountered in one’s career when I was approached about succeeding Jonathan Erickson, the editor who steered the magazine through its glory days in print. The honor of this position has fueled me every day, renewed by conversations in person with developers whose eyes would light up when I’d mention I worked on Dr. Dobb’s.

Putting aside my feelings, I should note that recent events fulfill the original vision of Dr. Dobb’s. The founders, Bob Albrecht and Dennis Allison, first put together a newsletter in 1976 with the specific aim of making programming information more accessible. It was an experiment in sharing. 

Dr. Dobb’s subsequent popularity meant that it became a worldwide means of sharing curated, high-quality programming info. The advent of the Web, which offered a vast array of new information sources, meant that Dr. Dobb’s was no longer the central access point — a complicated transition for the team, but one wholly in keeping with the original mission. With the advent of Hacker News and Proggit and other aggregators, developers themselves began curating content from numerous sources, and in a certain way, our mission is now complete.

This should not suggest that there is no role anymore for Dr. Dobb’s. As our page views show, the need for an independent site with in-depth articles, code, algorithms, and reliable product reviews is still very much present. And I will dearly miss that content. I wish I could point you to another site that does similar work, but alas, I know of none.

To the previous editors, especially Jon Erickson and Mike Swaine, to the many contributors, columnists, and bloggers (especially Al Stevens, Al Williams, Allen Holub, Andrew Koenig, Eric Bruno, Gastón Hillar, Herb Sutter, Mark Nelson, Pablo Santos, Scott Ambler, and Walter Bright), and to all of you, our dear readers, who sent us comments in the true spirit of sharing rather than admonishment, who helped us up if we slipped, and who gloried in our triumphs, allow me to quote Octavio Paz: Let me say “two words that all men have uttered since the dawn of humanity: thank you.”

Paz goes on to say, “The word gratitude has equivalents in every language and in each tongue the range of meanings is abundant.” Perhaps, none more abundant than in the sense I mean it today, as I thank you for so many blessings and contributions to Dr. Dobb’s



— Andrew Binstock
Editor in Chief
alb@drdobbs.com
Twitter: platypusguy 
Google+

P.S. Our managing editor, Deirdre Blake (dblakenew@gmail.com), who has toiled for two decades at Dr. Dobb’s, will be looking for similar work after a short break. I will be returning to my former work of writing white papers and doing market analysis for technology vendors. If you want to stay in touch, please follow me on Twitter at @platypusguy or feel free to email me at my personal address, which is my first name at pacificdataworks.com.