RE: History of TW before the PC and the Internet

Subject: RE: History of TW before the PC and the Internet
From: jack_vanwye -at- nonhp-ex -dot- cv -dot- hp -dot- com
To: curtisb -at- nurserysupplies -dot- com, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2000 08:45:26 -0800


I am one of those "dinosaur" Technical Writers. I have been a TW for over 22
years. I even pre-date using the typewriter for technical writing drafts!

I first started technical writing for the State of Oregon in a position called a
Management Analyst. You are correct, at that time I had never formally heard of
the word "technical writer" (as a paid profession) in any of the circles with
which I associated. The date in time: May, 1978!

I wrote for several years using a legal pad and ink pens. I would write
detailed accounting and financial reporting manuals manually and then send the
drafts to a secretarial pool to transcribe using a typewriter.

I wrote that way for about eight or ten years. Then, a technological
"breakthrough," my director bought two HUGE, cumbersome Micom word processors.
WOW! Was I in start-of-the-art technology heaven - writing on a "almost
computer!" My TW peer and I would type our drafts and store them on eight-inch
floppies. We then sent the floppies to the secretarial pool once again to have
those folks "copy and paste" the draft material into internally-created
WordPerfect templates.

Now I work as a contractor and own my own TW and editing business with truly
state-of-the-art technology (at least until another six months or so when these
technologies become obsolete - AGAIN! :) at my fingertips.

More questions or need for clarification? Please drop me a note (online or off)
and I'll expand on my personal TW era.

Thanks for the question. Us "old-timers" appreciate the interest!


Jack Van Wye, CDI Senior Technical Writer
Corvallis, OR 97330
(541) 715-7423

-----Original Message-----
From: Curtis Brautigam [mailto:curtisb -at- nurserysupplies -dot- com]
Sent: Friday, February 11, 2000 5:27 AM
Subject: History of TW before the PC and the Internet

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)? It seems
that we as technical communicators in the 21st century have all of these
great tools (Word, FrameMaker, Illustrator, Corel Draw, the Pentium III, the
Mac, printers, scanners, the Internet, listervs, etc., etc.) at our disposal
and seem to take them for granted. It is also apparent that a lot of the
products that technical writers document today (especially the majority of
computer software) did not exist in the Typewriter-Mainframe era. 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).

Of course, technical writing has been with us since the beginning of writing
itself. There is technical writing in ancient documents. Even the Bible
contains a good amount of technical writing. I think it would be a fruitful
endeavor to begin to look at technical writing in a historical perspective.

Curtis R. Brautigam
Technical Writer
Nursery Supplies, Inc.
Chambersburg, PA.

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