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Charles Petzold

Charles Petzold

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Charles Petzold is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

A programmer, computer programmer or coder is someone who writes computer software. The term computer programmer can refer to a specialist in one area of computer programming or to a generalist who writes code for many kinds of software. One who practices or professes a formal approach to...

 and technical author on Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft.Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces . Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal...

 applications. He is also a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional
Microsoft Most Valuable Professional
The Microsoft Most Valuable Professional is the highest award given by Microsoft to those it considers "the best and brightest from technology communities around the world" who "actively share their ... technical expertise with the community and with Microsoft"...


He graduated with a Master of Science
Master of Science
A Master of Science is a postgraduate academic master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The degree is typically studied for in the sciences including the social sciences.-Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay:...

 in Mathematics from Stevens Institute of Technology
Stevens Institute of Technology
Stevens Institute of Technology is a technological university located on a campus in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA – founded in 1870 with an 1868 bequest from Edwin A. Stevens. It is known for its engineering, science, and technological management curricula.The institute has produced leading...

 in 1975. Aside from writing books about Windows programming he has contributed to various magazines about computers.

He had an interest in electronic music and in 1977 started building electronic music instruments out of CMOS
Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor is a technology for constructing integrated circuits. CMOS technology is used in microprocessors, microcontrollers, static RAM, and other digital logic circuits...

 chips. In 1979, Petzold started building a computer-controlled digital electronic music synthesizer
A synthesizer is an electronic instrument capable of producing sounds by generating electrical signals of different frequencies. These electrical signals are played through a loudspeaker or set of headphones...

 based on the Intel 8080
Intel 8080
The Intel 8080 was the second 8-bit microprocessor designed and manufactured by Intel and was released in April 1974. It was an extended and enhanced variant of the earlier 8008 design, although without binary compatibility...

A microprocessor incorporates the functions of a computer's central processing unit on a single integrated circuit, or at most a few integrated circuits. It is a multipurpose, programmable device that accepts digital data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and...

. This experience of digital circuitry and assembly language
Assembly language
An assembly language is a low-level programming language for computers, microprocessors, microcontrollers, and other programmable devices. It implements a symbolic representation of the machine codes and other constants needed to program a given CPU architecture...

 programming formed the basis of his book Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software.

Petzold purchased a two-diskette IBM PC in 1984 for $5,000. This debt encouraged him to use the PC to earn some revenue so he wrote an article about ANSI.SYS
ANSI.SYS is a device driver in the DOS operating system that provides extra console functions through ANSI escape sequences. It is partially based upon a subset of the text terminal control standard proposed by the ANSI X3L2 Technical Committee on Codes and Character Sets .-Usage:To use ANSI.SYS...

 and the PROMPT command. This was submitted to PC Magazine
PC Magazine
PC Magazine is a computer magazine published by Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings Inc. A print edition was published from 1982 to January 2009...

 for which they paid $800. This was the beginning of Petzold's career as a paid writer.

In 1984, PC Magazine decided to do a review of printers. They asked all current New York contributors to help with the review. Petzold showed the staff some small assembly-language programs he had written. Soon he was busy writing little 300-500 byte .COM
COM file
In many computer operating systems, a COM file is a type of executable file; the name is derived from the file name extension .COM. Originally, the term stood for "Command file", a text file containing commands to be issued to the operating system , on many of the Digital Equipment Corporation mini...

 file utilities for PC Magazine.

Petzold was soon getting so much freelance work from PC Magazine that he was able to quit his job.

Microsoft Corporation is an American public multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of products and services predominantly related to computing through its various product divisions...

 then decided that Microsoft Systems Journal would cover both DOS
DOS, short for "Disk Operating System", is an acronym for several closely related operating systems that dominated the IBM PC compatible market between 1981 and 1995, or until about 2000 if one includes the partially DOS-based Microsoft Windows versions 95, 98, and Millennium Edition.Related...

 and Windows programming. Jonathan Lazarus who contracted with Microsoft knew a few PC Magazine authors so he recruited Petzold to write some articles. Petzold wrote the article A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your First Windows Application" for MSJ, Vol.1, No. 2 (December 1986) which he believes was the first article about Windows programming to appear in a magazine.

Petzold told some people at a Microsoft-related function that he really enjoyed writing this type of article. This news was relayed to Microsoft Press
Microsoft Press
Microsoft Press is the publishing arm of Microsoft, usually releasing books dealing with various current Microsoft technologies. Microsoft Press' first introduced books were The Apple Macintosh Book by Cary Lu and Exploring the IBM PC by Peter Norton in 1984 at the West Coast Computer Faire...

 editor-in-chief Susan Lammers. This resulted in Petzold being contracted to write the first edition of Programming Windows from January until August 1987.

After seven years of being engaged Petzold married Deirdre Sinnott on October 28, 2007.

Out-of-print books

  • Programming Microsoft Windows with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET (Microsoft Press, 2002; 1303 pages)
  • Programming Windows, 4th edition (Microsoft Press, 1996; 1100 pages)
  • Programming the OS/2 Presentation Manager (Microsoft Press, 1989)
  • Programming Windows 3.1, 3rd edition (Microsoft Press, 1992; 983 pages)
  • Programming Windows, 2nd edition. (Microsoft Press, 1990)
  • Programming the OS/2 Presentation Manager (Ziff-Davis Press, 1994; 934 pages)
  • Programming Windows, 1st edition (Microsoft Press, 1988; 852 pages)

Books that were never published

  • Graphics Programming in Windows
  • The OS/2 Graphics Programming Interface


  • Contributor to Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think, edited by Andy Oram & Greg Wilson (O'Reilly, 2007)
  • Contributor to Extending DOS, edited by Ray Duncan (2nd edition, Addison Wesley, 1992)
  • Contributor to Microsoft Press Computer Dictionary (Microsoft Press, 1991)
  • Contributor to Extending DOS, edited by Ray Duncan (Addison Wesley, 1990)
  • Contributor to The MS-DOS Encyclopedia, edited by Ray Duncan (Microsoft Press, 1988)


  • PC Magazine
    • Contributing Editor (1985 to 2005)
    • PC Tutor column (1985 to 1987)
    • Environments column (1987 to 1995)
  • Microsoft Systems Journal
    • Contributing Editor (1987 to 2000)
  • Windows Sources
    • Contributing Editor and Columnist (1993)
  • MSDN Magazine
    • Contributing Editor (2000 to present)

Online articles

External links