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What she said

1 February 2011

I feel really old sometime.  I hope I don’t have to explain what a floppy disk was, but way back in ancient computer history, computer programs were delivered on them.  And I had a job writing adult education courses that were put on floppy disks, and were given to students… who back in ancient times had to go to a computer center where they could put the floppy disk in a “disk drive”, run the program, answer questions and get credit for learning something.

The programming wasn’t at all difficult (even a writer could do it), but there were challenges to this kind of writing.  One of the most difficult projects I worked on was writing a basic electronics course, the difficulty not being in learning the subject, but in creating understandable presentations.  What made it so difficult was the source material… United States Air Force  training manuals — try turning those into everyday English!

Mil-Eng , the dialect in which this kinds of documents were (and are) produced is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.   At its simplest, Mil-Eng is almost comprehensible to speakers of standard English.  “Wire, red is implanted into terminal, red”  isn’t too far from “Plug the red wire into the red terminal.”

But, having faced the problems of one of the simpler bureaucratic dialects, I am in awe of Tamir Sharibi, who flawlessly translates one of the more inpenitrable dialects, “Imperial Diplo-speak” into standard modern English:

Incidentally, as floppy disks, and training written for delivery on floppy disks became obsolete, it was … like so many other obsolete technologies, off-shored.  The last I heard, my electronics course had been sold to the Brazilian Air Force… but not to teach electronics, but to help Brazilian military electronics specialist learn enough English to figure out whatever it was in those unreadable U.S. Air Force manuals they had.





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