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Oral-History:Ron Blicq

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== About Ron Blicq<br> ==
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== About Ron Blicq  ==
  
Ron Blicq was born on the British Channel island of Guernsey. After the island was occupied by the German Army, Blicq was evacuated to England at the age of 15. With his parents and brother he immigrated to Winnipeg, Canada. On his eighteenth birthday, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). At the war’s end, Blicq transferred to the Royal Air Force in England where he remained until his wife’s death in 1957. He then returned to Canada with his sons and until 1967 wrote manuals for the U.S. Air Force and the RCAF on the installation and maintenance of early warning defense systems. In 1967 Blicq was offered the position of head of the Technical Communication Department at Red River College in Winnipeg, Canada. Blicq developed the program in technical writing and presentation and published the textbook ''Technically-Write! ''during his twenty-three year tenure at Red River. He has been active in the IEEE Professional Communication Special Interest Group over most of his career. Blicq has also been involved in other international organizations, including INTECOM, which promotes written and oral communication education for engineers. Although Blicq is officially retired, he remains active in PCS and INTECOM and continues to write plays for the stage, including the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival.  
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Ron Blicq was born on the British Channel island of Guernsey. After the island was occupied by the German Army, Blicq was evacuated to England at the age of 15. With his parents and brother he immigrated to Winnipeg, Canada. On his eighteenth birthday, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). At the war’s end, Blicq transferred to the Royal Air Force in England where he remained until his wife’s death in 1957. He then returned to Canada with his sons and until 1967 wrote manuals for the U.S. Air Force and the RCAF on the installation and maintenance of early warning defense systems. In 1967 Blicq was offered the position of head of the Technical Communication Department at Red River College in Winnipeg, Canada. Blicq developed the program in technical writing and presentation and published the textbook ''Technically-Write!'' during his twenty-three year tenure at Red River. He has been active in the IEEE Professional Communication Special Interest Group over most of his career. Blicq has also been involved in other international organizations, including INTECOM, which promotes written and oral communication education for engineers. Although Blicq is officially retired, he remains active in PCS and INTECOM and continues to write plays for the stage, including the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival.  
  
<br>
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== About the Interview  ==
 
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== About the Interview<br> ==
+
  
 
RON BLICQ: An Interview Conducted by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, 28 March 2007, Winnipeg, Canada  
 
RON BLICQ: An Interview Conducted by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, 28 March 2007, Winnipeg, Canada  
  
<br>Interview #471 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
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Interview #471 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.  
  
<br>
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== Copyright Statement  ==
  
== Copyright Statement<br>  ==
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This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.
  
This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.<br><br>
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Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.  
  
<br>
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
  
Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user. <br><br>
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Ron Blicq, an oral history conducted in 2007 by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.  
  
<br>
+
== Interview  ==
  
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:<br>Ron Blicq, an oral history conducted in 2007 by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.<br>
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Interview: Ron Blicq  
  
<br>
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Interviewer: Michael Geselowitz
  
== Interview<br>  ==
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Date: 28 March 2007
  
Interview: Ron Blicq<br>Interviewer: Michael Geselowitz<br>Date: 28 March 2007<br>Place: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada  
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Place: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada  
  
 
=== Childhood and educational background  ===
 
=== Childhood and educational background  ===
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
It's a lovely spring day in Winnipeg. I'm interviewing you for the IEEE Professional Communication Society (PCS) project. Welcome, and thank you very much for agreeing to participate. I'd like to start at the beginning and get some background and then work our way up to some of the more interesting questions. Would you tell us a little about your youth and how you first got interested in engineering and technical subjects?<br>
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It's a lovely spring day in Winnipeg. I'm interviewing you for the [[IEEE Professional Communication Society History|IEEE Professional Communication Society (PCS)]] project. Welcome, and thank you very much for agreeing to participate. I'd like to start at the beginning and get some background and then work our way up to some of the more interesting questions. Would you tell us a little about your youth and how you first got interested in engineering and technical subjects?  
 
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<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Starting at what level or age?<br>
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Starting at what level or age?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Where were you born?<br>
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Where were you born?  
 
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<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
There is an island called Guernsey off the coast of France, one of the British Channel Islands. It was a beautiful place to live and I lived there until I was 15 until just before it was occupied by the German Army. The school, with parental approval, was evacuated to various parts of England. I was evacuated with my school. I have a little book I have written about this.<br>
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There is an island called Guernsey off the coast of France, one of the British Channel Islands. It was a beautiful place to live and I lived there until I was 15 until just before it was occupied by the German Army. The school, with parental approval, was evacuated to various parts of England. I was evacuated with my school. I have a little book I have written about this.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Oh. Is this a copy of the book you have here?<br>
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Oh. Is this a copy of the book you have here?  
 
+
<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes, it's running out of stock.<br>
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Yes, it's running out of stock.  
 
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<br>
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
The Center would like to purchase a copy, if we may.<br>
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The Center would like to purchase a copy, if we may.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Please, take this one with you with my compliments when we are done. I'll talk about it now a little bit.<br>
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Please, take this one with you with my compliments when we are done. I'll talk about it now a little bit.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Terrific, thank you. I appreciate it very much.<br>
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Terrific, thank you. I appreciate it very much.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
This book tells the story of what happened to my family and me. There you are. You have that history in your hands.<br>
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This book tells the story of what happened to my family and me. There you are. You have that history in your hands.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. So now you are high school age.<br>
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Right. So now you are high school age.  
 
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<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I was at high school. My two brothers and I were initially separated from our parents. We were evacuated to England in the hull of a Dutch cattle ship. My parents got out later and, eventually, about a month later, I found them. My mother had a brother in Winnipeg, and so it was decided we should go there. We were okayed for passage across the Atlantic in a passenger ship, which was more comfortable than the cattle ship, but still dangerous<br>
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I was at high school. My two brothers and I were initially separated from our parents. We were evacuated to England in the hull of a Dutch cattle ship. My parents got out later and, eventually, about a month later, I found them. My mother had a brother in Winnipeg, and so it was decided we should go there. We were okayed for passage across the Atlantic in a passenger ship, which was more comfortable than the cattle ship, but still dangerous  
 
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<br>
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
In a very dangerous time.<br>
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In a very dangerous time.  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
=== Military service and transition to industry  ===
 
=== Military service and transition to industry  ===
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Right. I finished my high school in Winnipeg, worked briefly for the provincial government as an audit clerk, and then, on my 18th birthday, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Trained first of all as a radio operator.<br>
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Right. I finished my high school in Winnipeg, worked briefly for the provincial government as an audit clerk, and then, on my 18th birthday, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Trained first of all as a radio operator.  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Was that your first technical training?<br>
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Was that your first technical training?  
 
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<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
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Yes.  
 
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<br>
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Your first exposure to radio engineering?<br>
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Your first exposure to radio engineering?  
 
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<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. At the end of the course I was sent on a second course, which qualified me to be a navigator, and then was assigned to an aircraft called a “Mosquito,” a twin-engine, two-seat, mid-wing bomber. At the end of the war I decided I wanted to stay in and the only way I could do it was to transfer to the Royal Air Force (RAF) in England. I did that and then flew with them until 1957. I was married and we had two boys by then, and then unfortunately my wife died.<br>
+
Yes. At the end of the course I was sent on a second course, which qualified me to be a navigator, and then was assigned to an aircraft called a “Mosquito,” a twin-engine, two-seat, mid-wing bomber. At the end of the war I decided I wanted to stay in and the only way I could do it was to transfer to the Royal Air Force (RAF) in England. I did that and then flew with them until 1957. I was married and we had two boys by then, and then unfortunately my wife died.  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I’m so sorry. Where were you living at that time?<br>
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I’m so sorry. Where were you living at that time?  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
In England. I tried coping and then realized my life was too dangerous for a single parent, so I brought them back here to Winnipeg and lived with my parents for a brief while. I was one of the early male single parents. I left the Air Force and joined industry—a company called CAE Industries—as a technical editor and training coordinator in the engineering department, based on my experience. We were doing maintenance of the northern radar defense lines for the United States Air Force.<br>
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In England. I tried coping and then realized my life was too dangerous for a single parent, so I brought them back here to Winnipeg and lived with my parents for a brief while. I was one of the early male single parents. I left the Air Force and joined industry—a company called CAE Industries—as a technical editor and training coordinator in the engineering department, based on my experience. We were doing maintenance of the northern radar defense lines for the United States Air Force.  
 
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<br>
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
On what basis did they hire you in a technical writing capacity?<br>
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On what basis did they hire you in a technical writing capacity?  
 
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<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Toward the end of my Air Force career I had had a three-year stint at the Central Navigation and Control School as a teacher of navigation and the editor of all the technical manuscripts. I got into technical writing, as people did in those days, really by accident, and I learned the craft by osmosis. <br>
+
Toward the end of my Air Force career I had had a three-year stint at the Central Navigation and Control School as a teacher of navigation and the editor of all the technical manuscripts. I got into technical writing, as people did in those days, really by accident, and I learned the craft by osmosis.  
 
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<br>
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
So your company said, “We need someone to edit this. Who is around?" And you knew the military and you had done technical editing.<br>
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So your company said, “We need someone to edit this. Who is around?" And you knew the military and you had done technical editing.  
 
