More unabashed fawning over IBM (was: "RE: This too is technical communication")

Subject: More unabashed fawning over IBM (was: "RE: This too is technical communication")
From: "Andrew Warren" <awarren -at- synaptics -dot- com>
To: "Condo, Candis" <ccondo -at- c-cor -dot- com>, "Ned Bedinger" <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>, "Caroline Tabach" <caroline -dot- tabach -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 6 Jun 2007 19:55:35 -0700

Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com> wrote:

> I have some typewriter repair manuals that are gems of technical
> writing .... I'm describing the manuals for the IBM Selectric.

And then there's Andris Padegs' and Gerritt Blaauw's "IBM System/360
Principles of Operation", widely regarded as the best computer reference
manual ever written. It was originally written as the architectural
specification for the new machines; after they were built, it became the
reference manual.

Typical praise for the document:

From someone named Daniel Boulet, randomly selected from a web search:

My personal opinion is that the S/370 PofO is one of the best
written computer reference manuals of all time. It's actually
possible to jump into the manual and get a definitive answer to
practically any System/370 related question one might want to
ask. Compare that to the current style of so-called computer
reference manuals which seem to document by giving examples.
There are practically no examples in the S/370 PofO. Instead,
one gets clear, crisp and unambiguous descriptions of how a
System/370 system behaves. What a novel concept!

From Michael Flinders, also randomly selected:

Andris was a Latvian who had emigrated to America in his teens:
he had a thick Latvian accent and so was not an easy person to
understand. But he had an incredible ability to write concisely
and precisely. I commend to you the 360 Principles of Operation
for the quality of the technical English, in terms of the way it
expresses complex concepts very tightly.

And from Fred Brooks, in Chapter 6 of The Mythical Man-Month:

I think the finest piece of manual writing I have ever seen is
[Gerritt] Blaauw's Appendix to System/360 Principles of
This is the level of precision to which manual writers aspire

The ESA/390 Principles of Operation (an updated version of the S/370
PofO, itself an update of the S/360 PofO) is available online here (HTML

and here (ASCII text):


=== Andrew Warren - awarren -at- synaptics -dot- com
=== Synaptics, Inc - Santa Clara, CA

Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include support for Windows Vista & 2007
Microsoft Office, team authoring, plus more.

True single source, conditional content, PDF export, modular help.
Help & Manual is the most powerful authoring tool for technical
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