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From the moon to the microchip: fifty years of technical communication.


* Explores technologies and technical writing discussed in this journal over the past 50 years

* Describes how computer technologies were applied to gain efficiency in production

* Notes that single sourcing and content management focus on text creation

The tools we use are intimately connected with our roles as technical communication professionals and as teachers of technical communication, They affect expectations about our productivity in the workplace and about the nature of our work itself. They affect expectations about our roles and capabilities, about our autonomy. The tools affect what and how we teach students so they can become technical communicators and they affect our very ideas about technical communication itself. Over the past 50 years, technologies for the work we do have changed dramatically, changing also the face of our profession. A technical writer beginning a career during the first 25 years of STC's existence would likely have seen few major changes in tools used for writing: entire careers might have begun and concluded before the pencil or typewriter was replaced. In contrast, a writer beginning a career during the second 25 years would have experienced dramatic changes in the tools of production and the organization of work.

The principles of office automation have been aggressively applied to technical publishing, and have, as a result, significantly changed the relationship between technical communicators and their tools. With the introduction of computerized tools and corresponding changes in organizational structures, writers came to be expected to manage the composition-to-publication cycle by doing it all themselves rather than managing the coordinated activities of others. The ideal ratio of "one writer to every six engineers" (Dibelka 1958, p. 19) would be unheard of today, especially given the likelihood that in 1958 that 1:6 ratio didn't capture the coordinated efforts of numerous other specialists: technical typists, illustrators, layout artists, typographers, and other publications personnel, including printers.

In this article, 1 describe some of the technologies that have affected the work of technical writers as those technologies were discussed in the pages of STC's Technical communication and its predecessors. To chronicle all the significant innovations that have altered the work of technical writers, editors, illustrators, and publishers over this period is beyond the scope of a journal article: my choice of technologies is affected by both my personal experiences and my sense of those that have had the greatest influence specifically on the work of writers. [Readers interested in more personal member reminiscences can find them on the STC Fiftieth Anniversary Web site (STC 2003) and in Babcock 2003.]

In the pages that follow, 1 spend a little more time describing the computerized text processing tools of the first 25 years than those that came after in part because I thought some readers might be interested in these "antiques" and that others would enjoy the stroll down memory lane as I have. While I'm not old enough to have been there when they were first introduced, the cost and durability of these early machines--plus the fact that my mathematician father was involved in bringing mainframe computing to a university campus--meant that I have used most of the technologies I describe (and many others that I have left out; see the timeline in the Appendix for more comprehensive coverage of key innovations). Having limited my focus in this way to tools for the production of text. I must say, however, that a similar exploration of multimedia in the pages of the journal would be well worthwhile as interests in communicating about technical content via "new media" clearly stems from at least the 1950s and the introduction of color television. There is an interesting history here should someone wish to explore it.

One other note: Because the names of both the STC and its journal changed numerous times after its origin in 1954 (when Boston's Society of Technical Writers first published volume 1, number 1, then called Technical writing review), I refer to our organization and its publication as the Society and the Journal in the pages that follow.


In the 1950s, technology, as considered in the Society's journal, was predominantly the object of rather than the means for technical communication. Articles suggest that early members were unified by their relationship with the U.S. defense industry, and the space program: how to meet the informational needs of missile and launch crews posed key publication challenges. The Society's members seem to have shared a sense of purpose and of the importance of their work: good documentation meant success in matters of national and international importance, whereas poor documentation could result in enormous losses, including loss of life. This confidence in the critical value of the work was pervasive in early issues of the journal: "Our national economy depends on good technical manuals," wrote Henry, E. Marschalk in 1954 (p. 1). Without technical manuals. "[t]he vast assortment of machinery in industry ... would haltingly grind to a general slowdown or stop" (Marschalk 1984, p. 1). This focus on science and engineering over writing and production was reflected in early logos adopted by the Society, (see Figures 1 and 2). It wasn't until 1963 that the Society's logo reflected both technologies of creation and technologies of production (see Figure 3).


Computers would prove to be critical to space exploration, but their application to technical publishing here on earth took some time. For example, when R. M. Winz (1964) wrote of the documentation problems anticipated for a manned orbiting space station, a key problem identified was the weight of the planned library. Printed manuals of sufficient detail to cover the expected maintenance needs of such a station would weigh 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilos) (Winz 1964). Of three solutions considered by the author, the best was reproducing the printed pages of the technical library on microform (microfilm or microfiche), which would "reduce the weight of the 10,000-pound library to approximately one-fourth pound" (p. 3). The key drawback was that the library could not be updated once in space.

Similarly, the "information system of the future" described by Harold Borko in 1965 enabled users to request and receive information electronically via remote terminals, yet in his pre-ARPANET vision, automation was applied primarily to indexing, classification, and retrieval, whereas the printed document preserved on microform was still the primary means of publication (p. 3). One reason for the desirability of microform as an efficient medium for technical texts was simply the high cost--and corresponding scarcity--of memory in early computers: in 1968, Case Western Reserve's Univac 1107 had only 256 K "core memory" and 6 megabytes of mass storage on 2 FH-880 magnetic drums (Walker 1996).

Nevertheless, computers made their mark on technical publishing some time before the first word processors were marketed (see Santarelli and Cunningham 1960: Kizer 1966). For example, IBM technical writers were sorely challenged in 1954 to meet Air Force requirements for hardware documentation for the SAGE computer, "housed in a four-story building, 150-feet square" (Santarelli and Cunningham 1960, p. 4). The sheer enormity of the task--describing all parts of a machine that "use[d] nearly 920 miles of external wiring, 123 miles of internal wiring, and include[d] millions of parts"--dictated that IBM apply some of its own data processing strategies to the production of the parts catalog (p. 4). The heavily structured characteristics of the catalog also suggested the utility of this approach. The task involved a range of equipment: a card punch and verifier, card sorter, collator, reproducing punch, alphabetical interpreter, and accounting machine to manage the procedure, with a line printer producing output.

Six years later (two years after IBM coined the term word processing but still 14 years before the first dedicated word processing systems), Les J. Kizer (also of IBM) wrote of the advantages of using computer-assisted publishing for relieving the writer of routine tasks (1966). Kizer imagined that, while "for certain projects, a writer should have direct access for entering information into a computer ... since writers are often chosen for their knowledge of a subject rather than their knowledge of our language, their material often requires a grammatical edit before it enters the computer" (p. 2). Initial approaches to making writing and publication more efficient focused on "partially automating the secretarial function ... [and] speeding up the process of preparing text matter for printing" (Berman and Wasser 1978. p. 2).


During the early years of the Society, creative work, such as writing and editing, was conceptually and technologically separate from production. While there was a sense that technical manuals should be "'engineered" within their field, as are the mechanisms they concern" (Marschalk 1954, p. 6), improving technical writing meant understanding more about effective use of language for human communication, while improving production involved new processes and technologies for reproducing technical works. Although speeding up the composing process had been a key motivating force in the invention of the typewriter, the writers who used them "were often terrible typists" (Baron 2000, p. 202). During the first decade of the Journal, a guest editor asserted that "the first duty of a technical writer is to write" and that "everything else" was "ancillary." (Resing 1959, p. 3). Typewriters were used for both composition and production, but different "operators" (authors and technical typists) performed these functions (Hickok 1955. p. 7).

Fifties-era publications departments encouraged authors to use typewriters to prepare copy for editing, but there were several impediments to their use by authors to produce the final output that would be used for reproduction. Although typewriters that could produce proportionally spaced text were available as early as 1941 (IBM n.d.a.), complexities involved in typing the special symbols used in mathematical notation and the need to produce clean, accurate originals were key impediments to the use of typewriters by authors to prepare final output (a variety of error-correcting innovations are listed in Table 1).

In one process described in the Journal, after editing, drafts were tamed over to technical typists--specialists in reproducing technical texts quickly and accurately--who used electric typewriters or Varitypers that could produce proportionally spaced text to type the edited text onto paper or special pages ("Duplimats" or carbon-backed vellum) to prepare them for reproduction (Warnock and Meldrum 1958; McCafferty 1983). The introduction of the IBM Selectric typewriter in 1961 made it easier to type special symbols (IBM n.d.b.; see Figure 4): one could easily replace the golf ball-shaped head. Nevertheless, because the Selectric could not produce proportional type, older machines remained in use and required operators to change the type bars in the curved type basket of the typewriter. As Virginia Brennan wrote in the pages of the journal, replacement bars varied, so they had to be cataloged for storage and ready access (1959). After typing, other specialists--layout editors and technical illustrators--worked to create the artwork that would eventually be incorporated into a technical report (Warnock and Meldrum 1958). The actual printing and reproduction was the domain of yet another cadre of specialists.


Centralizing text preparation into word processing pools

In 1973, word processing was hailed as a "New approach to corporate profit" by Benjamin P. Piscopo (1973). The innovation would be a corporate money saver in the face of escalating salaries for secretarial staff [soon to be "approaching $10,000 per year" (Piscopo 1973, p. 2)] because it would eliminate repetitive operations. Word processing then was much different from word processing today: from the mid 1960s to the late 1970s. word processing referred to the storage of words written on a typewriter and recorded on media such as magnetic tape (and later magnetic cards) so that error correction involved correcting only the errors. rather than retyping entire pages or manuscripts (as was necessary whenever deletion or addition of material on one page affected pagination of subsequent pages). Memory (stored text) was the key advantage to be applied to five different types of tasks:

* "Straight repetitive communications, such as the form letter,... the telephone directory, or the constant publication of inventory and stock control items"

* "Combined repetitive and variable typing, where standard paragraphs are used from document to document"

* Transcription tasks, in which it is useful to be able to recall a stored text and make changes

* "Text preparation of long reports, contracts, proposals, technical manuals, and other forms of publications that require editing, changes, and revisions"

* "Composition requiring immediate turn-around time" (made possible by the ability to "playback" a text for review on a "video scanner" for editing) (p. 2)

The particular system described by Piscopo included a configuration of several different machines: "input/output automated typewriters" (p. 2), an optional "video composer" used for editing tasks (pp. 3-4), a minicomputer (capable of storing "3000 pages of text online." a line printer, and special software (see Figure 5) (p. 5). Training on the new systems was expected to take two to five days (p. 3).


Although Piscopo was careful to spell out new advantages for secretaries (the main users of the equipment), the inescapable truth was the technology and the attendant reorganization of work would permit staff reductions. Organizing a word processing center was "not a hatchet job," though; of the 100,000 + word processing centers in place to date. Piscopo asserted that "most firms ... have found that normal attrition takes care of most staff reductions" (p. 3).


Seeds for a new relationship between writers and word processors were sewn in the 1980s by dedicated word processing systems introduced by companies like Xerox, Wang, and IBM. The name of one such system, the IBM DisplayWriter (see Figure 6), describes an important new feature: an integrated video display so each operator could view work in progress. Characterized variously as text processors, information-handling systems, and tools for computer-assisted publishing, these new, more powerful systems gave rise to the idea that technical writers would use the technology for writing, reviewing, and editing tasks. That the new systems "blurred" distinctions between creation and production was one of the great efficiencies to be gained (McCafferty 1983. p. 17). Talk was of "professional" workstations (Ecker 1983: Briles 1983): "capturing the writers' keystrokes" (Brinegar 1983. p. 11) would result in a future where "nearly all writing will be entered into the system by the author" and "word-processing pools will also almost disappear" (p. 12). Indeed, one installation reported a "16% reduction in number of employees while maintaining quantity of publications, increasing quality, and reducing completion times" (Garner, Willis, and Ahr 1983, p. 30).


With a price tag of a quarter of a million dollars or mort, for word processing systems, such purchases were not made lightly and access to the costly tools was often restricted (McCafferty 1983). At Rocketdyne Canoga Park, purchasing a new word-/text-processing system (including photocomposition equipment) "triggered a major facility rearrangement" (McCafferty 1983, p. 16). At Sandia National Laboratories, the "times from the first request for information to installation were 25 months for the text-editing system and 48 months for the phototypesetter" (Garner, Willis, and Ahr 1983, p. 30).

