A Look at the Past to Face the Future
By Linda Mellen
You’ve come a long way, baby.
Perhaps one of the most interesting ways to examine the
changes that have occurred in the past ten to fifteen years in the
field of technical communications is to follow the changes in our
I asked Dr. Roland Nord for back issues of Techniques,
and as I stood on the other side of his door while he rummaged
around for copies to give me, I could hear him say, “Now if this
isn’t a stroll down memory lane!” He emerged from behind the door
and handed me a stack of Techniques—the oldest one dating back to
November, 1991, Volume IV, Issue 1. It was printed with black ink on
gray paper and had four pages with two columns per page.
As technology has changed, Techniques has changed, and
rightly so. The field of technical communications is integrally
linked to technology and the technical writer must always be aware
of new developments and new software coming into the business arena.
The first Techniques consisted of four pages on ivory paper with
black ink. The year 1993 ushered in many new changes; a new letter
head, three columns per page, eight pages instead of four and
pictures. In that same year, Eardley Ham (Techniques, January 1993,
p.3) wrote about switching from a Commadore 64 to a 486 PC with
Windows 3.1. I wonder how many students today remember or know about
either of these computers? I used them both.
The March, 1994 issue of Techniques mentions, “The
computers at Mankato State University are connected to a global data
network commonly referred to as the Internet” (p.3.) Volume VII
issues have no dates listed but are the issues published during the
1994-95 school year. There are 3 volumes and Number 3, p. 6 explains
the World Wide Web. The February, 1997 issue takes a look at using
Corel Ventura and discusses using watermarks in a document. The
front page headline of the January, 1998 edition reads, “VRML: The
Language of the Future”. Adobe Framemaker and Frontpage2000 are
examined in the 1998 and 1999 issues respectively. The January, 1998,
Volume X, No. 2 issue is the first one to mention an online edition.
November 2000 finds us tackling Adobe Illustrator, the new mainstay
of technical communicators.
By January 2002, Techniques appeared in the format that
has remained for all hard copy issues to date. The March, 2002
Techniques discusses “viruses, worms, and Trojan horses” on the
front page. The May, 2002 Techniques front page headline reads
“Broadband, The Future of Communication” and reviews Adobe Photoshop
7.0. Volume XVI, No. 1 (October, 2002) shows the reader how to edit
a picture with a tutorial on Photoshop (p.4.) In 2003 and 2004,
Techniques became a primarily online newsletter with one hard copy
edition printed each year. The theme in these issues revolves around
online classes and blogging.
Technology marches on and Techniques marches to the
same beat. Different paper, different letterheads, sophisticated
pictures and color; evolving until, today, we have an online
Techniques published twice a year. The local chapter of the Society
for Technical Communication has considered making another new
change; to a magazine instead of newsletter presentation. Although
this article is a glimpse into the past and where technical
communicators have been, nearly every issue of Techniques has
articles looking to the future. Without forgetting where we’ve been,
we must always be looking ahead to where we are going. We may have
come a long way, baby, but we can never stop focusing on the future.
Techniques. Volume IV, No.1 through Volume XVI, No. 3 (not