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Location: Penang, Malaysia

April 13, 2005

Good old manual

It has been a while since I last blogged. Well, there are many higher priority stuffs to take care of. While sorting through all my old junks recently, I came across an "Installation & User's Guide" for "ChameleonNFS(tm) for Windows". Damn, it has more than 400 pages, all in English. On the page before the table of contents, it says "Copyright 1990-1995 NetManage Inc." There is no CD-ROM version or soft copy of the manual. There is not a single thing in German (Deutsch), French (Francais), or Simplified Chinese, etc. This company still exists but things has changed tremendously since.

I bought a D-Link wireless router a few weeks ago. For printed materials, all I have is the Quick Installation Guide which contains information in 7 languages, i.e. English, German, french, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Traditional Chinese. The whole English section comes in 16 pages only. OK, maybe I am not comparing apple to apple, but you can really see the change. The latest Panasonic air conditioning unit does not come with a manual. It comes with a card with all the "visual clue". I am not going to elaborate what visual clue is here. The bottom line is that customers don't have to read so much a thick manual and the company is saving "USD 20 million per quarter" as well. OK, the amount saved could be exaggerated, but it is a win-win situation here!

Back to the good old ChameleonNFS manual. It has all the "common information" included. In those days, this kind of information was scarce. There was no Google, even though you have Yahoo! there. Well, you have Yahoo, so what? It is hard to search for this kind of information. Remember! This ChameleonNFS is the software to get you online. If you are not online, how are you going to use the Yahoo search engine? It is a Catch 22 situation. Of course, you can use Trumpet Winsock. Sounds familiar? So, you must be an old timer. Hey, that company still exists. That was the day when we were struggling with DOS and Windows 3.1. There nearest computer that might have internet connection could be couple of miles away.

The good old manual even listed what classes of IP address that are available and their ranges, sample PPP/SLIP scripts, and a lot more. Back then, you have the options to choose from BOOTP, DHCP and RARP for dynamic configuration. Nowadays, all companies are trying their best to make their hardware and software user-friendly, shielding users from all the technical details. Yes, this is the way to capture the mass market, and increase earnings. So, the experts will become more "expert", while normal non-geek users will make calls to tech support. Companies no longer have to ship things that add on the the weight and are usually ended up collecting dust at users' premises.

The good old manual is no longer useful because we don't use Windows 3.1 anymore, we have Windows XP. We don't deal much with 56k analog modem, we use ADSL modem and wireless router. We don't need to edit win.ini, system.ini, config.sys, and autoexec.bat. We have InstallShield to perform installation and to update the Windows registry. Archie and Gopher? Huh? The last Archie Gateway is dead as well. Telnet is still around, but you may try asking what telnet is during interview to a recent computer science graduate.

So, I am still not sure whether to throw the good old manual away. It is no longer useful as I said but the nostalgic feeling is there. Share you comment if you have but don't tell me to look forward. I am working on stuffs using C#.NET, VB.NET, Python, PHP, WindowsPE, etc. I appreciate it if you want to share something like CP/M, DRDOS, PC Tools, WordStar, Lotus 123, Fortran 77, etc.


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