Such a system might require full-time, on-site support from the vendor and training might last from several days [for Rocketdyne (McCafferty 1983, p. 16)] to six months [for Sandia (Garner, Willis, and Ahr 1983, p. 30)]. Sandia was reticent about letting writers have access to the equipment, which was reserved for the work of editors and compositors. We might reasonably conclude reported differences in training time were due to the differences in the complexity of the systems purchased by Rocketdyne and Sandia. Perhaps Rocketdyne's system was page-oriented and Sandia's, gallery-oriented: As a regular columnist for Technical Communication on the subject of computers and composition would later explain, the more intuitive "page-oriented system gives you a file of pages," whereas "galley-oriented systems use a great deal of code" (Caernarven-Smith 1987. p. 165: see Figures 7 and 8), In addition to onscreen editing, the features of these new and powerful systems included:

* Basic capabilities, such as setting regular and decimal tabs and indenting paragraphs

* Intermediate capabilities, such as copying (duplicating) text or moving text within the same file

* Advanced capabilities, such as copying or moving text between files (Benson 1983)


For an additional $300.000 to replace hardware and $5000 for software. Sandia could have added a spelling checker to resolve problems it observed with proofreading after installation of the system (Garner. Willis, and Ahr 1983).

Microcomputers become tools for technical communicators

The microcomputer forged a new relationship between technical communicators and word processing tools: in the introduction to a special issue on "The changing image of technical communication," Roger Grice remarked that "as technical communicators, we not only describe new technologies, we use them" (Grice 1984, p. 4). By 1987 and the introduction of desktop publishing, a guest editorial declared that "modern technical communication has little room for the computer illiterate" (Mullins 1987, p. 68), a bald reality that doubtless alienated and frustrated those working writers who had been prohibited access to earlier word processors. Microcomputer word processors and desktop publishers were characterized as essential tools for freelancers (Callahan 1986) and "all writers and editors" (Barnett 1985, p. 25); they represented also new employment opportunities (for software documentors) and new attitudes toward software documentation audiences [who were no longer thought of as "captive" and therefore willing to accept badly written texts (Henderson 1984)].

WordStar, the first popular word processing program for an MS-DOS computer, was released in 1979; Microsoft's Word for DOS and the Macintosh followed five years later. A key advantage of the new tools over dedicated word processors was that microcomputers could run both word processing and graphics software in addition to decision-support tools such as spreadsheets and databases, making them more suitable than even dedicated word processing systems for use by "knowledge workers," as Susan Briles characterized managers, writers, and editors in 1982 (Briles 1982, p. 22).

These early microcomputer word processors were popular but had several significant limitations. They typically could not handle long documents well (large documents had to be split and stored in multiple files) and had page views that in appearance were a tar cry from printed output (as shown in Figure 7). For writers, however, the more significant limitations had to do with their capabilities to support making decisions about altering a text. As Krull and Hurford explained, "Word processors by themselves, although supplying the mechanical means to make text modifications, provide little guidance about what needs modifying" (Krull and Hurford 1987, p. 246).

At this stage, spelling checkers were third-party additions to a writer's suite of microcomputer writing tools and grammar and style checkers required mainframe computer processing power (Krull and Hurford 1987, p. 246-247). Even so, the new toots were giddily empowering. The owner of an advanced system with 640 K RAM and a 20 megabyte hard drive, scanner, 300 DPI printer, and graphics software put it this way: "If you're still pecking away on the trusty old 20's-vintage Remington Standard, how do you expect to compete with me?" (Callahan 1986, p. 213). This sense of empowerment only escalated with the proliferation of desktop publishing software and hardware in the mid-1980s.


Problems with both efficiency and with adherence to corporate standards arose in part because managers "view[ed] information as an undesirable byproduct of business activity instead of its most valuable resource" (Murray 1988, pp. 7-8) and writers adopted tools that enabled them to control final, published texts. This wasn't just a problem with authorial control, though; "incompatibility among different computer hardware and software systems ... [had] created a situation that crie[d] out for standardization" (LaTona 1989, p. 384). The proliferation of texts, lack of technical standards, and emerging desire to publish texts online and in print gave life to text production technologies that addressed these issues.

Significant among various solutions was the development of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), which evolved from earlier implementations of computerized typesetting approaches (Goldfarb 1999) and later gave birth to both HTML and XML (Hollander and Sperberg-McQueen 2003).

