Re: TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 61, Issue 15

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 61, Issue 15
From: David Neeley <dbneeley -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2010 10:15:14 +0200

Ah, the DocuTech. That brings back memories!

I was working on a consulting at Xerox' El Segundo facility when the
DocuTech was launched. (El Segundo was the home of Xerox printer
design and manufacture, while the copiers were designed and built in
New York State).

Xerox used an in-house processor called a "Mesa" in the Docutech--in
fact, the original model had six of them, IIRC. This was the same
processor that was in their 6085 workstations--the successor to the
Star. The Mesa chip was all of 1 MIPS, by the way.

Later iterations of the DocuTech were greatly simplified to get the
cost down and performance up.

I thought it was a major design mistake to attach the scanner to the
machine; detached, remote ones that could have been networked to the
printer would have made it much more attractive in a campus setting, I

I also remember asking one of their Vice Presidents a couple of years
after the launch, when the DocuTech was a big hit--why they continued
to launch most products with numbers rather than names. I pointed out
that the DocuTech was something people could remember, while simple
numbers were far more difficult to remember in order to know what to
recommend or request. He had no answer, as was often typical of the
brass there.

That wasn't long after a rather infamous book was published about
Xerox called "Fumbling the Future." Had they been more aggressive in
capitalizing on all their developments, Xerox would today have been
larger than just about any other company. As you probably know, they
introduced the graphical desktop environment (copied by Apple for the
Mac and thence by Microsoft for Windows). PostScript was written as a
work-around by two former Xeroids who had developed Interpress for
Xerox (which had some distinct advantages, by the way, but which was
never released as a product by Xerox beyond incorporating it
internally in their printers)...and a host of others. I spent six
years there on one project or another, and I simply can't tell you the
frustrations that came from that experience.

My first project there involved using digital imaging in service
documentation, by the way. At that time, digital cameras were large,
cumbersome affairs that cost a small fortune--I think the one we were
using was in excess of $10,000, and the player to use the small tape
cartridges it recorded on was another $2500. After spending several
years getting it all working well, a few docs were published with the
digital images and the whole thing was promptly abandoned. At that
time, they had legions of artists drawing illustrations for their
manuals--which were promptly disposed of, as they didn't have adequate
storage space allocated for the images. Thus, each time a new set of
manuals was prepared, the art was recreated. In the one department
alone they had to do hundreds of these things for every doc set, for
printers with a service life of a decade or so which had new (small)
changes every year or two, and thus required a new doc set. What an
incredible waste!


On Tue, Nov 16, 2010 at 09:00, <techwr-l-request -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com> wrote:
> From: "Gene Kim-Eng" <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>
> To: "Bill Swallow" <techcommdood -at- gmail -dot- com>
> Date: Mon, 15 Nov 2010 13:34:24 -0800
> Subject: Re: State of the Technical Writing Field
> The great granddaddy of structured, modular documentation was (probably still is) DoD manuals.  There are probably other people here besides me who can remember receiving five pound update packages to massive ring-bindered tomes and spending many fun hours replacing dozens of single-sheet sections with catchy names like "31.567.1121B."  I remember our exceitement when the company I was working for at the time got one of the first Xerox DocuTech Production Publisher systems and salivating at the thought of being able to load all these subdocs into a data storage system (by scanning the camera-ready masters!!!) and then generate new and revised documents at will.  And at the time I wasn't even a technical writer yet; I was still an engineer.
> Gene Kim-Eng

Create and publish documentation through multiple channels with Doc-To-Help.
Choose your authoring formats and get any output you may need. Try
Doc-To-Help, now with MS SharePoint integration, free for 30-days.

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Please move off-topic discussions to the Chat list, at:

Previous by Author: Documentation for ebook readers
Next by Author: Cheap, simple organization: Rainlendar and PocketMod
Previous by Thread: Index subkeywords out of order in RoboHelp CHM file
Next by Thread: MadCap Flare

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads