I recently had a conversation with someone about how the profession of technical writing, which was practically unheard of 20+ years ago, has grown and blossomed in recent years and will only continue to grow. Why? Because years ago, everyone knew how to use a telephone - just plug into the jack and dial. There were hardly any consumer electronic devices that were not self explanatory. Remember your first microwave? Here is a picture of the one I grew up with:
(Hey, I just realized the keypad looks remarkably similar to the touch screen on my new Samsung Galaxy phone!)
Your old microwave probably had a start button and a dial or selection option to set the time. If it was really advanced, you might have had the option to select your power as well. But it definitely did not have a popcorn button, frozen entrée button, or delayed start and auto-cook options. My first microwave’s instructions could have easily been written by the temp answering the phones. But documentation for today’s and tomorrow's consumer products and enterprise technologies require an understanding and knowledge not only of “how stuff works” but also why. Here's Corning's idea of what your future will look like:
After watching this video for the first time, I thought to myself, “How will ordinary kitchen or cabinetry people know how to integrate all of those systems during installation?” The job of the modern technical writer is not just to explain the function of a screen or detail how to correctly place a cable, but rather we must create and present content in a way that provides real world value to the consumer and the potential consumer. We no longer document in a vacuum, so how does your piece of the puzzle fit into the bigger picture?