Re: Advanced Degrees

Subject: Re: Advanced Degrees
From: betsyp -at- VNET -dot- NET
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 1996 08:40:51 -0500

David Hailey <FAHAILEY -at- wpo -dot- hass -dot- usu -dot- edu> wrote:

> These schools have no idea (nor interest in) what the market
>demands. They call a professional approach to technical writing education
>"mercenary" and argue that there is no point in teaching skills that require
>software because the software will be obsolete in six months-- I use
>everything from Word to RoboHELP to PhotoShop, to Fractal Painter, to Toolbook
>and Director, while I have seen them change, I have yet to see an important
>software go obsolete--well, maybe Multi-Mate.

I wonder if this is a generational thing? I began technical writing
in the early '80s, and many of the tools I used then are no longer
sold, updated, or useful: Scribe (which I rather miss), WordStar, and
MacWord, to name a few. I doubt there's a lot of troff work out
there, although I'd be horrified but not surprised to find out I was

Perhaps the hit software of the '90s will never die; perhaps the
computer marketplace is more stable now than it used to be. I
wouldn't bet on it; A Better Idea is still just around the corner, and
the bright young souls who start The Perfect Tech Pubs Tool Company
next week will, like their predecessors, develop new user interfaces
that express their idea of how work should be done.

I feel that word-processing tools for writers are like computer
languages for software engineers: although knowledge of them is
necessary, the experienced developer is prepared to learn new tools at
a moment's notice. (I became the local Microsoft Word expert a week
after I first ran the program.) A real education, in technical
communications or the liberal arts, teaches the graduate how to teach
him/herself, and warns him or her that education is a lifelong task,
not something that is completed when you receive a certificate. Many
of the tools I learned in computer science classes in college are dust
on 7-track magtapes; the design and analysis principles I learned
remain valid, and have lit my way as I explored new frontiers.

Betsy Perry
Elizabeth Hanes Perry betsyp -at- vnet -dot- net

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