The idea for the magazine came from Donald B. Prell who was VP of Application Engineering at a Los Angeles computer input-output company. In 1957, the only place his company could advertise their products was in either Scientific American or Business Week. Prell had discussed the idea with John Diebold who started AUTOMATION magazine, and that was the inspiration for the name DATAMATION. Thompson Publications of Chicago agreed to publish the magazine.
Until microcomputers came along Datamation was the main general periodical of the computer industry. By reading it from cover to cover, and being very careful to study the ads also, it was possible to get an overall view of what was going on. When microcomputers finally started to become important in business and government it became necessary to read both Datamation and Byte magazine.
In 1998 datamation.com became one of the first online-only publications. In 2001 Datamation was acquired by Internet.com where it still maintains an online presence.
Traditionally, an April issue of Datamation contained a number of spoof articles and humorous stories related to computers.
However humor was not limited to April. For example, in a spoof Datamation article (December 1973), R. Lawrence Clark suggested that the GOTO statement could be replaced by the COMEFROM statement, and provides some entertaining examples. This was actually implemented in the INTERCAL programming language, a language designed to make programs as obscure as possible.
Some of BOFH were reprinted in Datamation.
The humor section was resurrected in 1996 with a two-page spread titled "Over the Edge" with material contributed by Annals of Improbable Research editor Marc Abrahams and MISinformation editor Chris Miksanek. Later that year, Miksanek became the sole humor contributor (though in 1998 "Over the Edge" was augmented with an online weblinks companion by Miksanek's alter-ego "The Duke of URL"). The column was dropped from the magazine in 2001 when it was acquired by Internet.com.
One other humor item may be worth a mention, just because of the participation of a major figure in the industry. In 1978 Datamation published a piece of mine called Excuse me, what was that? that documented a Today Show interview by Tom Brokaw of John Peers, who was demonstrating his company's speech recognition system. When that system didn't recognize a phrase, it would respond "Excuse me, what was that?" In the excitement of setup for the demo, the system was overtrained, so everything sounded the same to it, and every few seconds during the interview, it would repeat that phrase, driving interviewer and interviewee nuts. George Glaser, one of the proprietors of the system was present. On hands and knees, he crept behind the equipment, hoping not to be seen on national television, intending to stop the distraction by yanking some wires. Brokaw had the presence of mind to switch the machine off before George came into view. Datamation illustrated the piece with an excellent caricature of the scene, showing the distinguished Mr. Glaser creeping under the rug. The story got a lot of attention, and George told me that he was later introduced at an important meeting as "The Lump Under the Carpet." --Nels Winkless