RE: History of TW before the PC and the Internet

Subject: RE: History of TW before the PC and the Internet
From: Kay Robart <kay -dot- robart -at- integratedconcepts -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2000 08:27:54 -0600

> What did
> technical writers do in the Typewriter-Mainframe era? What additional
> skills
> did the profession involve (except for the ability to write well)? When
> did
> technical writing (or technical communication) evolve as a specialized
> profession? This is, of course, not to mention what technical writers did
> before the age of the typewriter and the mainframe computer (there
> probably
> wasn't a distinct profession known as technical writing then).
>
Well, you make us sound a little like dinosaurs, but in my first
technical
writing job, which was actually in the early 80's (not that long
ago),
I wasn't even given a typewriter for the first few years on the job.
I had
to write everything in pencil and give it to a secretary to type.
Later, I
got a dummy terminal connected to a mainframe that had a rudimentary

word-processing program. You could just about get it to center,
bold,
and italicize.

This sounds rough, but because we couldn't produce materials for the
customer
that way, I got to learn about lots of things that many writers I
have encountered
these days know nothing about. I learned how to spec type, which I
did not
only for my department's efforts but for the marketing materials. I
learned
every aspect of print production, because we had our own print shop,
and I
was responsible for making sure the final efforts were of good
quality.
Since we translated our brochures into five languages, I was also
responsible
for finding the translators and making sure the translation work got
done on
time and the results were good.

In essense, I was responsible for every piece of literature or
documentation
that went out of the company, from inception to production. My
responsibilities
aren't that different now, but the way I meet them is much easier
and I
have a lot more control over the results!

Kay Robart





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