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The History and Philosophy of DDJ

The history of Dr. Dobb's Journal goes back to the earliest days of the microcomputer industry. In 1975, MITS created the Altair, the first real microcomputer. One of the few people who realized the significance of this event was Bob Albrecht, an ardent supporter of computer education for the masses. Albrecht had always believed that the general public should have access to computers and knew that the Altair and similar machines could make this happen. He also realized that widespread use of microcomputers was unlikely as long as the only language in which they could be programmed was assembly language.

Albrecht concluded that what was needed was a public-domain version of BASIC that could be distributed to microcomputer enthusiasts everywhere. He persuaded his friend Dennis Allison, a member of the Computer Science faculty at Stanford, to write a version of BASIC that was small enough to fit within the limited memory of the new machines.

Dennis and Bob originally published the design of "Tiny" BASIC in a quarterly tabloid, called "People's Computer Company" (PCC), in three parts during early 1975. PCC, which was created in the early 1970's by Bob, was devoted to computer games, BASIC programming and computers for the masses. In December 1975, Dick Whipple and John Arnold responded to the design articles with a Tiny BASIC that required only 3K of RAM.

Albrecht and Allison decided to publish Tiny BASIC as a three part document in newsletter format and "Dr. Dobb's Journal of Computer Calisthenics and Orthodontia" was born. The name "Dobb's" came from collapsing together (sort of) Allison's and Albrecht's first names. Unfortunately, the pasteup artist titling the original newsletter, thinking Allison's name was Don, combined it with Bob to produce Dobb (DOn and BoB). Jim Warren, DDJ's founding editor, gives an interesting account of this and other events of the time in the January '91 issue of DDJ (see "We, The People" in the special 15th Anniversary Section).

In any case, Dr. Dobb's Journal no longer distributes Tiny BASIC to the masses and today's DDJ reader is apt to be a professional who makes his or her "bread and butter" as a software engineer. DDJ caters to this individual by providing practical solutions to real-world problems. In the magazine, you'll find descriptions of algorithms, specific language implementations, and edifying examples of solutions to more general programming concerns. You'll also find "task specific" articles that solve a specific problem or provide a unique technique. DDJ is primarily a software magazine, but that doesn't negate the importance of articles featuring hardware and hardware-related subjects.

Finally, whether it be a letter to the editor describing an optimized "mouse trap" or an article on how to design your own "super widget," the articles in DDJ are often written by the readers of DDJ. If you have an idea, you can discuss it with the editors at

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