Introduced to readers of the Journal three years after it became an international standard, SGML was characterized as being "of singular importance" to technical communicators in part because the technology could eliminate the "virtual tower of Babel" of file incompatibility among the major word processing programs (LaTorra 1989, p. 382). Three other reasons for adopting the technology were its capabilities to do the following:

* "Bring information online for electronic distribution, search, and retrieval"

* "Expedite the writing and production processes"

* "Reuse information coming from other divisions and going to other products" (Alschuler 1993, p. 376)

These capabilities meant that the same information could be presented to a reader in print or online; more significantly, it represented a shift in attention from production to content as offering promising opportunities for efficiency. By writing and marking up texts (as shown in Figure 9) so they fit carefully defined content rules validated by comparison with a DTD (a document type definition; see Figure 10). texts would become reusable. To accomplish this reusability, "writers who are part of an SGML-based publishing process must become more aware of structure" (Alschuler 1993, p. 377) and "individuality must be subordinated to the greater needs of the group" (LaTorra 1989, p. 383). [Not that SGML required that authors and editors relinquish control of the text: SGML was used in putting the Oxford English dictionary online but "the electronic OED is not SGML-compliant ... because of the complexity of the text" (Fawcett 1993, p. 380) so "most of the important structural and content decisions are left to the judgment of the editors" (p. 381).]


Not surprisingly, most discussions of SGML in the Journal emphasized its power to address inefficiencies rather than to eliminate publications staff members. It was clear that SGML implementations were time consuming and expensive because of the analytical work that had to be completed up front and the attendant training of writers to code documents for SGML. But little was said in the pages of the Journal about how personnel might be affected by the need to recover costs from an implementation, a marked contrast from decades before when articles about implementing word processors included explicit discussions eliminating secretarial and production staff.


Articles in the Journal also questioned whether the new technologies offered real improvements for writers. Despite the enthusiastic adoption of word processing and desktop publishing, some critics complained of the "dangers ... of let[ting] one person perform all the publishing functions" (Nagel 1988, p. 282) especially because vendors tended to "perpetuate the notion that desktop publishing produces high-quality output even with a chimpanzee at the keyboard" (Murray 1988, p. 6). Writers in the Journal disagreed about whether, in the long run, the technologies actually saved costs. When it came to the centralized word processing pools, Keith Gardels' controlled experiment revealed that there was "no clear cut advantage for centralization of word processing" (1977, p. 2). Subsequent interviews with secretaries in the study "indicated some deterioration in morale and motivation" (p. 6). Ten years later, Paul Doebler observed that
   ... editorial wore (everything from planning through
   copy-editing and proofreading) consumes half to three-fourths
   of total cost. To pay off the investments in an
   electronic publishing system, savings must come from
   reduced composition department staff [compositors and
   other production personnel]. But the size of the saving
   depends mostly on how work is performed in the editorial
   area prior to composition. (1987, p. 251)

Doebler's illustration of this shift in the organization of work is shown in Figure 11; he cautions readers that simply having the technology isn't enough; "achieving ... savings requires careful integration of key composition tasks into the editorial workflow" in which production tasks are assigned to creative staff (1987, p. 256).


The introduction of highly structured processes such as those required by SGML also had a significant effect on the work of technical writers. In his "benevolent diatribe aimed at ... managers," Steve Davis stated, "few of them [the writers] spend most of their time writing" (Davis 1990, p. 354). Instead,

A writer's typical day may include, and indeed, mainly consist of things like these:

* Going to meetings on tools, standards, terminology. grammar, punctuation, book and page design, and maybe even the right font

* Preparing to unite on the computer by installing required tools, spending lots of time trying to figure out how to use these tools, and looking for shortcuts that may make the writer productive in spite of the tools

* Spending time waiting for the computer to work

* Spending time complying with a cumbersome, rigid, detailed process, complaining about it (with good reason), yet at the same time often using this process as an excuse for missed deadlines and poor writing, and for a justification if the work produced is not acceptable

* Spending time looking up standards, following them, and often using these too as an excuse for poor writing

* Spending time preparing and putting their work through a quality process. (Davis 1990, p. 355)

Davis's criticism? "When we make the process 'idiot proof,' we are designing it for idiots. Only when we assume excellence in our writers can the process be minimal ..." (p. 358).


