Re: History of TW before the PC and the Internet

Subject: Re: History of TW before the PC and the Internet
From: Dan Brinegar <vr2link -at- vr2link -dot- com>
To: "Curtis Brautigam" <curtisb -at- nurserysupplies -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2000 07:23:38 -0700 (MST)

Good question, Curtis!

I wrote procedures and policies (and ghostwrote for various NCOs), and did
local manual-enhancements in the Army using punched cards, paper-tape,
selectric typrewriters and extremely primitive (read: unreliable) Optical
Character Recognition equipment in the early 80s -- of course, I worked on
the forerunner of Internet at the same time (DARPANet, OPSCOMM)... to the
civilian world, the equipment I worked with seemed laughably archaic (80MB
system packs and 300-baud modems as big as refrigerators-- when they were
only as big as desks at Honeywell, f'rinstance).

The electronic teletypes with CRTs arrived at our station in late 84 --
the first ones in the inventory (UGC-74, if memory serves).

The primary requirement at the time was a gut-level knowledge of how/why
the mainframe commo equipment we used worked the way it did... and the
patience to work with the Change-Page NCO two nights a week...

I seem to recall that the first two weeks of Phase Two of our Signal Intell
course covered communications, avoiding ambiguity, waking-up the president,
and "if you screw up, and miscommunicate, your customers could *die*"

Needless to say, that kinda stuck...

Immediately after my first hitch in the Army, I opped on an academic
mainframe system... wrote job-cards, tip-sheets, dabbled in CPL/JCL and
COBOL... already connected with acoustic modems and terminals, tho...
(those dang toy PeeCees were never gonna get their nose under the tent at
*that* school, my boss promised: and he refused to support the ones that
faculty brought in...).

I'd always been in an environment where you could reach out and touch
someone, so I'd always expected that any computer could do that-- as a
civilian it was a few years, tho, before that started to happen again.

My Dad, on the other hand, wrote his first technical document for pay in
1948 using yellow pads and stubby pencils... he has some good stories about
pre-PC typesetting equipment... He can comment at length about the skills
then and now if we can convince him to take the time 8-)

The forerunner to STC was formed in, IIRC, 1962... and the forerunner to
that was around '48: sort of informal groups of DoD and IBM types. The
first book I read on techwriting-as-a-profession was published in 1962.

At 8:27 AM -0500 2/11/2000, Curtis Brautigam wrote:
>I hope that this will be a very interesting discussion string. Are there any
>TW's on this list who engaged in technical writing before the advent of the
>PC and the Internet (I have the Typewriter-Mainframe era in
>mind)?[....]What did
>technical writers do in the Typewriter-Mainframe era?

-------------------------------------------------------------
Dan Brinegar Information Developer/Research Droid

The trouble with the popularity of Sport Utility
Vehicles is that *everything* sounds like the UPS truck.

vr2link -at- vr2link -dot- com CCDB Vr2Link
http://www.vr2link.com Performance S u p p o r t Svcs.

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