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Yes, but the broken books you are fixing were written by your
contemporaries, not colleagues of long ago. The manuals that
*supposedly* are to blame for the "computer manuals nobody can
understand" are probably no longer in print and don't need to be--the
equipment they documented is retired in a museum or scrap heap
Well, having read (but not ever having written) mil-spec manuals, I'd like
to go on record saying that anyone who thinks they were all (or even
mostly) junk has a tenuous grasp on reality. My basic knowledge of
computers came from Air Force manuals (four years in the Puzzle Palace, if
you must know) and they were far and away better than any civillian-
produced textbook I had seen to that point, and as good or better than any
now in print.
I, too, hear the "terrible computer manual" refrain constantly. But almost
invariably the speaker is referring, not to manuals on some ancient system,
or some large mainframe, but specifically to the manual that shipped with
the software on their home computer -- Word, Filemaker, Excel, et al. These
people have never even *seen* a mainframe, much less read a manual on one.
They aren't referring to some mythical brain-buster; they're quite likely
referring to manuals produced by writers on this list.
I think the reason isn't the manuals, but is by and large cultural. (Oh
yes, I know there are some real clunkers out there; but I also know some of
the manuals I've heard derided are really quite well done. I know that
because when the speaker has turned to me with "You understand these
things. Help me!" I've read aloud to them from that supposedly impenetrable
manual and that has been sufficient to solve their problems.) Those who
understood computers were frowned upon by "mainstream" society. They were
called names, figuratively spat upon by those who should have accepted them
as social peers.
Today the snobbery continues. To understand something technical marks you
as a loser. Therefore, you decide not to understand, and instead shout "I'm
normal" at the top of your lungs with every opportunity. And, as Vince
Lombardi always said, "whether you decide you can or decide you can't,
you're probably right."
So right now we have a crowd of techno-luddites who are proud of the fact
they don't understand the manual, and if the truth be known, most of whom
have never made an honest attempt to read the manual. The best set of
instructions would not keep the clocks on their VCR from blinking
"12:00:00" because they would never be tried.
Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
In God we trust; all others must provide data.
Opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
If JCI had an opinion on this, they'd hire someone else to deliver it.