Tuesday, April 28, 2009

For Marty Kloomok

This Page Intentionally Left Blank

Those five words appeared regularly in many of the IBM manuals I read in my programming days. I suppose the good folks in Mechanicsburg PA wanted to let us all know that their printer hadn't screwed up, or perhaps it was some kind of intelligence test as after all, those pages weren't blank at all. They all had those five words.

In the early 70s I absorbed hundreds of manuals regarding our System/3x minis - programming manuals, hardware manuals, utility manuals, addenda - I was completely self-taught (thanks to the programmed instruction manuals) and had a thirst to sharpen my skills and expand my knowledge of the hardware and software that my early career revolved around. Back then you could actually know it all - OS, languages, tools, and of course the applications which were virtually all developed in-house.

My editorial bent exhibited early, as even then I pored through the stack of documentation that arrived frequently and found typos and technical errors galore - how astounded I was that the great IBM wasn't infallable. And the back page of each of those manuals had a readers' comment form soliciting feedback. I obliged regularly.

The cover letters and thank you notes for my corrections were all signed by M. Kloomok - a fictitious name for sure, no? As a cocky 20-something I was quite smug when IBM called and asked if they could send some folks out to discuss how to improve their manuals. I wasn't shy with the two gentlemen who showed up in my office a few weeks later.

At a COMMON conference (an IBM users group that still thrives to this day) I was sitting in a session and looked to my right - lo and behold the badge on the fellow sitting next to me read "M KLOOMOK IBM". I'm sure he never knew why I exploded into laughter after looking at him.

Fast forward nearly 30 years to my days at Ziff-Davis. We're pitching a custom magazine for them and I'm asked to help out - my first thought is to have a monthly column titled "Intentionally Left Blank". Cracked them all up.

So, this blog is dedicated to that selfsame Marty Kloomok, wherever he is.