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August 7, 2017

The IBM Basic Handbook

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

The other day, I was looking over my personal library and noticed something missing: I didn’t have a copy of the IBM Basic Handbook (Figure 1). I was hired at CompuSoft Publishing specifically to help update that book’s second edition. It’s basically my first computer book, and I was disappointed that I didn’t have a copy.

Figure 1. The 2nd Edition of the IBM BASIC Handbook.

So I went on eBay and then Amazon to hunt down the book. I’m certain that I had copies way back when, and I don’t know why I’d ever throw them out, but I did. It’s now added to my collection of CompuSoft books, shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. The three books I worked on at CompuSoft Publishing.

I’ve written before about working at CompuSoft. I used their original IBM PC, model 5150, to write the IBM Basic Handbook. That machine didn’t have a hard drive, but it sported a single floppy drive and even a cassette tape port for data storage. After my tenure at CompuSoft, I purchased the machine and took all the original documentation, which is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. My collection of IBM PC references.

Anyway, the original edition of the IBM Basic Handbook was a mess and I fixed it up, added better examples, plus some humor that the book desperately needed. The owner/publisher/author didn’t like referring to me as a “ghost writer,” but his contribution to this specific title is that it’s based off of a book he’d written years earlier.

As I recall, the owner/publisher/author took a trip to Hawaii or some other location to “work” on the book. This occurred after I’d updated all the old text and added new information. I printed out the entire thing and he took it with him. He didn’t even have a computer in Hawaii, so I don’t know how he would correct anything I’d written.

When he returned, he had aggressively marked up the first several pages (something he probably could have done sitting at his desk in San Diego over the span of an hour). He told me to “continue like that” with the rest of the book. Okay, whatever. My credit is as “Technical Director,” which is pretty lofty-sounding for a 20-something kid.

Now that I again have the book, my CompuSoft title reference is complete. I have Learning IBM BASIC, the IBM BASIC Handbook, and the BASIC Handbook, 3rd Edition, each shown in Figure 2.

After completing the BASIC Handbook, 3rd Edition, I became bored. I left CompuSoft and went on to write my own computer books, edit a magazine, and eventually write DOS For Dummies. Yet, it was those first few books at CompuSoft where I learned my trade.

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