Best Manual I've Ever Seen

Subject: Best Manual I've Ever Seen
From: "USA::MU17692" <MU17692%USA -dot- decnet -at- USAV01 -dot- GLAXO -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 7 Apr 1995 08:16:00 EDT

Scott Goodhue (sgoodhue -at- disclosure -dot- com) asked about
choices for best manual we've ever seen. The manual
that initially inspired me to be a technical
communicator was the user guide for my Hewlett-
Packard 34C calculator (ca. 1979).

I was an aerospace engineer undergraduate and
needed an engineering calculator. The HP34C was
state-of-the-art, and intimidating to look at as

The user manual was a small, wire-bound document
alive with vibrant, color illustrations. It was
very easy to look at and not at all intimidating.

The calculator worked great. And when it broke
down--I used it heavily--HP fixed it at no charge,
returning it to me quickly (1 week turnaround),
and even included a newly designed keypad. HP
charged it as a warranty repair even though the
warranty had recently expired. I used the
troubleshooting part of the manual to determine
that I needed to send it to HP for repairs.
The calculator displayed an error code that I
looked up in the manual. No problem: the
calculator told me what was wrong with it and
the manual provided the translation.

The manual was so good that I learned how to
solve many kinds of problems: finance, fluid
flow, statistical analysis, as well as other
typical engineering problems.

Ever since that manual, I have been a big fan
of Hewlett-Packard, of technical communicators
who do good work, and of the companies who
support that good work.

-Mike Uhl (uhl~m -at- glaxo -dot- com)
Glaxo Wellcome
Research Triangle Park, NC

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