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osOpinion: Thick as a Brick: Why computer manuals are nearly useless

Jul 07, 2000, 07:39 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Leon Brooks)

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"In 1972, Jethro Tull wrote a song "Thick as a Brick" which covered both sides of an LP record (real vinyl with a spiral scratch). Nowadays you can get a CD with the song on it. One song. 43 minutes. I'll bet even the MP3 is a doozy to download. The song has a point, a very important point, hammered home in the chorus "And your wise men don't know how it feels... to be as thick... as a brick."

"Why is this important? It's important because kernel developers and Gnome hackers don't know how it feels to be computer illiterate, as thick as a brick. I don't know how it feels to be computer illiterate. At least, I didn't until recently...."

"Welcome to the computer age. In it your document processor can probably identify difficult words (from a list you supply) and offer marginal cross-references to a glossary for a dead-tree version, or hyperlinks to the glossary for an on-line version. Does a HOWTO explaining this process for your favorite publishing method exist? If not, start by finding out how it works, and writing that HOWTO."

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