The Typing Pool

When I began publishing technical documents full of equations and odd-looking illustrations back in the early seventies, the final version was done by a Typing Pool working from our handwritten material.  They would do their best to translate six or seven different writing styles and equations that looked like hieroglyphics into a formal document while the art department created figures from our sketches.  When a draft was done, we would mark it up with light blue pencil (because light blue would not show up on copies) then send it back for corrections.  Corrections usually made by putting correction tape over the error … or by cutting the error out with a Exacto knife and taping a blank paper in its place … then retyping the correction.  The evolution of the final document could take several weeks, so the draft of a document needed to be finished well before the delivery deadline.  Of course, engineers being engineers, we were making changes until the bitter end, which is why the Women of The Typing Pool are all instantly canonized as saints upon their passing.  Engineers who could deal diplomatically with The Typing Pool and the Art Department, as well as write a literate sentence, ended up being Proposal Managers.

Almost fifty years in the business gives one appreciation of things that Younger Eyes take for granted and Desktop Publishing is one of those things.   Think of it: along came the personal computer and word-processing programs like Microsoft Word, and suddenly engineers with twenty years of technical education were typing their own report sections and drawing their own figures using Microsoft Draw.  And Proposal Managers were chosen not for their interpersonal skills with the Typing Pool but for their ability to navigate the idiosyncrasies of Microsoft Word.  And now … ta-da … we can postpone finalizing a report until the instant before it needs to be printed only to find Microsoft Word’s idiosyncrasies keeping us up late at night.

The proposal we submitted this week needed to be less than twenty pages.  It needed to have certain margins, font sizes no smaller than a certain size and a certain format.   It needed specific information in the header on each page and page numbers in the footer.  Some pages needed to have different headers and footers to indicate that the material on the page is Proprietary.  The customer website says: If the proposal does not meet these requirements, it may not be considered.  As the proposal manager, I collect the inputs from the writers into a single document, which, I send out as a draft for review.  I incorporate comments and the process is repeated until the day of submission.  Then, its MINE.  It’s MINE and 23 pages long, so I reduce figure sizes and spacing and throw out repetitive sections.  I add the special headers and footers, then send out a formatted version for review, which is where things get interesting.  You see, I’m using Microsoft Office 7 and they are using an older version, so I have to convert my carefully manicured document to the older format.  When I do that, I get a message that says: We at Microsoft can’t be bothered to make Office completely backward compatible, so this conversion if going to f%#* up your document.  The versions my colleagues get don’t look like mine, and when I get back their edits and put them in my master copy, material is shifted from page to page, which screws up my format again.  But OK, Sunday night, I’ve got it right and God himself isn’t going to get to edit this thing.

Monday morning, I’m up early and determined to be done with the damned thing but there’s another  wrinkle … the document has to be submitted in pdf, the ubiquitous format that everyone can read, so I convert my baby to pdf.  It looks simply faaabulous, Dahling, except that there are TWO page numbers superimposed on each other in the corner of each page.  I print a page of the Word document … there they are again, even though there’s only one page number in the print preview.  I remove all the page numbers and start again, which messes up the footer formatting.  An hour and a half later, I try making the pdf and we’re golden.  I upload the document to the customer website and I’m done.   Well, not quite.   My most conscientious proofreader finds an error in a schedule that could be important.  Shit.  But I dutifully go back to my original, change the figure, and create another pdf version which again has two page numbers per page and a figure that looks like

Back in the original, I change the file type of the picture and redo all the page numbers.  Bingo.   The pdf is correct and uploaded.  It’s now two-thirty in the afternoon.

So, it’s Top Sites Tuesday #170 and I just needed to vent.  Sorry.  But I do have Two ThoughtsThought Number One:  Desktop publishing is an amazing tool.  A few engineers can turn out a proposal that looks like it came from a real company.  But … Thought Number TwoI sure do miss the Typing Pool sometimes.  Hopefully, you won’t miss the opportunity to push my button … gently … to make me Number One on Top Sites Tuesday #170.

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4 Comments on “The Typing Pool”

  1. Cheryl P. Says:

    I love everything about desktop publishing. Even on those occasions that I struggle, as you did, with the format, it is still WWWAAYYY better than the old typewriters. On my first job out of school, I worked in a payroll dept.but because the company wanted everyone cross trained, I took a turn in the typing pool. It could be that the girls there were canonized upon their demise but the job they had surely marched them quickly to their deaths. After one week of trying to get every piece of correspondence correct albeit having been written by people that neither write nor spell, had me wanting to kill myself just so I didn’t have to ever go back.

    There is the added fact, I am not a great proof reader. Even with desktop publishing, I always find a mistake after I publish something…ALWAYS.

  2. Trina Says:

    I never heard of the typing pool, but I think it would be easier than chasing down all those glitches sometimes.


  3. Wolfbernz Says:

    Hi Bud,

    I’ve never sent something to the typing pool, but then again I have Trina for all that LOL!

    Clicks for you!

  4. Ah, what you have written about here is proof positive of the joys, headaches and pains in the rear that accompany the computer age! I hate the conversion stuff -royally. This year, as my friends and I planned for our 50th class reunion, we ran into one of those conversion snags right at the onset with the lady who was our chair-person having a Mac and me having a regular old desktop unit with Microsoft Office. I had a file with names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addys and the like done on EXCEL which, when I attempted to share that piece of information with my partner in crime resulted in a big snafu because she didn’t have a clue how to convert it over to be readable on her MAC and any documents she wrote in her MAC’s program, PAGES, were unreadable on my end! Thankfully, the other ladies working on this event were not people who used their computers -pretty much ignored the fact they owned one, in reality, so it was only the two of us who had to sort of duke it out to get things set up so that one knew what the other was doing. But at the same time, all computer problems aside, I’m still damned grateful that we do have these computers to muck up our lives part of the time and the rest of the time, allow us to communicate hither, thither and yon!

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