Some years ago, when FrameMaker +SGML was relatively new, I was talking to a colleague charged with evaluating the tool for adoption by our employer. "Have you estimated how much time it will save?" I asked, thinking of how the tool would minimize a writer's need to write and manage SGML tags and how the resulting time savings could give a writer more time to devote to writing well. "No," my colleague responded soberly, "They'll ask us how many writers we can fire."

It should not escape our notice that writers and the texts they produce are a new object of efficiency: Single-source and content-management approaches to documentation would seem to permit smaller writing and training staffs as texts become fragmented, strict standards are imposed, and content redundancies are eliminated. We might also anticipate that these technologies compromise the expertise of writers and trainers by shifting some portion of that expertise to the information architect, much as the skills of layout artists, typographers, and other production personnel were compromised by the introduction of word processing and desktop publishing. Indeed, the new creativity required by writing for multiple outputs seems a distant echo of the new opportunities for secretaries promised with the introduction of word processors. Liora Alschuler mentions that the "most striking new role" created by SGML "is that of DTD writer" (Alschuler 1993, p. 377). But, she asks,
   Who will do this--writers with programming background?
   Programmers working in collaboration with
   technical communicators? Programmers not working in
   collaboration with technical communicators? Today,
   the field is open. (p. 377, emphasis in original)

Historians of technology have argued that the effect of computing "will be at least as pervasive and permanent as books were in their early history" (Dewar 2000); information technology visionaries have urged businesses to accept that "just as interchangeable parts drove the Industrial Age, reusable information powers the Information Age" (Hollander and Sperberg-McQueen 2003). On my most cynical days. I cannot escape the concern that with the rise of modular approaches to documentation, technical writers may be reduced to using pidgin English to dish up information "McTextlets." It's not a far stretch from here to automated writing; indeed, we might consider as just one type of evidence for movement in this direction automated writing tools like Performance Now[R], software that allows busy managers to "write" performance evaluations by assembling bits of pre-written, legally vetted text) (Norris Communications n.d.).

On most days, however, I think back on my own career, in which as soon as it became apparent to my employers that I could really write, the focus of my work shifted from using tools efficiently for creating standardized texts to expressing ideas clearly so they could be shared, debated, and crystallized. As a consultant, I was asked to facilitate planning activities such as a technology implementation for a manufacturing firm and (later) to participate in my employer's own knowledge management task force several years before the subject surfaced as an interest within technical communication. As the employee of a Fortune 500 company, I was asked to facilitate software development planning sessions and (on occasion) to coach a manager on differences between U.S. English and his native British English. Writing--synthesizing and expressing the thoughts of others--was a key part of these activities.

This isn't to say that I didn't also have to manage some unreasonable expectations. I remember one particular occasion when I calculated the throughput of the photocopier as part of my explanation to a project manager that weekend turnaround for a document was impractical. Simply assembling the text and graphics provided by 12 or so subject matter experts into a single document, cleaning up styles and pagination, and duplicating drafts would take an entire weekend (including about 6 hours at the photocopier). I suggested to the project manager that if he wanted me to actually read and edit the work as well, the process would have to be changed to allow more time than from Friday, 5:00 p.m., to Monday, 8:00 a.m. Such are the hazards of working on cross-functional teams and reporting to managers who have no publications knowledge or experience.

Although my computer skills have been important, these tools have changed significantly during my career. The basic skills that served me throughout are the ones I try hardest to cultivate in my students:

* The ability, to understand how business needs affect a writing project

* The ability to listen and really bear what others say

* The ability to capture intent and express ideas so that common understanding is the result

* The conviction to speak out when important interests might be undermined

My most powerful and enduring tool has been the technology of the text itself through which we can externalize, examine, and open our ideas to criticism so they can be improved, altered, and implemented. One need only read the newspaper to see that there is a compelling public need that begs people who have this expertise to exercise it. I also use whatever tools are necessary to get a message across: they are the means, not the reason, for what I do.



