So, as part of my ongoing quest to have as spare an office as possible (you must understand that I mean spare by my usually cluttered standards–I do not intend to get rid of, say, the four large bookcases full of books, or the several hundred CDs, say; I just want to get rid of all the superfluous shit), I often grab a stack of old magazines I’ve kept around, and start going through them, looking for anything worth cutting out, and recycling the rest.
Yesterday I did some WebTechniques from 1999-2001, and boy, were they amusing–very much of their Internet-bubble time, and rife with flavor-of-the-month software and technology that no one even thinks about any more.
Today I started in on my old Dr. Dobb’s Journal. The oldest issues I have are from ’97 (I have the CD-ROM that had the text of articles up to that point), but boy, even that’s a heck of a time capsule–for instance, one of the big articles has to do with the Pentium II math bug, which I hadn’t thought about in years.
Also of interest are some of the authors, who I now know of from different contexts–for instance, I just noticed a C++ article from Nathan Meyers, who I know from both the gcc development list (not suprising), and from the occasional Debian list.
What’s really wierd, though, is how irrelevant it all it seems to me in retrospect. You have to understand, this is a magazine I’ve been reading off and on–mostly on, though I let my subscription lapse a couple of months ago for the first time in a decade–since I was, say, 15. That is more than half my life.
And yet, the vast majority of the stuff in these issues I’m looking at hasn’t had much to offer me–I mean, I do believe that some of it has indirectly made me a better programmer, if only by making me cognizant of some of the “big picture” issues of programming, or talking about language- and platform-neutral issues and such.
I guess this really drives home to me that I work outside the mainstream, and I don’t have any desire to move towards the mainstream. Dr. Dobb’s had become a magazine where articles were either oriented towards the mainstream–programming Windows stuff, or how to use whatever new Java interface Sun has dreamed up–or they were too specific to do anything for me–how to compute elliptic curves across 3D spaces or other such hyper-specialized stuff. So I don’t read it any more.