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<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
There were no other technical writers in Winnipeg. So there I was, writing manuals under contracts with the USAF. The USAF was working together with the RCAF to install and maintain the northern early-warning defense systems.<br>
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There were no other technical writers in Winnipeg. So there I was, writing manuals under contracts with the USAF. The USAF was working together with the RCAF to install and maintain the northern early-warning defense systems.  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
What years did you work for this company?<br>
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What years did you work for this company?  
 
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<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
1957 to 1967.<br>
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1957 to 1967.  
 
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<br>
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Okay.<br>
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Okay.  
 
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<br>
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=== IRE Professional Group on Engineering, Writing, and Speech  ===
 
=== IRE Professional Group on Engineering, Writing, and Speech  ===
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It was while I was there, in 1958, that I heard about IRE’s technical communication group.<br>
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It was while I was there, in 1958, that I heard about [[IRE History 1912-1963|IRE’s]] technical communication group.  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. It was not yet the IEEE, but was still the IRE. What was the group called?<br>
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Right. It was not yet the IEEE, but was still the [[IRE History 1912-1963|IRE]]. What was the group called?  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
The IRE Professional Group on Engineering, Writing and Speech. I joined in 1958. This is my forty-ninth year as a member.<br>
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The IRE Professional Group on Engineering, Writing and Speech. I joined in 1958. This is my forty-ninth year as a member.  
 
+
<br>
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
It was founded less than a year earlier, so you are one of the first members.<br>
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It was founded less than a year earlier, so you are one of the first members.  
 
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<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
The first conference I went to was in 1960 in Chicago. I thought--and the company supported me here–that there was no one else doing technical communication locally. I had to go elsewhere to find it and get reinforcement.<br>
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The first conference I went to was in 1960 in Chicago. I thought--and the company supported me here–that there was no one else doing technical communication locally. I had to go elsewhere to find it and get reinforcement.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. And to find out what was happening in industry and the best practices, and so forth.<br>
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Right. And to find out what was happening in industry and the best practices, and so forth.  
 
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<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I wrote a paper to present, which meant the company felt obligated to send me.<br>
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I wrote a paper to present, which meant the company felt obligated to send me.  
 
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<br>
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
How had you heard about the group?<br>
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How had you heard about the group?  
 
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<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I cannot answer that. There was no Internet. Obviously somebody must have told me about it, and also the Society for Technical Communication, and I had to pick one. The IEEE–then the IRE–was the better one for me because I was working with engineers. I was writing and editing engineering proposals.<br>
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I cannot answer that. There was no Internet. Obviously somebody must have told me about it, and also the Society for Technical Communication, and I had to pick one. The IEEE–then the IRE–was the better one for me because I was working with engineers. I was writing and editing engineering proposals.  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. And that was an IRE organization. <br>
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Right. And that was an IRE organization.  
 
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<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. Of the two organizations it was more natural for me at that time to join IRE, and ever since I think this has been the better choice for me.<br>
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Yes. Of the two organizations it was more natural for me at that time to join IRE, and ever since I think this has been the better choice for me.  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
You attended your first meeting in 1960. How did that impact you?<br>
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You attended your first meeting in 1960. How did that impact you?  
 
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<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Very well. It was incredible meeting people. In fact, they changed it from a national conference to an international conference because I went. Everyone else was from the U.S.<br>
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Very well. It was incredible meeting people. In fact, they changed it from a national conference to an international conference because I went. Everyone else was from the U.S.  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
So that was, in effect, the first international technical communication conference?<br>
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So that was, in effect, the first international technical communication conference?  
 
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<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It was a very small group in those days. In some of the documents I have got in here you can see some of the names of the people involved.<br>
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It was a very small group in those days. In some of the documents I have got in here you can see some of the names of the people involved.  
  
 
=== IEEE Professional Communication Society  ===
 
=== IEEE Professional Communication Society  ===
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
As we said, what is today the IEEE PCS started with the IRE Group on Engineering, Writing and Speech. You say you worked for your company for 10 years, from 1957 to 1967. It was during that time the IRE joined with AIEE to form the IEEE.<br>
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As we said, what is today the IEEE PCS started with the IRE Group on Engineering, Writing and Speech. You say you worked for your company for 10 years, from 1957 to 1967. It was during that time the [[IRE History 1912-1963|IRE]] [[Formation of IEEE by the Merger of AIEE and IRE|joined with]] [[AIEE History 1884-1963|AIEE]] to form the [[IEEE History|IEEE]].  
 
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<br>
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'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I don't know the exact year.<br>
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I don't know the exact year.  
 
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<br>
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
It was in '63. They basically changed the name to the IEEE Professional Technical Group, and then the IEEE Group, and then eventually it became a society as IEEE evolved their society structure. I want to come back to the name changes later, since they may reflect an evolving field. During the ten years from 1957 to 1967 did you notice any particular developments in the field? Were there important developments in the field of engineering, writing and speech?<br>
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It was in '63. They basically changed the name to the IEEE Professional Technical Group, and then the IEEE Group, and then eventually it became a society as IEEE evolved their society structure. I want to come back to the name changes later, since they may reflect an evolving field. During the ten years from 1957 to 1967 did you notice any particular developments in the field? Were there important developments in the field of engineering, writing and speech?  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
The focus at that time was on two distinct areas. One was on how to make a good professional presentation at a conference as a technical person, because often technical people are focused on the technology and not the presentation. That is why we (the PCS Group) later moved into education. The other focus was how to write a good paper, because a lot of the people were writing their first papers. Those were the main thrusts at that time. It was really ten years later that we started doing things about education and helping technical professionals become better communicators. <br>
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The focus at that time was on two distinct areas. One was on how to make a good professional presentation at a conference as a technical person, because often technical people are focused on the technology and not the presentation. That is why we (the PCS Group) later moved into education. The other focus was how to write a good paper, because a lot of the people were writing their first papers. Those were the main thrusts at that time. It was really ten years later that we started doing things about education and helping technical professionals become better communicators.  
 
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<br>
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
The people initially attending were technical writers and editors?<br>
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The people initially attending were technical writers and editors?  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes, almost entirely.<br>
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Yes, almost entirely.  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
They just wanted to share best practices and meet each other and reinforce themselves if they were in more isolated settings?<br>
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They just wanted to share best practices and meet each other and reinforce themselves if they were in more isolated settings?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
There were so few of us.<br>
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There were so few of us.  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Over time you came to realize that there was a need that engineers who would not necessarily pursue that as their main focus still needed help in those areas.<br>
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Over time you came to realize that there was a need that engineers who would not necessarily pursue that as their main focus still needed help in those areas.  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
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Yes.  
  
=== Employment at Red River College  ===
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=== Teaching career at Red River College  ===
  
 
==== Technical communication education through engineering and English programs  ====
 
==== Technical communication education through engineering and English programs  ====
Line 353: Line 251:
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Okay. Back to your career, what happened in 1967 that made you leave your position?<br>
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Okay. Back to your career, what happened in 1967 that made you leave your position?  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Red River College—a local educational institution—started a program for engineering technologists, what in the U.S. are called engineering technicians. It was a very high-level two-year program, a very big and good one. The English Department was teaching English and the Technical Department wanted technical writing to be taught in the college. I went for an interview, even though I did not really want to go, because I liked my job. But I wanted to tell them they were doing it all wrong. I knew I didn't even have the credentials. But somehow they offered me the job. Weird. They split the English Department in half, leaving half in the English Department in the Liberal Arts program, and moving the other half into the new Technical Communication Department in the Engineering Technology program. I became the head of that department.<br>
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Red River College—a local educational institution—started a program for engineering technologists, what in the U.S. are called engineering technicians. It was a very high-level two-year program, a very big and good one. The English Department was teaching English and the Technical Department wanted technical writing to be taught in the college. I went for an interview, even though I did not really want to go, because I liked my job. But I wanted to tell them they were doing it all wrong. I knew I didn't even have the credentials. But somehow they offered me the job. Weird. They split the English Department in half, leaving half in the English Department in the Liberal Arts program, and moving the other half into the new Technical Communication Department in the Engineering Technology program. I became the head of that department.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Was that common in those days in either Canada or the United States to start a Technical Communication Department?<br>
+
Was that common in those days in either Canada or the United States to start a Technical Communication Department?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
No.<br>
+
No.  
 
