On a blog posting at work, I had mentioned that found an ad for a scaled down replica of a WWII German Enigma Machine Manual on eBay. For those who don’t know, the enigma machine was essentially the first analog computer, used by the Germans in WWII for the encryption and decryption of secret messages. Because of its sophisticated layout and the complex system of steps required to use it, cryptographers and cryptoanalysts resorted to keybooks and manuals when operating the device. This means that technical communications was an essential supplement to the enigma machine.
While I wonder just how involded the WWII technical writers were with the development of the enigma machine, I wonder what kind of part technical writers play at their workplace when it comes to documenting complex languages, infrastructural terms, and technical acumen. What kind of role do writers have with the development world? Do they know a lot about the applications for which they provide support documentation? How much code, command lines and general gobbledygook do they understand that describes the hardware and software they write about? What kind of relationships do they have with the developers, architects and business analysts?
If you’re a technical writer or if you work with a technical writer, I would love to hear your experiences to the above questions.