Re: History of TW before the PC and the Internet

Subject: Re: History of TW before the PC and the Internet
From: johnbri -at- primenet -dot- com (John P. Brinegar)
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2000 09:25:20 -0700

My son, Dan, wrote the following:

>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-)

He got that completely wrong! I started in 1949 and we used full-length,
genuine, U.S. Air Force approved, #2 pencils. Well, the pads were yellow.

At that time, the tech writing we did was based on the notion that if you
tell them enough about how a thing works they can then figure out how to
operate, maintain, and fix it. For example, "electrons flow from the
cathode to the plate and the strength of that flow is regulated by the bias
voltage on the grid. This was to be interpreted as, 'if you look at the
vacuum tube and notice that the filament is not glowing, replace the
tube.'"

When we were finished scribbling on the pad and after revising by literally
cutting with scissors and pasting text and illustrations where you wanted
them, a woman (never a man) with a mechanical typewriter would copy from
the yellow pads to a sheet of bond paper. This was followed by a
labor-intensive process of review, revision, and recopying that led to
camera-ready copy to be sent to the print shop.

Usually, the camera-ready text was typed with a fairly decent typewriter
and seldom was it actually typeset.

I've been fortunate to see and to help promote the evolution from those
days to today's TW world of user job and task analysis, on-line user
performance support, desk-top and lap-top computers thousands of times more
powerful than the first computer I ever saw (1000s of "peanut" vacuum tubes
and big enough to fill one or two big rooms), and technical presentations
largely influenced by technical communicators. It's been great fun and so
is retirement!


-----------------------------------
John P. Brinegar http://www.primenet.com/~johnbri/index.html
Consulting and development Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A.
-Performance support systems (602) 278-7398
-Technical communications johnbri -at- primenet -dot- com or dad -at- vr2link -dot- com
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