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<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
And this was in spite of or because of the fact that in the interview you told them they were doing it wrong? They decided to do it your way?<br>
+
And this was in spite of or because of the fact that in the interview you told them they were doing it wrong? They decided to do it your way?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
To some extent I influenced that decision. The interview was held mostly by engineers. There was one person from the English Department, but three others were engineers and they liked my approach.<br>
+
To some extent I influenced that decision. The interview was held mostly by engineers. There was one person from the English Department, but three others were engineers and they liked my approach.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I want to follow this up as we go through the interview, but it is my understanding that even to this day, at least in U.S. universities, most of the technical writing courses are actually taught as service courses by the English Department–which is not actually directly in the technical college. Presumably they hire specialists to teach those courses but the administration is still in liberal arts.<br>
+
I want to follow this up as we go through the interview, but it is my understanding that even to this day, at least in U.S. universities, most of the technical writing courses are actually taught as service courses by the English Department–which is not actually directly in the technical college. Presumably they hire specialists to teach those courses but the administration is still in liberal arts.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Actually, it is not always specialists. It is often the newcomers in the Liberal Arts English Department that are assigned to teach technical communication, without even any experience.<br>
+
Actually, it is not always specialists. It is often the newcomers in the Liberal Arts English Department that are assigned to teach technical communication, without even any experience.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
==== Developing technological writing textbook  ====
 
==== Developing technological writing textbook  ====
Line 403: Line 285:
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
We are going to have to come back to that, how you have worked on that and tried to change it. But now back to 1967—you began an academic career at Red River College.<br>
+
We are going to have to come back to that, how you have worked on that and tried to change it. But now back to 1967—you began an academic career at Red River College.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. Within three months I realized that the books that had been preordered—a book of essays and a grammar book, were not suitable course books for what I wanted to do and I was having real trouble teaching. I went to the principal and said, "I've got a problem here." He was brilliant. He said to me: "Cancel your classes for a week, start making notes, and teach what you think should be taught." That was how my students got their notes. I was creating more notes as I went along just to stay ahead of them–the notes were based on my experience in the Air Force and in industry. There was no textbook in this field at that time, but Prentice Hall happened to learn of those notes, and those notes developed into my first textbook.<br>
+
Yes. Within three months I realized that the books that had been preordered—a book of essays and a grammar book, were not suitable course books for what I wanted to do and I was having real trouble teaching. I went to the principal and said, "I've got a problem here." He was brilliant. He said to me: "Cancel your classes for a week, start making notes, and teach what you think should be taught." That was how my students got their notes. I was creating more notes as I went along just to stay ahead of them–the notes were based on my experience in the Air Force and in industry. There was no textbook in this field at that time, but Prentice Hall happened to learn of those notes, and those notes developed into my first textbook.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
What year was that?<br>
+
What year was that?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
The textbook came out in 1972, but it was pretty well written in 1969 and 1970.<br>
+
The textbook came out in 1972, but it was pretty well written in 1969 and 1970.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
So, by 1972, Prentice Hall saw a market for a technological writing textbook?<br>
+
So, by 1972, Prentice Hall saw a market for a technological writing textbook?  
  
 
==== Technical employment for Red River College students  ====
 
==== Technical employment for Red River College students  ====
Line 433: Line 307:
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It was a pioneer in the market at the time. I was very, very fortunate to have tremendous support from the college. I think they recognized that engineering students and engineering technicians needed the help and they assigned 120 hours in a two-year course to teach technical communication, which is a hell of a lot.<br>
+
It was a pioneer in the market at the time. I was very, very fortunate to have tremendous support from the college. I think they recognized that engineering students and engineering technicians needed the help and they assigned 120 hours in a two-year course to teach technical communication, which is a hell of a lot.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
That's a very significant amount of time devoted to communication in a two-year technical program.<br>
+
That's a very significant amount of time devoted to communication in a two-year technical program.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. The graduates coming out of that course today still get the same amount. They get readily hired by the consulting firms, the telephone utility and the big power utilities. They do not have trouble getting jobs. <br>
+
Yes. The graduates coming out of that course today still get the same amount. They get readily hired by the consulting firms, the telephone utility and the big power utilities. They do not have trouble getting jobs.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
 
Manitoba Hydro is a big local utility, so it must be a major employer.  
 
Manitoba Hydro is a big local utility, so it must be a major employer.  
 
<br>
 
 
<br>
 
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes, and we've got the high-power, high-voltage DC line.<br>
+
Yes, and we've got the high-power, high-voltage DC line.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Yes, the high-voltage DC line.<br>
+
Yes, the high-voltage DC line.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I was involved consulting with a firm that is doing all the documentation on it.<br>
+
I was involved consulting with a firm that is doing all the documentation on it.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
That DC line is now an IEEE Milestone.<br>
+
That DC line is now an IEEE Milestone.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
That is one of the major industries here. But industrial jobs must be limited. Do your students in this area often go off to Toronto and Ottawa and other places?<br>
+
That is one of the major industries here. But industrial jobs must be limited. Do your students in this area often go off to Toronto and Ottawa and other places?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Actually, there is a fair amount of technical employment right in this area. There is Bristol Aerospace, Standard Aero Limited, and several engineering consulting firms. I'll give you an example. One company I consult with now is Wardrop Engineering. They started with forty people and now have 950 employees across the country, but they are still based here.<br>
+
Actually, there is a fair amount of technical employment right in this area. There is Bristol Aerospace, Standard Aero Limited, and several engineering consulting firms. I'll give you an example. One company I consult with now is Wardrop Engineering. They started with forty people and now have 950 employees across the country, but they are still based here.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Based in Winnipeg.<br>
+
Based in Winnipeg.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. I think the awareness of a need to be a good communicator as a technical professional is well established in this community. They understand that. It is not always the case in other places.<br>
+
Yes. I think the awareness of a need to be a good communicator as a technical professional is well established in this community. They understand that. It is not always the case in other places.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Interesting. What is the title of your pioneering textbook?<br>
+
Interesting. What is the title of your pioneering textbook?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Technically-Write! That’s “W-r-i-t-e”—with an exclamation mark!<br>
+
Technically-Write! That’s “W-r-i-t-e”—with an exclamation mark!  
  
<br> '''Geselowitz:'''  
+
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Almost exactly at that same time in 1971 the IEEE group changed its name from Writing and Speech to Professional Communication. What was the logic behind that?<br>
+
Almost exactly at that same time in 1971 the IEEE group changed its name from Writing and Speech to Professional Communication. What was the logic behind that?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I cannot remember the details of that decision. I do recall that even afterwards there were more discussions. "Let's change our name again," I kept hearing, but they never have. I think it is still the right name, but I didn't influence it.<br>
+
I cannot remember the details of that decision. I do recall that even afterwards there were more discussions. "Let's change our name again," I kept hearing, but they never have. I think it is still the right name, but I didn't influence it.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
And that is because it encompasses speech and writing and any other forms of communication that may come along. Of course now we have the Internet and audiovisual and interactive and whatever else. You don't have to change your name every three years because you've got a name that covers the whole story.<br>
+
And that is because it encompasses speech and writing and any other forms of communication that may come along. Of course now we have the Internet and audiovisual and interactive and whatever else. You don't have to change your name every three years because you've got a name that covers the whole story.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. <br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
==== Administrative duties  ====
 
==== Administrative duties  ====
Line 549: Line 385:
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
How long did you stay at the college?<br>
+
How long did you stay at the college?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Twenty-three years, until I "retired." With quotation marks.<br>
+
Twenty-three years, until I "retired." With quotation marks.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
For the benefit of those listening to the tape. You headed the department all that time?<br>
+
For the benefit of those listening to the tape. You headed the department all that time?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Not all the time. I stepped down occasionally because I loved the teaching. As a department head you still teach some, but you spend most of your time with administration—I didn't like all the bureaucracy.<br>
+
Not all the time. I stepped down occasionally because I loved the teaching. As a department head you still teach some, but you spend most of your time with administration—I didn't like all the bureaucracy.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
So, you had a lot of administrative duties?<br>
+
So, you had a lot of administrative duties?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. I don't mind doing them, but the teaching is the part I like. And working with technical people.<br>
+
Yes. I don't mind doing them, but the teaching is the part I like. And working with technical people.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
And since you left, is the program still going strong?<br>
+
And since you left, is the program still going strong?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I just talked two days ago to members of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Manitoba—about twenty-two people—and most were graduates of the program, so yes. But the influence is broader than just Winnipeg. Besides building the program, what happened along the way is that I developed a thing called the “pyramid method of writing.”<br>
+
I just talked two days ago to members of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Manitoba—about twenty-two people—and most were graduates of the program, so yes. But the influence is broader than just Winnipeg. Besides building the program, what happened along the way is that I developed a thing called the “pyramid method of writing.”  
  
