Re: Flawed software

Subject: Re: Flawed software
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 3 Feb 1996 19:16:57 -0800

Patty Ewy writes:

>Question: Is it possible to have perfect documentation
>for a flawed software product?

Of course. The APPLESOFT ][ REFERENCE MANUAL, which was included
with Apple ][ computers around 1980, was a wonderful example. It
described the actual behavior of every BASIC function, including
examples such as (I'm making this example up, but it's accurate
in spirit and tone):

INPUT VALUE RESPONSE
0-255 Returns the nth element of the array
255-32765 Generates an "OUT OF RANGE" error message
>32765 Hangs the computer. CONTROL-RESET must be pressed
to regain control of the keyboard; the program in
memory will be lost.

The authors simply put the Microsoft BASIC that shipped with their
computer under a microscope, and told you exactly what it did, without
pulling any punches or making any apologies. They even used warning
icons for functions that would cause things such as loss of program
or a system hang.

In general, the manual was direct, clear, reliable, and eminently useful.
Along with "HOW TO KEEP YOUR VOLKSWAGEN RABBIT ALIVE," I consider it
to be one of the great classics of technical writing.

-- Robert

Robert Plamondon, President/Managing Editor, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc.
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139


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