Re: Re[2]: Tech Writing Future & Pen-based computing

Subject: Re: Re[2]: Tech Writing Future & Pen-based computing
From: Erik Harris <ewh -at- PLAZA -dot- DS -dot- ADP -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 1994 14:25:29 -0800

Gwen Barnes said, on the topic of pen-based computers:
>In the field, I can certainly see their usefulness -- for filling in
>forms, scanning inventory or doing sketches without having to lug
>around a keyboard and mouse.

>The whole idea because ludicrous, however, when some corp.exec type
>wants to sit in his office and use a pen computer to write memos in
>longhand. I suppose we could develop technology to do that in time, and
>with sufficient investment of funds, but why bother?

I quite agree. The two applications--"direct data entry in the field
without later duplication of effort" and "CEO doesn't want to type a memo"
speak for their own usefulness, or anyway, one speaks and the other

As I recall, some of the demonstrated applications of the pen-based
computers included taking notes (using a checklist-style application) on
automobile damage for insurance claims, making objective inspections of
houses that were up for sale, and tracking appointments, Day-Timer style.
The applications involved simple interaction with the screen and pen. No
diskettes, no cables, no mousepad, no QWERTY.

Furthermore, the simple checklist concept, like the GUI "dialog-box"
concept, has thousands of applications in the field that can make life less
rote and more interesting for us tech writers. Instead of documenting the
intricacies of some arbitrary PC interface 'standard' invented by
programmers for their own convenience long before they quit the company
("To exit the Inventory screen from any field, enter a period (.) followed
by the Return key"..."to save your work, remember to press F3 before
returning to the Logon screen"), we could be documenting APPLICATIONS for
which the computing 'interface'--a clipboard, a checklist, and a sharp
pencil--was learned long ago by the users.

>Handwriting recognition is a tough enough task for humans -- just
>ask anyone here in the office who has to read *my* handwriting. Why
>inflict it on a computer when there are already easy, proven ways to
>get the maximum amount of data into them in the minimum amount of time?

You're right again--and as I recall, handwriting recognition, precisely
because it's so difficult, is not the major application of the pen-based
systems I saw. I've no doubt the software that runs the pen-based computer
is written and edited on a desktop computer, too--though simple
applications, such as a product order form, can be developed on the
pen-based computer itself.

Erik Harris ewh -at- plaza -dot- ds -dot- adp -dot- com (weekdays)
"Quod erat demonstrandum" TrinityPlc -at- aol -dot- com (home)

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