 
==== "Pyramid method of writing"  ====
 
==== "Pyramid method of writing"  ====
Line 597: Line 419:
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I know you are well known for this, so maybe you could explain it for the sake of the interview. <br>
+
I know you are well known for this, so maybe you could explain it for the sake of the interview.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I developed the pyramid method of writing at the college. At Columbia University they were using an inverted pyramid for other forms of writing. I turned it over. My idea is that at the very top of the pyramid is where one puts the most important piece of information the reader needs. And keep it very short, because it's only introducing the topic—the pyramid reflects both the order and the amount of text devoted to each section. Then further down the pyramid one breaks down the main points–the background, then the details and then finally an action statement. We call it SBDA, for subject, background, details, and action. If you need more information on it, I can tell you another time.<br>
+
I developed the pyramid method of writing at the college. At Columbia University they were using an inverted pyramid for other forms of writing. I turned it over. My idea is that at the very top of the pyramid is where one puts the most important piece of information the reader needs. And keep it very short, because it's only introducing the topic—the pyramid reflects both the order and the amount of text devoted to each section. Then further down the pyramid one breaks down the main points–the background, then the details and then finally an action statement. We call it SBDA, for subject, background, details, and action. If you need more information on it, I can tell you another time.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Did this appear in your first textbook?<br>
+
Did this appear in your first textbook?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
You developed this concept in the first few years of teaching?<br>
+
You developed this concept in the first few years of teaching?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
So this was in your notes and that became your first textbook that we discussed earlier. That textbook became very widely used, I believe.<br>
+
So this was in your notes and that became your first textbook that we discussed earlier. That textbook became very widely used, I believe.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. The technical professional who has been immersed in literary writing suddenly sees that he does not have to build a case from the ground up as in other professions. Rather, he can identify his reason, focus information directly for that reason, tell the readers what they most need to know, and then support it with the facts. It works for him. They suddenly find it easier to write. Over my teaching career, I have seen a lot technical professionals who actually could talk quite well, but could not write. When they put words on the paper, it was really bad.<br>
+
Yes. The technical professional who has been immersed in literary writing suddenly sees that he does not have to build a case from the ground up as in other professions. Rather, he can identify his reason, focus information directly for that reason, tell the readers what they most need to know, and then support it with the facts. It works for him. They suddenly find it easier to write. Over my teaching career, I have seen a lot technical professionals who actually could talk quite well, but could not write. When they put words on the paper, it was really bad.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Do you feel that your main message is that the structuring of one’s thinking and writing is more important than the small mechanics, like breaches of grammar? Obviously one has to be precise in usage and not incorrect, but is it really the structuring of the thought that is going to make good or bad writing?<br>
+
Do you feel that your main message is that the structuring of one’s thinking and writing is more important than the small mechanics, like breaches of grammar? Obviously one has to be precise in usage and not incorrect, but is it really the structuring of the thought that is going to make good or bad writing?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes, structuring the thought. The incredible thing is that if you follow a system such as the pyramid method, the writing just seems to sort itself out.<br>
+
Yes, structuring the thought. The incredible thing is that if you follow a system such as the pyramid method, the writing just seems to sort itself out.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Interesting. Your textbook originally focused on engineering and engineering technology, and has been published in several editions. Did the focus remain the same?<br>
+
Interesting. Your textbook originally focused on engineering and engineering technology, and has been published in several editions. Did the focus remain the same?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
It seems to me that you could define technical very broadly and use this approach. In other words, first of all any foreign engineering technology but also any science. And really anything where there is specialized knowledge held by specialists and they are trying to communicate that knowledge to others, they could use the same approach.<br>
+
It seems to me that you could define technical very broadly and use this approach. In other words, first of all any foreign engineering technology but also any science. And really anything where there is specialized knowledge held by specialists and they are trying to communicate that knowledge to others, they could use the same approach.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Exactly. For example, they teach this method for health care products’ technical sales people. The concepts do not change; it is the words used and the steps used in demonstrating a particular product that changes with the product. The structure is the same, but then one builds an example and exercises based on the specifics. My other textbooks use the same concept—but my own examples remain technical.<br>
+
Exactly. For example, they teach this method for health care products’ technical sales people. The concepts do not change; it is the words used and the steps used in demonstrating a particular product that changes with the product. The structure is the same, but then one builds an example and exercises based on the specifics. My other textbooks use the same concept—but my own examples remain technical.  
  
 
=== Consulting work  ===
 
=== Consulting work  ===
Line 681: Line 477:
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Since your quote-unquote "retirement," you have been doing consulting and additional editions of your textbook.<br>
+
Since your quote-unquote "retirement," you have been doing consulting and additional editions of your textbook.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Had you begun the consulting before?<br>
+
Had you begun the consulting before?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
So, while you were teaching and occasionally administering the program here in Winnipeg, you also started consulting?<br>
+
So, while you were teaching and occasionally administering the program here in Winnipeg, you also started consulting?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes, and it contributed to the teaching, because I would go to engineering firms and say, "What sort of projects and problems do you run into?" so that I could get ideas of projects to get the students at the college to write about. It kept my teaching relevant to the field into which they would be going. The students, instead of being turned off by having to go to another English class, were turned on because they found they were writing about things that they would actually encounter once they graduated.<br>
+
Yes, and it contributed to the teaching, because I would go to engineering firms and say, "What sort of projects and problems do you run into?" so that I could get ideas of projects to get the students at the college to write about. It kept my teaching relevant to the field into which they would be going. The students, instead of being turned off by having to go to another English class, were turned on because they found they were writing about things that they would actually encounter once they graduated.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
They saw that it actually was exactly going to fit into their career ideas and career paths.<br>
+
They saw that it actually was exactly going to fit into their career ideas and career paths.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Wow. So you were able to help the companies and help your students, and then the companies were further helped when they hired your students, who were ready to contribute. You started locally in Winnipeg?<br>
+
Wow. So you were able to help the companies and help your students, and then the companies were further helped when they hired your students, who were ready to contribute. You started locally in Winnipeg?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
  
 
=== Textbook publication and revision  ===
 
=== Textbook publication and revision  ===
Line 741: Line 519:
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I would like to look at two things that may not be related but would seem to me to be related that must have happened in parallel in this period of the '70s and into the '80s and '90s until your first retirement. You had mentioned that you started your program in Winnipeg with the local companies, though the textbook was marketed in North America by Prentice Hall initially.<br>
+
I would like to look at two things that may not be related but would seem to me to be related that must have happened in parallel in this period of the '70s and into the '80s and '90s until your first retirement. You had mentioned that you started your program in Winnipeg with the local companies, though the textbook was marketed in North America by Prentice Hall initially.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I started with Wiley, and then IEEE Press picked up the first one of my books and I did a major revision. So, essentially, there are two versions of the book – a Canadian version with Prentice Hall and an IEEE version which is now put out by Wiley, which is the new partner of IEEE Press. I later ended up serving on the IEEE Press Board.<br>
+
I started with Wiley, and then IEEE Press picked up the first one of my books and I did a major revision. So, essentially, there are two versions of the book – a Canadian version with Prentice Hall and an IEEE version which is now put out by Wiley, which is the new partner of IEEE Press. I later ended up serving on the IEEE Press Board.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Yes, instead of being a stand-alone publishing house, IEEE Press is now an imprint of Wiley. That was your own career, but now you have mentioned transnational companies in your consulting. You mentioned having a Russian partner. At the same time you mentioned that when you went to the 1960 IRE professional group meeting you single-handedly made it international.<br>
+
Yes, instead of being a stand-alone publishing house, IEEE Press is now an imprint of Wiley. That was your own career, but now you have mentioned transnational companies in your consulting. You mentioned having a Russian partner. At the same time you mentioned that when you went to the 1960 IRE professional group meeting you single-handedly made it international.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
  
 
=== Leadership in the IEEE Professional Communication Society Education Committee  ===
 
=== Leadership in the IEEE Professional Communication Society Education Committee  ===
Line 765: Line 537:
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
And yet we know today that IEEE as a whole is very international. I think even the Professional Communication Society is fairly international. I'd like for you to discuss if these are indeed related to an internationalization of this field of professional communication. We see it in your work and we see it in the Society. How did that come about and who is now involved in this thing?<br>
+
And yet we know today that IEEE as a whole is very international. I think even the Professional Communication Society is fairly international. I'd like for you to discuss if these are indeed related to an internationalization of this field of professional communication. We see it in your work and we see it in the Society. How did that come about and who is now involved in this thing?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Other societies were formed. In the UK, their first association was the ISTC (Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators), which was formed in 1948. They were ahead of us. I knew of them but I didn't have any relations with them until much, much later. I am now a Fellow of their Society. Within the IEEE and the PCS–I'm probably going off on a tangent and you may wish to reel me in–I got dragged onto the AdCom (Administrative Committee). I was on the AdCom for probably twenty-seven years. What really happened was that they asked me to be Education Chairman.<br>
+
Other societies were formed. In the UK, their first association was the ISTC (Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators), which was formed in 1948. They were ahead of us. I knew of them but I didn't have any relations with them until much, much later. I am now a Fellow of their Society. Within the IEEE and the PCS–I'm probably going off on a tangent and you may wish to reel me in–I got dragged onto the AdCom (Administrative Committee). I was on the AdCom for probably twenty-seven years. What really happened was that they asked me to be Education Chairman.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
When did the Education Chair first get formed?<br>
+
When did the Education Chair first get formed?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I cannot tell you, but I have a copy of a brochure here for the Society’s educational programs—you can have it for your files. We didn't put the year on it, but I know that by 1976 we were in full operation. You can see there were six cities–including New Haven, Atlanta, and Los Angeles–where I did two-day workshops, on a Friday and a Saturday—for the IEEE. These were all based on the pyramid method of writing.<br>
+
I cannot tell you, but I have a copy of a brochure here for the Society’s educational programs—you can have it for your files. We didn't put the year on it, but I know that by 1976 we were in full operation. You can see there were six cities–including New Haven, Atlanta, and Los Angeles–where I did two-day workshops, on a Friday and a Saturday—for the IEEE. These were all based on the pyramid method of writing.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
This brochure appears to be meant for IEEE members who were not teaching engineers in university, but were the actual engineers who needed help with professional types of communication.<br>
+
This brochure appears to be meant for IEEE members who were not teaching engineers in university, but were the actual engineers who needed help with professional types of communication.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes, and the workshops were very well attended.<br>
+
Yes, and the workshops were very well attended.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Did the local sections in each of these cities help support it?<br>
+
Did the local sections in each of these cities help support it?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It was self-supporting and it was run out of the main IEEE operations center in Piscataway, New Jersey, USA. I worked with the people there. They marketed it, and they made all the arrangements. I believe they did market it heavily through the local sections and chapters. And we used an IEEE-published course packet as the textbook. I have a copy here.<br>
+
It was self-supporting and it was run out of the main IEEE operations center in Piscataway, New Jersey, USA. I worked with the people there. They marketed it, and they made all the arrangements. I believe they did market it heavily through the local sections and chapters. And we used an IEEE-published course packet as the textbook. I have a copy here.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I see.<br>
+
I see.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. Now I don't remember if it was published in 1974 or 1976. That is the only copy that I have.<br>
+
Yes. Now I don't remember if it was published in 1974 or 1976. That is the only copy that I have.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Okay. I'll make sure I return it to you.<br>
+
Okay. I'll make sure I return it to you.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. Okay.<br>
+
Yes. Okay.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
We may want to scan it electronically. Who knows if IEEE maintained any copies? If you have only one copy, then make sure that we can preserve it in the IEEE Archives—if not the original physical then at least the text.<br>
+
We may want to scan it electronically. Who knows if IEEE maintained any copies? If you have only one copy, then make sure that we can preserve it in the IEEE Archives—if not the original physical then at least the text.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Good idea. At any rate, it may have begun in 1974 but I suspect it was 1976.<br>
+
Good idea. At any rate, it may have begun in 1974 but I suspect it was 1976.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
So, based on this, the Society decided you would be the right person to be the Vice President for Education, or whatever they called the position.<br>
+
So, based on this, the Society decided you would be the right person to be the Vice President for Education, or whatever they called the position.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Chair of the Education Committee. We ran courses on all handwritten communication. I worked with Nancy Corbin who did the oral side while I handled the written side. We did these courses around the U.S. and Canada. We did them in Russia on behalf of the IEEE PCS. Rudy Joenk went over with me as well. There were four of us who went the first time. Then we did two sets of courses elsewhere in Europe–and in Estonia and in Germany. Since then I've done a few more like that.<br>
+
Chair of the Education Committee. We ran courses on all handwritten communication. I worked with Nancy Corbin who did the oral side while I handled the written side. We did these courses around the U.S. and Canada. We did them in Russia on behalf of the IEEE PCS. [[Oral-History:Rudy Joenk|Rudy Joenk]] went over with me as well. There were four of us who went the first time. Then we did two sets of courses elsewhere in Europe–and in Estonia and in Germany. Since then I've done a few more like that.  
  
