I was offered a part time job with an education research project creating bibliographic databases. My project was funded by the Metropolitan School Board in Toronto and was housed in the research branch of the Ontario Ministry of Education on the fifteen floor of the Mowat Block at Queen’s Park.
My job was writing abstracts of curriculum documents produced by school boards.
I had no office. I was told there was no office available, not even a space in an office I might share. I was told to look for a spare chair, some were set out in hallways. My desk was one of those red brown expanding folders that could hold file folders and papers. I was given a writing pad, offered a pen, I used my own, shown where the pile of curriculum documents were placed awaiting abstract.
After awhile I was able to share a desk with another abstractor. At one point I found myself in an office normally given to one person. Our team had arranged four desks facing the three walls and the glass window wall. We had our backs to each other. We could not all back up our chairs and stand up at the same time.
I was the youngest with a B.A. The others were some ten years older, two Master’s and one Ph. D. We shared one phone. This was long before cell phones. Somehow we made that office work well.
I have always enjoyed using Apple products and wish I could have used them more often in my technical writing career. At the same time I appreciate the strengths of Windows and Microsoft Office.
Way back when at the Information Centre at the Ontario Ministry of Education during my brief stint as a honest to God civil servant, I had the chance to work with an Apple II plus. This was the time of Visicalc. A landmark moment was the day the systems librarian and I cracked open that Apple and installed a math co-processor card and lived to tell the tale. I also had the chance to use a Macintosh Lisa to do some electronic typesetting for some publications of the Information Centre.
Around 1990 I was at Canada Wire and Cable and my department, a group of trainers and me, the lone technical writer, used Macs. I found to my surprise that the team was using desktop publishing software without any knowledge of styles. Pagemaker was the desktop publisher software. They were used to taking large amounts of time to individually adjusting and formatting bits of normal text. So I showed them how to use the power of that software by using styles. Many “aha” moments occurred. I also showed one business project officer how to use Word to create tagged text and then to import that file into Pagemaker. With add new pages as needed function turned on , the fifty page document built itself and formatted itself in about twenty seconds. He was totally blown away. To finish that document I sat with it for about twenty minutes adjusting column widths on some 12 tables he had included. These were simple three column information tables and varied as needed, one narrow, second narrow, third wide, and so on. If memory serves the computer modeks were a Mac II (?) and a Mac SE. I became fair in using MacDraw. Around this time our team acquired a scanner. But I must say it was not easy for us to get any let alone good results from it. We struggled mightily.
For most of my technical writing career, Apple computers were not the chosen models, so I became steeped in Windows and Microsoft Word. At AMEX Canada I brought my own first digital camera, Sony FD-7, into the office and introduced it for use as a tech info tool to my department. My camera travelled to Mexico AMEX with a facilities management engineer to record troubles he was sent down there to assess and fix.
I picked up an iPod for music and later an iPad2 for web browsing and use as an ereader.
Late in 2000 I purchased an iBook for myself and my work. It still runs, but the second battery no longer retains charge, so it must be plugged into a wall receptacle. The hard drive is just 40 gb and that was an upgrade I chose to pay extra for.
Now I have a Mac Mini and I am blowing away the dust from my Apple skills. It is lots of fun and I am enjoying after some recent struggles I have had with Windows laptops. I have come a long way and time from my first days of computing when at the sunset of their use I punched keypunch cards and ran a tiny program on the mainframe computer at Queen’s Park in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.