Guide to the hardware documentation process?

Subject: Guide to the hardware documentation process?
From: "Geoff Hart" <geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 09:37:14 -0500

Lois Patterson wondered <<Does anyone know of any books or
publications that would be particularly helpful when documenting a
hardware application from scratch?>>

One resource that should be easy to obtain would be published
documentation for similar existing products. For example, if you
are documenting a laser printer, you should be able to sneak a
look at the manuals for a variety of laser printers at your local
computer superstore with the cooperation of the sales staff; you
could also order the manuals from the manufacturer if you're not in
a hurry. Examine the manuals to find out what parts work well, and
what don't work at all (e.g., ask the kind of questions you'd ask as
a user, and find out whether the manuals answer those questions
acceptably well). And the best resource of all: your customers!

That being said, you'll probably want at least the following sections,
in roughly the following order:
- unpacking instructions
- information on getting technical support
- setup instructions, along with clear identification of where you
could get hurt and what you need for successful setup (e.g.,
needlenose pliers, trinitrotoluene, and an arc welder; 100 kV DC
hookup vs. 220 V AC). And no, those aren't real examples. <g>
- initial customization of the thingum you've just set up (e.g.,
leveling the supporting legs, removing the cardboard insert in the
disk drive, setting the voltage switch and filling the grease reservoir).
- instructions on how to use the device as a whole, plus each
feature (ideally integrated in such a manner that they reflect how
people should or will use the device)
- troubleshooting information (as extensive as feasible)
- information on supplies (e.g, consumables, spare parts), required
maintenance, etc.
- technical specifications

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca (Pointe-Claire, Quebec)
"If you can't explain it to an 8-year-old, you don't understand it"--Albert Einstein

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