<br>
+
=== Internationalization and the IEEE PCS  ===
 
+
=== Internationalization in the IEEE PCS  ===
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. About your focus on structuring the thought process of communication is it translates well internationally. You don't have to worry about language so much. Did you give these seminars in English?<br>
+
Right. About your focus on structuring the thought process of communication is it translates well internationally. You don't have to worry about language so much. Did you give these seminars in English?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes, but with a translator doing serial translation where I would say something and he would say it. In Russia, the gentleman was a technical specialist in the computer field and was very good indeed. For instance, if we would say something that he did not think would translate well, he would say "Uh-huh" instead of just translating it—and then we would have to restate it.<br>
+
Yes, but with a translator doing serial translation where I would say something and he would say it. In Russia, the gentleman was a technical specialist in the computer field and was very good indeed. For instance, if we would say something that he did not think would translate well, he would say "Uh-huh" instead of just translating it—and then we would have to restate it.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Was this in St. Petersburg?<br>
+
Was this in St. Petersburg?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
No, that was in Moscow.<br>
+
No, that was in Moscow.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
How about in Germany? Was that done in English? Because many German engineers speak English.<br>
+
How about in Germany? Was that done in English? Because many German engineers speak English.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. It was in English. Also in more recent years I participated in an organization called INTECOM (International Council for Technical Communication). All our meetings are in English—and sometimes the English of the other delegates is better than mine!<br>
+
Yes. It was in English. Also in more recent years I participated in an organization called INTECOM (International Council for Technical Communication). All our meetings are in English—and sometimes the English of the other delegates is better than mine!  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I understand that INTECOM is an umbrella organization.<br>
+
I understand that INTECOM is an umbrella organization.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes, it is an umbrella society made up of sixteen member societies from around the world. I have been the IEEE delegate since 1993, and I was President from 1998 until just recently.<br>
+
Yes, it is an umbrella society made up of sixteen member societies from around the world. I have been the IEEE delegate since 1993, and I was President from 1998 until just recently.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Does ISTC (the society in the UK that you mentioned) also belong to INTECOM?<br>
+
Does ISTC (the society in the UK that you mentioned) also belong to INTECOM?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. Each member society has our delegate to INTECOM.<br>
+
Yes. Each member society has our delegate to INTECOM.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
What are the issues with which this international umbrella group involves itself? Or do they feel that each country can just go its own way?<br>
+
What are the issues with which this international umbrella group involves itself? Or do they feel that each country can just go its own way?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
We don't set standards; we set guidelines. One in which I was particularly involved was on the following problem: If you are writing documentation for a product or software and it is going to be used around the world and it is going to be written in English–as it often is–and will only be in English, what local guidelines do you follow? You may say, "Oh, well, that's easy enough," and choose either U.S. or British English. But if you are in Finland, for example, they say, "Well, we are not sure. We have established federal guidelines which products must follow, but they don’t work well.” So we tried to establish a universal set of guidelines, which we posted to the INTECOM site. They are very extensive. For various words that you use, how to use them and which is the best way to use them for an international audience. That gives some idea of the types of things we do.<br>  
+
<flashmp3>471 - blicq - clip 1.mp3</flashmp3>
  
<br>
+
We don't set standards; we set guidelines. One in which I was particularly involved was on the following problem: If you are writing documentation for a product or software and it is going to be used around the world and it is going to be written in English–as it often is–and will only be in English, what local guidelines do you follow? You may say, "Oh, well, that's easy enough," and choose either U.S. or British English. But if you are in Finland, for example, they say, "Well, we are not sure. We have established federal guidelines which products must follow, but they don’t work well.” So we tried to establish a universal set of guidelines, which we posted to the INTECOM site. They are very extensive. For various words that you use, how to use them and which is the best way to use them for an international audience. That gives some idea of the types of things we do.
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
So the guidelines are like your workshop, where you have something that is written, and the guidelines cover written and oral presentation?<br>
+
So the guidelines are like your workshop, where you have something that is written, and the guidelines cover written and oral presentation?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
No, these are all written. Let me give you an example. Within English, do you use British or American spelling: C-o-l-o-u-r or c-o-l-o-r? Be careful not to use the word "presently," because in Britain it means "in good time," and in the U.S. it means "right away." It gives a lot of hints on words with which one should be careful or which words to use. There are some expressions particularly in the automotive field where you have a hood which in Britain means a different thing than it does in the U.S.<br>
+
No, these are all written. Let me give you an example. Within English, do you use British or American spelling: C-o-l-o-u-r or c-o-l-o-r? Be careful not to use the word "presently," because in Britain it means "in good time," and in the U.S. it means "right away." It gives a lot of hints on words with which one should be careful or which words to use. There are some expressions particularly in the automotive field where you have a hood which in Britain means a different thing than it does in the U.S.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. Or a boot versus a trunk and so forth.<br>
+
Right. Or a boot versus a trunk and so forth.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Exactly. Those are minor ones compared to many. It's a fascinating list. It's permanently on the web. I chaired its development as the IEEE delegate. Somebody else from Australia has taken it over now.<br>
+
Exactly. Those are minor ones compared to many. It's a fascinating list. It's permanently on the web. I chaired its development as the IEEE delegate. Somebody else from Australia has taken it over now.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Maybe Australian English should be the standard. They have a lot of interesting expressions.<br>
+
Maybe Australian English should be the standard. They have a lot of interesting expressions.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
True! In any event, it's very international, very interesting.<br>
+
True! In any event, it's very international, very interesting.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
=== Impact of computers and the Internet on professional communications  ===
 
=== Impact of computers and the Internet on professional communications  ===
Line 973: Line 679:
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I think now we could turn to the past twenty years or so. There has been a revolution in communications, meaning in the technical way in which information is sent and stored and retrieved. That is the Internet and the Worldwide Web and even locally the ready availability of computer-run audiovisual information. I thought maybe we could talk a little bit about how that has impacted the field of professional communications. I assume it has.<br>
+
I think now we could turn to the past twenty years or so. There has been a revolution in communications, meaning in the technical way in which information is sent and stored and retrieved. That is the Internet and the Worldwide Web and even locally the ready availability of computer-run audiovisual information. I thought maybe we could talk a little bit about how that has impacted the field of professional communications. I assume it has.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Very strongly.<br>
+
Very strongly.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
That was meant to be a leading question.<br>
+
That was meant to be a leading question.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
And it certainly was! The whole secret is that anybody who was writing a report or paper or document twenty-five years ago or twenty years ago with handwriting had access to a secretary. Secretarial skills had come into play and a lot of the language happened to be corrected by the secretaries. Nowadays that does not happen because everybody writes their own documentation on paper. Therefore there is even more need for the Professional Communication Society to be helping the engineers within the IEEE communicate more efficiently when they have got their hands on the keyboard. Does that answer your question?<br>
+
And it certainly was! The whole secret is that anybody who was writing a report or paper or document twenty-five years ago or twenty years ago with handwriting had access to a secretary. Secretarial skills had come into play and a lot of the language happened to be corrected by the secretaries. Nowadays that does not happen because everybody writes their own documentation on paper. Therefore there is even more need for the Professional Communication Society to be helping the engineers within the IEEE communicate more efficiently when they have got their hands on the keyboard. Does that answer your question?  
  
