Tech Writer

For two years Wilma attended college days. I continued to take subjects evenings.  I accumulated more credits than necessary for a degree in English, but I selected subjects that related directly to my work at IBM.  A course in short stories inspired me to write more.

John Jerkowski, a manager in the publications department of IBM had a number of short stories published in the Red Book Magazine. I asked how he dealt with them and he asked to see one of my stories. I gave him "The Moccasins", the birth of an Indian child.  A few days later John scheduled some aptitude tests. I spent an entire day taking written tests. The results determined I could be a very capable hardware writer

John assigned me to the writing department under Charlie Gilliland. Charlie's project was a new series called the 8100 System. Each unit of the system looked like a modern day washing machine. There could be five of these units cabled together, the center one being the computer with the outriggers to either side being memory storage.  I worked for a short time under Charlie until he was transferred to Raleigh, North Carolina.

My new manager was Hank Thoms. Over the years, Hank became one of my closest and most respected friends.  He helped hone my ability with suggestion and praise. Through Hank I became interested in roller skate dancing and earned all the bronze bars offered for competence.

The 8100 system was an outstanding computer. Engineering changes were an ongoing thing that kept my days interesting. Text would change along with pictorial descriptions.  A department called Human Factors monitored change almost daily.  The art department changed or replaced my graphic work when needed (good old Hal Boyer).

Many of the changes were inspired through tests performed in the Human Factors Dept.   We would find a willing subject with no previous knowledge of the system, put them in a glass enclosed room with all the parts of the system and ask them to assemble the machines from the instructions I had written. If they made a mistake I would alter the book on their recommendation then test the revision with a new test subject.

No matter how hard we tried, we knew that no two people would ever interpret the instructions alike. Our goal was to find a happy medium

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