Great Moments in Technical Writing – Introduction
In 1980, on the strength of a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a couple years’ experience teaching teenagers how to program their Radio Shack TRS-80s, I got my first job as a technical writer, for the company that more-or-less invented modern Technical Writing.
For the next four decades, I made my living as a writer, editor, or technical communicator. Sometimes my career seemed as solid as rock; sometimes it felt as risky as crossing the Ohio River by jumping from ice flow to ice flow. Though most of my experience was in computer documentation, I also got to write about history and literature, and hundreds of other topics.
Now that I’m within a few years of putting the day job out to pasture, I can’t help thinking about all the great and goofy experience I’ve had over the years. And since I am a writer, it seems natural to commit some o the crazier experiences to text.
- If you’re a career technical writer with a few miles behind you, you will be able to relate to many of my experiences – hopefully they’ll help you laugh or cope, which are often the same thing.
- If you’re a former co-worker who was left out of this story – that means only that you were one of the many people who didn’t make my life a little more surreal. Of course you can contact me with your own experiences if you’d like.
- If you’re looking forward to a career in technical writing, you may find this informative.
- If you think that office shenanigans only happen on television sitcoms, you’ll find it incredible.
- If you’re a critic, you’ll find it self-indulgent. But memoirs always are. What bothers me is when history books or technical manuals are self-indulgent.
But whoever you are, hopefully you’ll find it entertaining.
The contents are more-or-less chronological, starting in the late 1960s and going up to present day, although I only knew about the periods before 1980 as an historian and a friend of several “old-timers” who loved telling “war stories.” In addition, not all periods are covered equally. Although the sections are divided largely by the state of technical writing during the events being described, they’re really about what it was like for me to work in the industry at that time.
If you can relate to any of what I’ve written, e-mail me and let me know.
If you have any responses, additions, or criticisms, e-mail me with those, too. I plan on putting a reader response section on every page eventually.
In the meantime, enjoy!
Click here to go to The Birth of Modern Technical Writing.