 
=== Presenting information visually  ===
 
=== Presenting information visually  ===
Line 997: Line 697:
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Yes. That's one very important piece. In engineering–because it's about the making of things and solving your own problems–it has always been very visual.<br>
+
Yes. That's one very important piece. In engineering–because it's about the making of things and solving your own problems–it has always been very visual.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Right.<br>
+
Right.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Therefore since the time of Thomas Edison, if one wanted to give a talk one could use a magic lantern. One could actually prepare a photographic image and project it. Certainly when I came of age as an engineer, there were two ways one could go: One could produce a 35-mm slide or produce what we called a foil, which is a transparent sheet that can be projected on an overhead.<br>
+
Therefore since the time of [[Thomas Alva Edison|Thomas Edison]], if one wanted to give a talk one could use a magic lantern. One could actually prepare a photographic image and project it. Certainly when I came of age as an engineer, there were two ways one could go: One could produce a 35-mm slide or produce what we called a foil, which is a transparent sheet that can be projected on an overhead.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
This can also be called a transparency.<br>
+
This can also be called a transparency.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
This can be called the transparency. Let me clarify. In your textbook and in your teaching do you talk at all about the visual presentations that accompany written work–either illustrations in the written work or else images projected on a screen to accompany the oral version of the work.<br>
+
This can be called the transparency. Let me clarify. In your textbook and in your teaching do you talk at all about the visual presentations that accompany written work–either illustrations in the written work or else images projected on a screen to accompany the oral version of the work.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. In the textbook we have a whole chapter devoted to effective presentation of information visually–either diagrams from paper or projected on a screen. Some people say to us, "Yes, but now there is software that does it for you." However we feel very strongly that although some of that software does beautiful images it does not know how to focus on a particular thought. Not accurately. The engineer who is working with that software needs to know the background of what makes a good image and the factors he should be considering to help the reader grasp the information he most needs to know. If anything, our need to do this has increased.<br>
+
Yes. In the textbook we have a whole chapter devoted to effective presentation of information visually–either diagrams from paper or projected on a screen. Some people say to us, "Yes, but now there is software that does it for you." However we feel very strongly that although some of that software does beautiful images it does not know how to focus on a particular thought. Not accurately. The engineer who is working with that software needs to know the background of what makes a good image and the factors he should be considering to help the reader grasp the information he most needs to know. If anything, our need to do this has increased.  
  
 
=== PowerPoint  ===
 
=== PowerPoint  ===
Line 1,035: Line 725:
 
You are really more on the writing side, but you were the department chair and you know the whole field and have been one of the leaders of the Society all these years. Some people have had the custom even in the transparency days of placing bullet points, summaries or whatever—that is, not just showing images to accompany the speech but actually showing words on the screen in addition to speaking. I don't believe that style was universal. I don't know what your recommendation was and I'll let you tell me in a minute. What has happened in the past ten years is a particular software application called PowerPoint has become an industry standard. It steers the user into certain style modes, including bullet points and sub-bullet points. I think that some people feel that may not be the ideal way to be thinking about structuring the talk or communicating. I was wondering if you would comment on both the use of bullet points and summaries on transparencies or slides even before PowerPoint, and then how PowerPoint has affected that.  
 
You are really more on the writing side, but you were the department chair and you know the whole field and have been one of the leaders of the Society all these years. Some people have had the custom even in the transparency days of placing bullet points, summaries or whatever—that is, not just showing images to accompany the speech but actually showing words on the screen in addition to speaking. I don't believe that style was universal. I don't know what your recommendation was and I'll let you tell me in a minute. What has happened in the past ten years is a particular software application called PowerPoint has become an industry standard. It steers the user into certain style modes, including bullet points and sub-bullet points. I think that some people feel that may not be the ideal way to be thinking about structuring the talk or communicating. I was wondering if you would comment on both the use of bullet points and summaries on transparencies or slides even before PowerPoint, and then how PowerPoint has affected that.  
  
<br> '''Blicq:'''  
+
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Okay. I'll start with PowerPoint and then go back to the other, broader question. We did not always use PowerPoint, because to some extent we find it limiting because it has its own structures. For many years we used Astound Presentation which is another program that still exists. We switched to PowerPoint because when you go in with your presentation on some sort of portable drive, and they don't have your program loaded, then you are stuck. Therefore we have got to be compatible and we are using PowerPoint. In our presentations we do use bullet points, because we are talking about writing and we are giving ideas. We are very strict on using Arial type and good bold type and not too many words on the screen at one time. I find personally there is a certain amount of limitation that is imposed by PowerPoint makers, Microsoft. There is that aspect. Should we use bullets and so on? Yes, we should. We make our point. However, I would like to impress upon engineers who are making a presentation, by all means use your slides or PowerPoint but do not issue the copies of your slides to your audience, which most do, because three months down the road those bullet points do not mean very much. When we teach our course, for example, we always have a narrative description which presents the critical information in a readable, prose format, using the pyramid method. We supply that as a support document after any presentation. Am I answering your question there?<br>
+
Okay. I'll start with PowerPoint and then go back to the other, broader question. We did not always use PowerPoint, because to some extent we find it limiting because it has its own structures. For many years we used Astound Presentation which is another program that still exists. We switched to PowerPoint because when you go in with your presentation on some sort of portable drive, and they don't have your program loaded, then you are stuck. Therefore we have got to be compatible and we are using PowerPoint. In our presentations we do use bullet points, because we are talking about writing and we are giving ideas. We are very strict on using Arial type and good bold type and not too many words on the screen at one time. I find personally there is a certain amount of limitation that is imposed by PowerPoint makers, Microsoft. There is that aspect. Should we use bullets and so on? Yes, we should. We make our point. However, I would like to impress upon engineers who are making a presentation, by all means use your slides or PowerPoint but do not issue the copies of your slides to your audience, which most do, because three months down the road those bullet points do not mean very much. When we teach our course, for example, we always have a narrative description which presents the critical information in a readable, prose format, using the pyramid method. We supply that as a support document after any presentation. Am I answering your question there?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Yes. That's how you do it. Would you advise your students to do the very same thing?<br>
+
Yes. That's how you do it. Would you advise your students to do the very same thing?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
PowerPoint is a nice visual assist that gives the audience another way to follow the presentation. Some people are visual learners and some are audio learners, so everybody in the audience will be looking at the screen and they will be listening to you, but what you are really doing is telling a narrative and the screen is just to sort of back you up or help draw out a few points visually. Just like when you show an image you are trying to make certain visual points.<br>
+
PowerPoint is a nice visual assist that gives the audience another way to follow the presentation. Some people are visual learners and some are audio learners, so everybody in the audience will be looking at the screen and they will be listening to you, but what you are really doing is telling a narrative and the screen is just to sort of back you up or help draw out a few points visually. Just like when you show an image you are trying to make certain visual points.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
And it's really the narrative that is the message and it follows your pyramid scheme.<br>
+
And it's really the narrative that is the message and it follows your pyramid scheme.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Just giving a general interest talk I would just have the PowerPoint. However for instance I'm giving a talk next month for the STC. I will use PowerPoint physical diagrams on my screen but I will support it with a narrative of the key points so that later on if somebody says, "What did Ron say?" they can go back and hear my voice. You don't hear a voice behind a slide. I don't know if this makes sense.<br>
+
Just giving a general interest talk I would just have the PowerPoint. However for instance I'm giving a talk next month for the STC. I will use PowerPoint physical diagrams on my screen but I will support it with a narrative of the key points so that later on if somebody says, "What did Ron say?" they can go back and hear my voice. You don't hear a voice behind a slide. I don't know if this makes sense.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
It makes perfect sense. I'm not going to put you on a spot and ask you this question, but I find myself wondering if ultimately PowerPoint has helped or hurt professional communication. Does the fact that it is such an industry standard help people who are otherwise poor communicators organize their thoughts?<br>
+
It makes perfect sense. I'm not going to put you on a spot and ask you this question, but I find myself wondering if ultimately PowerPoint has helped or hurt professional communication. Does the fact that it is such an industry standard help people who are otherwise poor communicators organize their thoughts?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It does help.<br>
+
It does help.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I don't know if you know the name Edward Tufte. He's a person who has made a career out of trying to convince people that visual presentation of data is important and it is often done poorly.<br>
+
I don't know if you know the name Edward Tufte. He's a person who has made a career out of trying to convince people that visual presentation of data is important and it is often done poorly.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I read an article by him recently—lately he has been on a campaign specifically against PowerPoint. He feels that it does a disservice. But you are saying you feel in the balance it does a service.<br>
+
I read an article by him recently—lately he has been on a campaign specifically against PowerPoint. He feels that it does a disservice. But you are saying you feel in the balance it does a service.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I think for the person who is going in to do a presentation and has never done one before it is a very useful tool. It has one failure that transparencies did not have. With a transparency you can see the next slide that is coming up. You can be preparing yourself for it. With PowerPoint, you click and the next one comes up. You have got to have a printout to be able to follow.<br>
+
I think for the person who is going in to do a presentation and has never done one before it is a very useful tool. It has one failure that transparencies did not have. With a transparency you can see the next slide that is coming up. You can be preparing yourself for it. With PowerPoint, you click and the next one comes up. You have got to have a printout to be able to follow.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. But that's a technical trick that can usually be taught.<br>
+
Right. But that's a technical trick that can usually be taught.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
You could very easily teach someone, "Don't think you can stand there and click. You need your copies of your slides in front of you and you need to be glancing at the next one before you click." That could be taught vigilantly.<br>
+
You could very easily teach someone, "Don't think you can stand there and click. You need your copies of your slides in front of you and you need to be glancing at the next one before you click." That could be taught vigilantly.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Interesting.<br>
+
Interesting.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
In its way Astound is better.<br>
+
In its way Astound is better.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Is this still available commercially even though it's a tiny market share?<br>
+
Is this still available commercially even though it's a tiny market share?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
As far as I know it is still available. With the very first Astound you had to have a high-power overhead projector. Then you had a special panel that you put on top of it. That was the first use of digital slides, before there were even LCD projectors.<br>
+
As far as I know it is still available. With the very first Astound you had to have a high-power overhead projector. Then you had a special panel that you put on top of it. That was the first use of digital slides, before there were even LCD projectors.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I see.<br>
+
I see.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
However it was very difficult to get the brightness needed. Eventually they came up with the LCD projector.<br>
+
However it was very difficult to get the brightness needed. Eventually they came up with the LCD projector.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. And now, whatever your software is, pretty much everyone has access to a computer or laptop and an LCD projector.<br>
+
Right. And now, whatever your software is, pretty much everyone has access to a computer or laptop and an LCD projector.  
  
