Many years ago before our technological revolution the most complicated present any self respecting parents/Santa’s helpers had to deal with was the assembly of that most prized child’s present – the bike! There’s many a story of anxious children being whisked off to bed so that a Mom & Pop Assembly Shop could be opened up in hopes of a quick construction of the project with enough hours of sleep left-over to regain strength to enjoy the next day’s festivities. I’ve also heard of many mom’s who shook their head’s in dismay as Pop would remove a good sized instruction manual from the box and tossed it aside with a cavalier, “Hey, I know what I’m doing. I don’t need instructions.”
Early the next day, the happy child would be greeted with a brand-new gleaming and (barely) assembled bike, and fortunately, was too excited to notice that pop seemed not to get enough sleep last night.
When those children became parents they found that their schedules were too hectic to “help” Santa out and so they just had the bike store assemble them and stash them at a neighbor’s house.
I remember it was in the 80s that, at least in my town, pedaling around the neighborhood with your friends was not nearly as interesting as watching your parents unpack the new Personal Computer! I don’t remember whose mouth fell open the farthest, the children at the fascinating new technology or the father when he unpacked one boxed that housed several thick books (with tiny writing) on how to assemble And run this new “toy”. Most kids were headed back to school before pop could get through what seemed like a college course of reading to get the computer running.
I personally remember years later when individual software packages were created, how each box cam with a disk and an only one instruction manual on how to install and operate the program. Instead of taking a week to get up and running it was possible to do it (with a bit of concentration) in a day.
Fast forward a year or two, and I remember the first software program I bought that seemed to only have a disk with it. I just knew all I had to do is pop the disk in the computer and she would run, and, for the most part, although this was true, this would also be the first time I was introduced to what became a PDF file, or simply, a manual on the disk. In the beginning, I thought PDFs were the greatest thing. It took me a little while to realize that, unless I wished to print out a several hundred page manual, I was pretty much stuck at my computer screen reading to learn. It also didn’t help much that I used to earmark the pages and notate important packages. If there’s a way to do that with a PDF file, I’ve not learned how to do so to this day.
Well, it took several years for me to get used to that after all once you’ve reduced the manuals from many volumes to one, and then from paper to PDF there’s nothing else left to do with it, right? Wrong?
I would love to get my hands on the person or persons who Then Decided, why go to the trouble to even put out a disk we’ll just let people buy the program right offline and let them download it. (If you think it’s hard to find a manual on a disk try finding one without the disk.) Okay, now I download the program, I install it, and I sort through even more files looking for a PDF instruction manual and when I finally find it, then, I can learn how to use the program.
Okay, so we’re done now, there’s nothing else that can be done? Not quite yet.
A couple of year’s ago I noticed that the new software downloads that I received didn’t have PDF instruction manuals with them. Instead (and maybe this was a ploy to get me to look at more of their stuff) you had to go to their website and register the software (they were only suggesting it before) in order to get access to an “online” manual. The manufacturer’s reasoning being that by doing it this way the software and manual could be updated in a timely manner. Okay, whatever you say. Just give me my instruction manual.
That’s it. There’s nothing else left to do with it right? I wish.
I short time ago, I joined Facebook. My first impulse (of course0 was to be directed to the instructions on line. Fat chance! To sign up was simple but instead of leading me to a simple set of instructions they dumped me right smack into the middle of the program. Now don’t get me wrong they did have an instruction page, but when I went to it the page had what seemed like a hundred links and even more FAQ (frequently asked questions) in what seemed like a mish-mash order. When I asked about this, everyone I know seemed to have taken the stand of “learn as you go”. I wanted to scream!
So let’s recap.
I’ve gone from bike instruction manuals that, in the day, no self-respecting man would read (much to their regret), to instruction manuals that came in volumes, reduced to one manual, reduced to a PDF file, reduced to an online file, and now we’re back to a multi-volume file online, and, at least for this guy, I’m right back to my parents’ day then, although I would love to read it, I’m just “virtually” tossed it aside and plunged in with the assembly of my Facebook. The irony of it all is it only took me a little time before I realized that I’m not the only person out there on Facebook stumbling around as well.
A couple of month’s ago I joined Twitter and I found a similar thing happening, but I also had to smile when I found this out as well. If you go into Twitter’s instruction forum some (if not a lot) of their instructions have been contributed by its users! Can you imagine that? A programmer writes a program and then has the users write the manual! Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. You only have to be on Twitter for a short time and you will find that there is a growing lucrative market by other Twitter users who have written PDF “ebooks” on how to use Twitter in various ways and will be glad to sell them to you, or with just a little searching, you can find a slew of people to follow who will give you their ebooks for free!
So, where did I put my instruction manual? Just look on my hard drive in my ebook section. It’ in there with the dozens of other volumes of ebooks I have downloaded, some moderately priced but most of them free. Now if I just could find time to read them all.
If you would excuse me, I need to get a "virtual" cup of coffee … I’ve got some reading to do.
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