Re: Learning C code as a technical writer

Subject: Re: Learning C code as a technical writer
From: Kris Olberg <KJOlberg -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 11 Nov 1995 16:12:54 -0500

In a message dated 95-11-11 04:57:40 EST, you write:

>Many technical writing jobs require this skill for good reason. Have
>any of you ever heard of an API? I'm not sure of the translation of
>this acronym, but I believe it stands for Application Programming
>Interface. The "interface" in this case is the document, which is a
>result of the efforts of a technical writer, possessing skills in both
>writing and reading code.

You're right about a document being a type of interface. However, an API is a
mini-language consisting of "commands" or "macros" or "calls" that an
application programmer can use to communicate with another application.

>There are entire technical writing departments of several technical
>companies, that I know of, whose only function is to read programming
>code of software products and produce API documents.

I've been in the consulting/contracting business for a long time, and I've
never run across one of these. Are you able to publish their names?

>So, there is a very practical reason for a technical writer to gain
>comprehension of programming languages (the most common of which is now
>C and C++).

C and C++ are common, but there are still alot of corporations
writing/maintaining COBOL, PL/1, and other legacy-type languages. To learn
only one language may not be enough. (Certainly, universal programming
techniques such as sorting, looping, and assigning variables and arrays, are
readily translated from one language to another, but only if you're familiar
with the techniques themselves.)

>As for a resistance to learning a new skill, I am somewhat
>dumb-founded. Knowledge and experience are two things no one (and
>nothing) can take from you. Besides, you never know what doors this
>could open for you in the future. Also, there is a certain amount of
>independence that comes with every new skill.

You're absolutely right that new skills enhance marketability and other
aspects of one's career. But I can understand anyone's hesitation to take on
programming. It requires time and commitment, lots of hard work, and money.
Anyone who wants to learn C enough to read it should write at least one or
two simple programs. This requires a compiler and documentation. Not cheap
unless you can find access to one elsewhere.

kjolberg -at- aol -dot- com
kjolberg -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com
102031 -dot- 3554 -at- compuserve -dot- com

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