 
=== Receptivity of engineers and academics to communication education  ===
 
=== Receptivity of engineers and academics to communication education  ===
Line 1,181: Line 825:
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes, but these are technical details. The hardest thing throughout my time as an educator in this field is the mandate to try to help all members of the engineering community to be better communicators. But we don't always get the best information to them, and even when we do the average engineer does not want to hear it. I think we have got to somehow get that focus straightened out so that when we do face the engineers, it is in a way they will want to hear us.<br>
+
Yes, but these are technical details. The hardest thing throughout my time as an educator in this field is the mandate to try to help all members of the engineering community to be better communicators. But we don't always get the best information to them, and even when we do the average engineer does not want to hear it. I think we have got to somehow get that focus straightened out so that when we do face the engineers, it is in a way they will want to hear us.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
What about academic engineers? Do they have any interface with the Society? I don’t mean those involved in teaching communication like yourself. I mean academics who may need help communicating in their own technical field to students and to other academics. You have mainly been talking about helping people in industry communicate technically.<br>
+
What about academic engineers? Do they have any interface with the Society? I don’t mean those involved in teaching communication like yourself. I mean academics who may need help communicating in their own technical field to students and to other academics. You have mainly been talking about helping people in industry communicate technically.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Of course, IEEE has both academics and industry people.<br>
+
Of course, IEEE has both academics and industry people.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I think there is an issue in engineering where very often someone who is a very bright student will be told, "You should go to graduate school." Then they do well in graduate school and they get their master's and then they are told, "You should really go on for the Ph.D." Once they have Ph.D.s they are supposed to be teaching, but what they really made their careers on was their research. They put them in research labs, they are new assistant professors or whatever and they say, "We need you to teach introduction to electrical engineering to two hundred freshmen." It's been ten years since they were freshmen themselves and their sole knowledge of teaching such a large course is to remember from ten years previous when they were freshmen. Should we try and help in any with that kind of academic communication? Your pyramid scheme could apply to that as well as a technical paper.<br>
+
I think there is an issue in engineering where very often someone who is a very bright student will be told, "You should go to graduate school." Then they do well in graduate school and they get their master's and then they are told, "You should really go on for the Ph.D." Once they have Ph.D.s they are supposed to be teaching, but what they really made their careers on was their research. They put them in research labs, they are new assistant professors or whatever and they say, "We need you to teach introduction to electrical engineering to two hundred freshmen." It's been ten years since they were freshmen themselves and their sole knowledge of teaching such a large course is to remember from ten years previous when they were freshmen. Should we try and help in any with that kind of academic communication? Your pyramid scheme could apply to that as well as a technical paper.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It is not done. At the university here they use it to some extent, but they have only got a 33-hour course. The engineering professors are teaching pure engineering. Some of them are aware of what we are doing. Let's put it that way.<br>
+
It is not done. At the university here they use it to some extent, but they have only got a 33-hour course. The engineering professors are teaching pure engineering. Some of them are aware of what we are doing. Let's put it that way.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Is that an area where you think the PCS could do more?<br>
+
Is that an area where you think the PCS could do more?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It could, yes.<br>
+
It could, yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
But they have connections with their colleagues in the various schools and departments of engineering, presumably.<br>
+
But they have connections with their colleagues in the various schools and departments of engineering, presumably.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
They do, but they don't bother to teach in-house as far as I know.<br>
+
They do, but they don't bother to teach in-house as far as I know.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
What they are really doing is helping to train the undergraduates who are going to get a terminal bachelor's degree and go into industry. That's what they're doing.<br>
+
What they are really doing is helping to train the undergraduates who are going to get a terminal bachelor's degree and go into industry. That's what they're doing.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
And they don't have any influence on their colleagues who are teaching on a day-to-day basis and may not be communicating as clearly as they could with their students.<br>
+
And they don't have any influence on their colleagues who are teaching on a day-to-day basis and may not be communicating as clearly as they could with their students.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Exactly. I have been thinking of the college at which I taught. Because we were embedded right in the Engineering Department, knowledge and awareness was much higher. When I first went there one day I overheard somebody in the automotive field telling students about my course, "Well, just go and take this course. You go in to get the credit, but don't worry about it. You'll never use it." However that only lasted a certain while. Eventually it was, "Take this course. It will be part of your development when you go into industry." At the college at which I taught the awareness was clearly because we were within the department. And the local university, the University of Manitoba, also happens to have three instructors of professional communication in the Electrical Engineering Department. But that does not always happen. We have been very lucky here.<br>
+
Exactly. I have been thinking of the college at which I taught. Because we were embedded right in the Engineering Department, knowledge and awareness was much higher. When I first went there one day I overheard somebody in the automotive field telling students about my course, "Well, just go and take this course. You go in to get the credit, but don't worry about it. You'll never use it." However that only lasted a certain while. Eventually it was, "Take this course. It will be part of your development when you go into industry." At the college at which I taught the awareness was clearly because we were within the department. And the local university, the University of Manitoba, also happens to have three instructors of professional communication in the Electrical Engineering Department. But that does not always happen. We have been very lucky here.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Obviously that grew somewhat over time. Would you say it has leveled off now and that the departments that have it now have it and the ones that do not are not going to have it?<br>
+
Obviously that grew somewhat over time. Would you say it has leveled off now and that the departments that have it now have it and the ones that do not are not going to have it?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It probably won't change much now.<br>
+
It probably won't change much now.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. How common is that in Canada and the U.S. to have the technical writing staff within the Department of Engineering?<br>
+
Right. How common is that in Canada and the U.S. to have the technical writing staff within the Department of Engineering?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It is not very common. It is more standard to situate such courses in Communications or English Departments. It's a little bit of a rarity, I must admit, but it is a very important development.<br>
+
It is not very common. It is more standard to situate such courses in Communications or English Departments. It's a little bit of a rarity, I must admit, but it is a very important development.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Do you think that your small college influenced the University of Manitoba? Your department was first, from what you said.<br>
+
Do you think that your small college influenced the University of Manitoba? Your department was first, from what you said.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
No.<br>
+
No.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
It is just coincidence that they also chose to bring them in-house?<br>
+
It is just coincidence that they also chose to bring them in-house?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Prentice Hall told me that we would never sell ''Technically-Write!'' for the students at the university because of a certain bias against books written by community college instructors.<br>
+
Prentice Hall told me that we would never sell ''Technically-Write!'' for the students at the university because of a certain bias against books written by community college instructors.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
You apparently have the same two-tiered system as the United States.<br>
+
You apparently have the same two-tiered system as the United States.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It happens. There are good people over there who are doing a good job. There has been much more communication in more recent years.<br>
+
It happens. There are good people over there who are doing a good job. There has been much more communication in more recent years.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Maybe there is some hope of some further change.<br>
+
Maybe there is some hope of some further change.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
There is a Canadian association that teaches technical writing. There is a U.S. one also, and I am a member of both. In both cases they tend to be too directed to–and I am not the only one who thinks this way–academic teaching and writing academic papers and presenting academic papers in an academic way. Whereas they have big communities of teachers of technical writing.<br>
+
There is a Canadian association that teaches technical writing. There is a U.S. one also, and I am a member of both. In both cases they tend to be too directed to–and I am not the only one who thinks this way–academic teaching and writing academic papers and presenting academic papers in an academic way. Whereas they have big communities of teachers of technical writing.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. Would those people tend to belong to the IEEE PCS?<br>
+
Right. Would those people tend to belong to the IEEE PCS?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
My experience here is no, they do not. I wish they would. However most of them are saying, "Well, if the college will pay for it," which is sad. They should be doing that on their own.<br>
+
My experience here is no, they do not. I wish they would. However most of them are saying, "Well, if the college will pay for it," which is sad. They should be doing that on their own.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. It's a resource issue, but still I guess that is an area where the Society may need to try and do more reaching out because it seems like they could really benefit.<br>
+
Right. It's a resource issue, but still I guess that is an area where the Society may need to try and do more reaching out because it seems like they could really benefit.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Generate more interest.<br>
+
Generate more interest.  
  
