Charles Petzold

Big Changes for 2008

January 1, 2008
Roscoe, N.Y.

The year 2008 will probably witness the biggest changes in my professional life since 1985 — the year I left my job at New York Life Insurance Company to do full-time freelance writing for PC Magazine (and a little later, Microsoft Systems Journal and the first edition of Programming Windows).

Due to the extreme dwindling of the market for programming books — or at least the ones I write! — I can no longer rely on book royalties to keep me afloat. As of August, I have become available for consulting through Wintellect. Here's the press release announcing this news. If you need help with your WPF or WinForms programs, get in touch with them to work out the details.

I will still be writing books in my "spare time," of course, because that's what I like doing most of all. I hope to be lucky enough to be writing books for the rest of my life, and I hope to be correcting the pages of my last book on my deathbed. (I trust that even if the printed book dies, "non-fiction narratives of 50,000 words or longer" will still be viable forms of content provision.)

I suspect that the books I'll write in the future will not be programming books. Here's how I figure it: If I'm only going to make a tiny amount of money writing a book, I should probably be writing something with a potentially longer shelf-life than the typical programming book, and with possibly a broader audience, and offering greater challenges for me.

I am particularly interested in various aspects of the "pre-history" of computing — say from about the early 17th century up to 1940 — and I am most interested in writing books that explore episodes in this period from an historical, technological, mathematical, and philosophical perspective. I see the book that I'm finishing up this month, The Annotated Turing, as part of this enterprise, and I have ideas (and even chapters) for several other books along these lines.

One think I have to say about working in the computer industry: It never lets you get complacent!