Fare Thee Well, Dr. Dobb’s Journal

I was a little choked up when I read Andrew Binstock’s post Farewell, Dr. Dobb’s. The articles in the magazine were a powerful influence on the quality of my technical skills.

In early 1987, I was in the final quarter of a vocational/technical programming curriculum.  I would soon be out looking for gainful employment as a computer programmer.

I read a fair number of computer magazines at the time, but most specialized in the Commodore 64 family of computers.  I read Byte magazine regularly and enjoyed much of the content.  I especially enjoyed poring over the source code offerings … until they stopped publishing source code.

I was perusing the magazine section of a Waldenbooks and found the March, 1987 issue of DDJ:


I didn’t really understand most of what the magazine had to say, but I bought it anyway.  I kept poring over it, thinking that one day, I would understand this stuff.

I had missed the next couple of issues, but I caught up again with the June issue:


There was a lot of good stuff in that issue.  I particularly remember the XOR Chain article from that issue.  From that point on, I didn’t miss an issue in over a decade.

My favorite columnist in those issues was Allen Holub.  I credit him as being my C teacher through his DDJ column C Chest.

As I transitioned into a job as a C programmer, the magazine became much more important.  Each month, the magazine seemed to have something of great value.

Jeff Duntemann’s column was always an interesting read.  He would usually write his code examples in Pascal or Modula-2, but that didn’t matter.  Most of us were conversant in multiple programming languages, so the ideas were often more important than the code itself.

I came to recognize many other quality authors’ names over the years.  I regularly read articles by Namir Clement Shammas, Ernest R. Tello, Ray Duncan, David E. Cortesi, Martin Tracy, Kent Porter, Bruce Tonkin, Al Stevens, Scott Robert Ladd, Nico Mak, Michael Floyd, Herb Schildt, Mark Nelson, Andrew Schulman, Scott Guthery, Michael Abrash, Al Williams, and others.

( I accidentally sat at a lunch table with Michael Floyd at an XML developers’ conference in New York in the early 2000’s … he’s the only fellow above I’ve ever met. )

As my skills grew, I began writing for technical publications in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  In 1995, I had my first article published for DDJ in the Sourcebook for Internet and WWW Programming.


I believe my article in the magazine above to be the first CGI web programming article using the C language in print.

In pitching and submitting the article, I worked with then editor-in-chief Jon Erickson, who coincidentally penned the first computer book I had ever purchased: Going Ahead with Extended Color BASIC for the TRS-80 Color Computer.

I later wrote a review of the Thompson Automation AWK (TAWK) compiler for the monthly magazine.


I worked with Jon on a pitch for another article in late 2005, but I found it to be too close to another article posted on the DDJ web site. I withdrew the pitch and didn’t end up writing for them after that.

I had some difficulty keeping up with DDJ after it had ceased printed publication.  I believe that I had a few issues in PDF format, but the electronic subscription changed to some kind of web-based reader application that no longer functioned properly with my web browser.

I would see the occasional article referred to on other tech aggregator sites, but I find content more to my liking on a variety of blogs and web sites.

Although I agree with the decision to effectively “sunset” the brand as a publication, I hate to see it go.  Learning from the magazine was pivotal to honing my skills.  Writing for DDJ was certainly a badge of honor.

About Jim Lawless

I've been programming computers for about 38 years ... 32 of that professionally. I've been a teacher, I've worked as a consultant, and have written articles here and there for publications like Dr. Dobbs Journal, The C/C++ Users Journal, Nuts and Volts, and others.
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