Ancient Documentation

by Arnold Burian

An acronym that appears in technical writing circles occasionally is “RTFM,” to remind people to “Read The (ahem) Manual.” Too often people need this reminder.

I found this in a booklet that describes the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient mechanical device that was used for several astronomical calculations:

The Mechanism has a user manual with instructions, like any good instrument or computer. The manual has a mechanical section and an astronomical section. The instructions are written on every available surface of the brass plates of the cover.

I especially like that first sentence. Read your manual!

Here’s a picture from the article. Fortunately, modern typography is somewhat better, leaving you with one less excuse to skip the manual.

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