Re: Programming Tools -- How Prevalent Are They? - LONG (#918709)

Subject: Re: Programming Tools -- How Prevalent Are They? - LONG (#918709)
From: Bill Burns <wburns -at- MICRON -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 31 May 1996 11:58:12 -0600

31-MAY-1996 11:08:13.86

Bill writes:

>When authoring reference information, the text book doesn't cover it any
>more gang. The younger gens (like gen X and below... to which I belong by
>the way) don't have the attention span to pour over reams of DBC's (dense
>blocks of crap) to find out how to sub-class a function. And, lets face
>facts. The people pioneering and using the newer techniques (especially
>true OO, not VB or other screen scapers) are from the younger
>"tv-visual-driven" generations. (Bill Gates, Scott McNeely, Marc
>Andressen, the guys at Yahoo are just a few examples.)

Bill, I'll remind you of the adage Benny Hill used to tout (or at least touted
once--dunno, saw one episode, and he said it there--hated Benny Hill anyway):
When you ASS-U-ME, you make an A** out of -U- and -ME. ;-)

The reason I'm saying this is because I don't want to be lumped into one giant
Gen-X category that automatically includes such defining characteristics as "low
attention span." I think the assumption of Gen-Xers having low attention spans
may have more to do with a specious attitude about what Gen-Xers are supposed to
value. For example, why would the average person be interested in math or
science when our culture has planted the techno-dweeb image so firmly in his or
her mind--not only using television and film, but in the very concepts of what
constitutes masculinity and femininity? Obviously, the average learner's
attention is going to be lessened if they've learned that the culture doesn't
value whatever the learner is being taught.

I'm also a Gen-Xer, but I find verbal presentation alone adequate (and sometimes
preferable) for much of the information I need to know. Visuals are helpful,
and metaphors and analogies make the transition between verbal and visual
processing an excellent means for me to conceptualize what I learn.

But I'm not claiming that the traditional textbook model is the BEST for
transferring information. If you compare newspapers of 100 years ago to those
of the '50s or of the present, you'll see a dramatic increase in the amount of
information that is transmitted using pictorial images rather than text. In
some article I read a while back (sorry, can't remember the source), some
researchers claim that we, as a culture, are actually returning to a more
effective means of transmitting information. I'm not sure if I buy their
argument, but we *are* becoming a much more visual culture, and that change (if
it was ever really a change) began well before television came on the scene.
Do we need a new, more visual paradigm for the textbook? Possibly. I think
it's already under development, if the discussions on this list concerning
illustration and graphics are any indication.

BTW, I liked Sue Gallagher's note on the necessity of verbal instructions. I
don't think strings of emphatic grunts could quite get our messages across.

Bill Burns
Assembly Training and Documentation Supervisor

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