1953 October 7. Technical writers who gather at MIT form the Society of Technical Writers naming Floyd Hickok as temporary chairman and Margarethe Callahan as secretary (Society of Technical Writers 1954).

1953 September. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) first offers a master's degree in technical writing (Olmstead 1957).

1954 June. The Society of Technical Writers publishes the first issue of Technical writing review, a journal that would eventually become Technical communication after several name changes.

1955 February. First student with a master of science degree graduates from RPI's technical writing program (Olmstead 1957).

1956 TWE and STW hold first joint convention in New York City (Society' for Technical Writers and Editors 1958).

1957 Journal renamed The technical writer.

1957 Society of Technical Writers and Editors forms after the merger of the STW and the TWE.

1958 Journal renamed STWE review.

1958 The west coast's Technical Publishing Society begins publication of Technical communications (Hanousek 1958).


1960 The Society changes its name to the Society of Technical Writers and Publishers.

1960 Journal renamed STWP review.

1961 IBM introduces the Selectric typewriter (IBM n.d.b.).

1962 Computers play their first real role in manned space flight (Bruno 1997).

1963 The first felt-tip pen is introduced by Pentel (Bruno 1997).

1964 Dot matrix printers are introduced and used for the Tokyo Olympic Games (Anzovin and Podell 2000).

1964 IBM introduces the term word processing in reference to a "typewriter that can record words on magnetic tape" (Bruno 1997).

1964 Computer-aided design (CAD) gets its start in a joint project between General Motors and IBM (Bruno 1997).

1966 The first practical computer modern was demonstrated by John van Geen at the Stanford Research Institute. Stanford, CA (Anzovin and Podell 2000).

1966 Color TV becomes popular (Grun 1979).

1967 Journal renamed Technical communications.

1968 The computer "mouse" is invented by Douglas C. Engelbart of the Stanford Research Center in Palo Alto, CA (Anzovin and Podell 2000).

1969 IBM first "unbundles" software from hardware, giving birth to the software industry (Bruno 1997).

1969 Scientists at Belt Telephone Labs develop Unix, the first practical multiuser operating system (Anzovin and Podell 2000).

1969 ARPANET, the first packet-switched network, is established to link research computers by the U.S. Dept. of Defense (Anzovin and Podell 2000).

1969 NASA lands first human on the moon.


1970 The first microprocessor is built by Intel (Anzovin and Podell 2000).

1971 The first widely used floppy diskette is introduced by IBM (Anzovin and Podell 2000).

1971 Journal renamed Technical communication, eliminating the "s" at the end of the name.

1972 Terry Allan Winograd, an American mathematician, introduces the first software program to integrate grammar rules, word definitions, and logical reasoning (Bruno 1997).

1972 The first 'windows' environment is introduced by Alan Kay of the U.S. (Bruno 1997).

1973 R2E markets the first microcomputer, the Micral (Anzovin and Podell 2000).

1973 Xerox introduces the first plain paper copier (Anzovin and Podell 2000).

1973 Canon introduces the first color xerographic copier (Anzovin and Podell 2000).

1974 The United Nations sets the first international standard for facsimile messages (Bruno 1997).

1974 American chemist, Arthur Fry, develops the glue that will be eventually used on Post-It notes (Bruno 1997).

1975 IBM introduces the laser printer (Bruno 1997).

1976 American programmer Michael Shrayer develops "electric pencil," the first word processing software for personal computers (Bruno 1997).

1977 Apple introduces the Apple II, the first commercially successful personal computer (Anzovin and Podell 2000).

1977 William Henry Gates III and Paul Allen establish Microsoft Corporation (Bruno 1997).

1978 The 5 1/4-inch diskette is adopted by Apple Computer and Tandy Radio Shack (Bruno 1997).

1979 Wordstar, the first popular word processing program for microcomputers, is created by American programmer, John Barnaby (Bruno 1997).


1980 The first hard disk for microcomputers is introduced by Seagate Technology, marking the beginning of an expansion in storage for personal computers (Bruno 1997).

1980 Dedicated word processors, such as those from Wang and Digital Equipment Corporation, come into business use (STC 2003).

