Do TWs need to be formally educated in engineering and science? was, RE: old school

Subject: Do TWs need to be formally educated in engineering and science? was, RE: old school
From: "Leonard C. Porrello" <Leonard -dot- Porrello -at- SoleraTec -dot- com>
To: "AL Geist" <al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 20 May 2008 09:12:23 -0700

Al's comments bring to mind what appears to be a contradiction in an
important claim asserted by another list contributor. I hope he'll
correct me if I misunderstood his point, but I understood Gene Kim-Eng
to state, forcefully, that it will go poorly with technical writers of
the near future who lack an education in engineering or one of the

He later said the most important thing he learned while studying
engineering was that what he knows today will be obsolete in a few years
time. I think Al's message below illustrates that claim. It's all nice
to know, but knowledge of past technologies--for the technical
writer--is mostly trivia. For example, my experience with DOS in the
1980s helps me to understand the command line in Windows XP, but I could
just as easily learn everything I need to know about the Windows XP
command line by using it. (In contrast, I would assert that knowledge of
past technologies is indispensible for the engineer; those who haven't
learned from the mistakes of the past....)

I've also heard, from several engineers, that the most important
learning happens on the job.

So I wonder, how can someone say, on one hand, that what one learns in
college as a student of engineering or science is irrelevant within a
relatively short time after graduation, and on the other hand, that an
education in engineering or the sciences is essential--for a technical

In contrast to the claims made by engineers, I daily use much of what I
learned as an undergraduate in philosophy and graduate student in

Granted this, it seems to me, all other things being equal, that the
technical writer with an education in letters, who has received on the
job training, would be a stronger technical writer than the engineer
with little or no education in letters.

And if this claim is too strong, I still don't see, in light of Gene's
own comments, how an engineer who switches to technical writing is
better off than the technical writer, educated in letters, with an
aptitude for understanding and explaining technology.

I should add, I am not saying that engineers without a formal education
in letters make poor technical writers; nor am I denying that a formal
education in engineering or science would help a technical writer; nor
am I asserting that a formal education in letters is the only
prerequisite required for the technical writer.


-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+leonard -dot- porrello=soleratec -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+leonard -dot- porrello=soleratec -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- c
om] On Behalf Of AL Geist
Sent: Tuesday, May 20, 2008 7:57 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: RE: old school

DBaseII, Aldus Pagemaker, Wordstar, Mulitmate, Visicalc, Apple I,
PDP1170, Octal tape readers, tube radios, the first chips (AND and OR
Flip-Flops, and Inverters were all that was available in the
1960s), MS-DOS2.11, 4.77 MHz XTs before hard drives....and the list goes
one. It has been a wonderful and exciting ride being part of an industry
that moved from vacuum tubes and paper tapes to SOCs and terabyte

I moved from engineering to technical writing back when the IBM Composer
the output tool and layout was on blue-lined card stock. I still have my
Xacto knife and a there's a portable waxer and a few sheets of rubylith
in a
box somewhere.

Al Geist
Technical Writing, Help, Web Design, Award Winning Videos
Office/Msg: 802-872-9190
Cell: 802-578-3964
E-mail: al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com
See also:
Fine Art Photographer and Note Cards for Special Occasions
" ... I walked to work, quit my job, and kept walking. Better to be a
pilgrim without a destination, I figured, than to cross the wrong
every day." (Anon)


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Re: RE: old school: From: quills
Re: RE: old school: From: John Hedtke
RE: RE: old school: From: Al Geist
RE: RE: old school: From: John Hedtke
Re: old school: From: Beth Agnew
Re: old school: From: Chris Morton
RE: old school: From: AL Geist

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