Re: upgrade treadmill...

Subject: Re: upgrade treadmill...
From: Garret Romaine <GRomaine -at- MSMAIL -dot- RADISYS -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 21 Jul 1995 15:07:00 PDT

Geoff writes:
> Here's a problem that concerns us all, at least to some extent: When
> do we stop upgrading our hardware and software and say "this is good
> enough... I don't really need more"? Can we do this? The question is
> relevant to the list in the specific context of publishing,
> particularly for freelancers.

Geoff, you make the 'upgrade treadmill' sound like a torture device in a
Hitchcock movie. It isn't all that bad, is it? I mean, it's kind of fun.

Arlen responded, in part:
>>...along the way, I keep my skills current for the marketplace and am more
employable by >>companies other than the one which employs me now.

To which I say, RIGHT ON.

I remember one day I suddenly looked at my computer and realized that I had
upgraded everything but the case -- over the years, I had gutted an IBM PC
XT and purchased a new power supply, new 286, 386, and 486 motherboards, a
new hard drive & controller, a new monitor and card ... but geez that case
was ugly. It had a hole cut in it so the new power supply switch was
accessible, it was scratched and dusty and dirty... so I went out and bought
a cool new tower case. I could now take all the old parts from all the
previous upgrades and build the kids a computer and keep them off mine for
awhile. Except they whined because it was too slow.

Then the mouse died, and the mouse pad got a really nasty stain... You're
right, Geoff, it never stops. How many of us started at DOS 3.3 and have fed
floppies into the drive right through to DOS 6.22? Probably a few...

I am building to something: for technical writers in the computer industry,
our hardware and software isn't just a hobby. They're our life. We take
pride in keeping up, in knowing about what's coming out soon. Sure, it would
be nice if everything froze, but that almost seems, well, un-American.
Change is good, right? Moore's Law states that the power of the processor
doubles every 18 months. Who wants to have guests over and show them a 386
SX with a CGA monitor? I could use my old copy of WordPerfect 4.1 on that
setup and still have a machine that is light years ahead of an IBM
Selectric. I could probably even write The Great American Novel on it. I
sure wouldn't want to write a user's guide on it, though. Or online help, or
a Web page.

Geoff, I think you're right to start this thread, even if your tongue may be
slightly in cheek, because it gets to the heart of what makes us good
technical writers -- the technical part. I've met too many tech writers that
are good at editing and text manipulation, but couldn't tell me how to swap
out a hard drive. For some reason they never got out a screwdriver and
opened that baby up. They were probably afraid of ending up in a scenario
like this: one time I started a motherboard upgrade with two working
computers and inside of a half hour, while the whole family was watching, I
was madly flipping through manuals trying to figure out why *neither*
machine would boot up. Soon I was reduced to sucking my thumb in the fetal
position while they laughed at me. Needless to say, I learned a lot that
time -- I stopped doing upgrades in public!

Garret Romaine
gromaine -at- radisys -dot- com

"Endeavor to persevere."


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