1981 IBM announces the IBM 5150 PC personal computer (Anzovin and Podell 2000).

1981 Microsoft releases MS-DOS (Bruno 1997).

1982 Bell Labs develops the "Writer's Workbench," which algorithmically analyzes prose for readability and advises on suggested revisions (STC 2003).

1983 Apple introduces the Lisa computer, the first personal computer with a graphical user interface (Anzovin and Podell 2000).

1983 The first regular cellular phone networks begin operation in the U.S. (Bruno 1997).

1984 Hewlett-Packard introduces the LaserJet, the first laser printer for business (Anzovin and Podell 2000).

1984 Microsoft ships Microsoft Word for the Macintosh (STC 2003).

1984 The 3 1/4-inch diskette is introduced by Sony Corporation (Bruno 1997).

1985 Aldus Corporation introduces PageMaker desktop publishing software (Bruno 1997).

1985 Adobe introduces the Postscript page description language, which works with laser printers and high-end typesetters (Adobe Systems Incorporated 2002).

1986 Zoomracks, the first hypertext application, is created (Anzovin and Podell 2000).

1986 NSFNET, with a backbone speed of 56 Kbps, is created (Zakon 2002).

1986 SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language) becomes an international standard for the format of text and documents (Arbortext n.d.).

1988 William Atkinson creates Hypercard for Apple's Macintosh personal computer (Bruno 1997).

1989 Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web, an Internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing.


1990 IBM makes window environments available on its computers for the first time (Bruno 1997).

1992 Apple Computer introduces the pocket-sized portable computer, the Newton (Bruno 1997).

1992 Digital printing allows printing two sides of a paper without printing plates (STC 2003).

1993 Adobe publishes the first PDF (portable document format) specification.

1993 Mosaic, the forerunner of the Netscape browser, "takes the Internet by storm" (Zakon 2002).

1996 The Microsoft/Netscape "browser war" introduces a new age in software development where new releases are made quarterly (Hollander and Sperberg-McQueen 2003).

1998 February 10. The World Wide Web Consortium publishes its recommendation for XML 1.0 (Hollander and Sperberg-McQueen 2003).


2000 Simon and Schuster publish Stephen King's novella Riding the bullet exclusively as an e-book.

2000 Knowledge management and single sourcing are hot topics at STC's annual conference (STC 2003).

2002 Wireless networking becomes a "hot" technology.


Name                                 First Use        Company

Type-Erase (erasable paper)          2/12/1953  American Writing Paper
Liquid Paper                         12/1/1956  Mistake Out
Co-Rec-Type (white adhesive strips)  2/5/1962   Eaton Allen
Double Eagle Onion Skin              10/5/1964  Intercontinental Paper
National Erase-Ease Bond paper       4/20/1964  Dennison
Liquid Eraser                        8/12/1984  Pentel


Invention                            Patent No.  Date Granted

Pencil with Eraser                       19,783     3/30/1858
Eradicable carbon paper               3,104,173     9/17/1963
Erasable ink                          3,875,105      4/1/1975
Type correction paper                 4,055,704    10/25/1977
Pen with Ink Eradicator               4,227,930    10/14/1980
Correction pen                         D428,411      7/8/2000


This article could not have been written without the help of reference librarians and library staff at the Miami University Libraries and the Cincinnati/Hamilton County Public Library. In particular, I am grateful for the assistance of Tracy Koenig, Beth Cooper, and Steve Headley of the Cincinnati/Hamilton County Public Library and William Wortmann, Maggie Workman, and Michael Hebert of the Miami University Libraries.


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Manuscript received 16 April 2003: revised 23 June 2003; accepted 24 June 2003.

KATHERINE DURACK worked as a writer, editor, and consultant in the computer industry before joining the faculty at Miami University. Her research has received several awards, including outstanding article awards for publications in Technical communication. Technical communication quarterly, and the Journal of the Association of Proposal Management Professional and the 1998 Outstanding Dissertation Award in Technical Communication sponsored by the Conference on College Composition and Communication Committee on Technical Communication. She is currently exploring her interests in the patent genre. Contact information:
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Title Annotation:Professional History
Author:Durack, Katherine T.
Publication:Technical Communication
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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