Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

What I was doing 20 years ago today

by Rob - August 11th, 2007.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

I was writing an article about this new-fangled thing called “Windows” for ProFiles: The Magazine for KayPro Users, and it was a bitch to write. Here’s what I said in my work journal for August 10, 1987:

I’m still having problems with Windows article. I have to explain how it integrates and replaces the familiar MS-DOS commands, something Mac users never have to deal with. Trying to explain what pull-down menus, icons, point-and-shoot, bit-mapped displays, tiled windows, overlapping windows, dialog boxes, standard applications (those that weren’t designed with Windows in mind), multi-tasking with an 80386, faking multi-tasking with an 8088, is tricky when:

1) the target audience is used to talking to the computer through a single command line following the A> prompt;

2) one topic seems to require an understanding of another: icons, for instance, seem like magic until you’ve explained what a bit-mapped screen is, pull-down menus don’t make sense until you’ve described what a mouse does, etc. etc.;

3) you don’t have any pictures to explain it all with.

Windows and the Mac are intuitively obvious once you try them as a gestalt; looking at their components piecemeal in an article is a difficult thing to make flow. I’ve got all the material written for the article, I’m just trying to get paragraph A to logically lead to paragraph B, and so on.

The Windows manual itself doesn’t try to explain the ins and outs of the user interface. It just gives a series of exercises that let you try it out in hopes that you will grasp the big picture by the time you’ve finished them. Unfortunately, someone else is writing “A First Session With Windows” for the same issue of the magazine, meaning I can’t take that approach.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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