 
=== Distance learning and teleconferencing  ===
 
=== Distance learning and teleconferencing  ===
Line 1,355: Line 943:
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I missed one thing. We talked about how technology is changing in the past twenty or so years, and we talked about word processing and PowerPoint. What about so-called distance learning or teleconferencing? How has the fact that now that meetings and professional communication might take place virtually where not everyone is in the same room impacted the field?<br>
+
I missed one thing. We talked about how technology is changing in the past twenty or so years, and we talked about word processing and PowerPoint. What about so-called distance learning or teleconferencing? How has the fact that now that meetings and professional communication might take place virtually where not everyone is in the same room impacted the field?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It is done. I have taught courses where I have been in the central location and all the people have been out on their different sites. I started with ''Technically- Write!'' correspondence courses through the IEEE relatively early on. From there we developed distance learning on the Internet using web-based courses. The difficulty there is most people do not know what makes good web learning. You have to be very careful with it and I think this is somewhere where PCS really could be pushing a bit more to develop a web program. Too many people take the written words and put them on the program. The guidelines are completely different. Also, until very recently the software did not let you get into truly interactive communication. Basic distance learning just goes step-by-step. The intrinsic program we have developed on our website is a system for sensing how well you are doing. It is measuring you all the time and is diverting you into different routes depending on your learning. That's what I would like to see done more and more, and for people to be trained to be able to develop information that way.<br>
+
It is done. I have taught courses where I have been in the central location and all the people have been out on their different sites. I started with ''Technically- Write!'' correspondence courses through the IEEE relatively early on. From there we developed distance learning on the Internet using web-based courses. The difficulty there is most people do not know what makes good web learning. You have to be very careful with it and I think this is somewhere where PCS really could be pushing a bit more to develop a web program. Too many people take the written words and put them on the program. The guidelines are completely different. Also, until very recently the software did not let you get into truly interactive communication. Basic distance learning just goes step-by-step. The intrinsic program we have developed on our website is a system for sensing how well you are doing. It is measuring you all the time and is diverting you into different routes depending on your learning. That's what I would like to see done more and more, and for people to be trained to be able to develop information that way.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I know that will be in the next edition of your textbook. However it seems to me, just thinking about my own experience as a student and a teacher, a good live presentation is interactive.<br>
+
I know that will be in the next edition of your textbook. However it seems to me, just thinking about my own experience as a student and a teacher, a good live presentation is interactive.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
You have a number of points that you want to cover.<br>
+
You have a number of points that you want to cover.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Right.<br>
+
Right.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
And you want to make sure you cover them all, and you think your points are right and that they understand. However as you gauge where the audience is, first of all you engage them just a little forcefully to keep them interested. Having engaged them when you see where they are you may decide, "Well, they don't need my points 1, 2 and 3. I can give them pretty quickly because this audience is already up to 4." You can change your emphasis or you can even bring in a new point that you think would be more of interest to this audience. If you just take your canned talk and post it on the web you lose that interactivity. I think what you are saying is the web actually does give you the tools to do that sort of thing if you do it correctly.<br>
+
And you want to make sure you cover them all, and you think your points are right and that they understand. However as you gauge where the audience is, first of all you engage them just a little forcefully to keep them interested. Having engaged them when you see where they are you may decide, "Well, they don't need my points 1, 2 and 3. I can give them pretty quickly because this audience is already up to 4." You can change your emphasis or you can even bring in a new point that you think would be more of interest to this audience. If you just take your canned talk and post it on the web you lose that interactivity. I think what you are saying is the web actually does give you the tools to do that sort of thing if you do it correctly.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. When we developed our program five years ago the tools were not there. We had to create our own software. What is happening is that some organizations are doing what we call a hybrid course. They don't have the two-day course. The participants take the earlier, basic parts of the online learning course, and then write and submit an assignment so we know that they understand. We then spend one day with them teaching the higher-level structures, giving feedback on their work, and so on. That is the sort of thing that is an innovative way of teaching and transferring information and it could be done more and more–and not just in teaching communication but in teaching other subjects as well.<br>
+
Yes. When we developed our program five years ago the tools were not there. We had to create our own software. What is happening is that some organizations are doing what we call a hybrid course. They don't have the two-day course. The participants take the earlier, basic parts of the online learning course, and then write and submit an assignment so we know that they understand. We then spend one day with them teaching the higher-level structures, giving feedback on their work, and so on. That is the sort of thing that is an innovative way of teaching and transferring information and it could be done more and more–and not just in teaching communication but in teaching other subjects as well.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I think it could be really in a sense universal.<br>
+
I think it could be really in a sense universal.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
=== Dramatic and fictional writing  ===
 
=== Dramatic and fictional writing  ===
Line 1,413: Line 983:
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. You don't have to spend a long time on the elementary stuff in the classroom.<br>
+
Yes. You don't have to spend a long time on the elementary stuff in the classroom.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I note in your biography that you do non-technical writing as well.<br>
+
I note in your biography that you do non-technical writing as well.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Very much so.<br>
+
Very much so.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Could we spend a couple of minutes talking about how you got involved in that and what the interaction of that might be with your technical writing, if any?<br>
+
Could we spend a couple of minutes talking about how you got involved in that and what the interaction of that might be with your technical writing, if any?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Very, very positive results. I am a very strong believer–and somebody else is presenting a conference on this–that if you learn to also write in another domain, another job, it impacts on your other writing and makes it much better. Why did I get into drama writing? I have always had a feeling that technical writing and dramatic writing have halfway similar requirements. In technical writing you divide your information into "need to know" and "nice to know" and you concentrate on the need to know. In dramatic writing you only have an actor do something or say something if it contributes to character development or continuation of the plot. This is very similar to the pyramid method, so it is a natural way to go over to it. Writing drama was an accident in one sense in that I first tried to write children's literature. The editors kept saying, "Your descriptions are not good—work on them—but your dialogue is excellent." So I decided to take some of those stories and turn them into plays.<br>
+
Very, very positive results. I am a very strong believer–and somebody else is presenting a conference on this–that if you learn to also write in another domain, another job, it impacts on your other writing and makes it much better. Why did I get into drama writing? I have always had a feeling that technical writing and dramatic writing have halfway similar requirements. In technical writing you divide your information into "need to know" and "nice to know" and you concentrate on the need to know. In dramatic writing you only have an actor do something or say something if it contributes to character development or continuation of the plot. This is very similar to the pyramid method, so it is a natural way to go over to it. Writing drama was an accident in one sense in that I first tried to write children's literature. The editors kept saying, "Your descriptions are not good—work on them—but your dialogue is excellent." So I decided to take some of those stories and turn them into plays.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
From what you just said, in the writing of prose or poetry as opposed to drama you do have to do the "nice to know" because there is no visual image.<br>
+
From what you just said, in the writing of prose or poetry as opposed to drama you do have to do the "nice to know" because there is no visual image.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Therefore you have to describe the background and so forth and so on, whereas if you are writing drama the dialogue just needs to move forward, the characters and the plot. The costumes and the set tell the other part of the story.<br>
+
Therefore you have to describe the background and so forth and so on, whereas if you are writing drama the dialogue just needs to move forward, the characters and the plot. The costumes and the set tell the other part of the story.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. This applies not just to stage, although I write for stage. It applies to television, which is much more visual than stage drama.<br>
+
Yes. This applies not just to stage, although I write for stage. It applies to television, which is much more visual than stage drama.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. And cinema also, right?<br>
+
Right. And cinema also, right?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
When was your first play?<br>
+
When was your first play?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I wrote my first ones thirty years ago and they never went anywhere. My most recent ones were more successful. I found a drama group that likes to produce them. Strangely, they are in the UK on the island where I was born. They're an amateur group but they do professional-quality productions. They like what I write and we've had some very successful runs.<br>
+
I wrote my first ones thirty years ago and they never went anywhere. My most recent ones were more successful. I found a drama group that likes to produce them. Strangely, they are in the UK on the island where I was born. They're an amateur group but they do professional-quality productions. They like what I write and we've had some very successful runs.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
You feel that that writing exercise has helped your technical writing?<br>
+
You feel that that writing exercise has helped your technical writing?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It has speeded up my writing.<br>
+
It has speeded up my writing.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
You already explain how what you brought from technical writing helps you with the focus.<br>
+
You already explain how what you brought from technical writing helps you with the focus.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
What it does is it helps you get to the point, the primary fact. It helps you think through something much faster because you have gotten used to writing in a different way. As you write in either way, the more you write the greater your skill at writing gets. By skill I don't mean the quality. I mean the skill of getting words on the paper or at the computer.<br>
+
What it does is it helps you get to the point, the primary fact. It helps you think through something much faster because you have gotten used to writing in a different way. As you write in either way, the more you write the greater your skill at writing gets. By skill I don't mean the quality. I mean the skill of getting words on the paper or at the computer.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Probably the quality also, I imagine, is helped.<br>
+
Probably the quality also, I imagine, is helped.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It has helped develop vocabulary.<br>
+
It has helped develop vocabulary.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
==== Educational importance of reading  ====
 
==== Educational importance of reading  ====
Line 1,529: Line 1,061:
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I also feel for example personally–and probably not in the realm of the PCS– but that one way one learns to learn is by reading.<br>
+
I also feel for example personally–and probably not in the realm of the PCS– but that one way one learns to learn is by reading.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Absolutely.<br>
+
Absolutely.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
And just reading. It does not really matter what you read. I am not saying comic books, but as long as it is any kind of prose of any quality, but it doesn't matter. It could be any genre—mystery, historical fiction, nonfiction, whatever interests you—but that is how you hone your thinking skills. You gain knowledge obviously. I'm concerned that young people don't read as much as they did in the past.<br>
+
And just reading. It does not really matter what you read. I am not saying comic books, but as long as it is any kind of prose of any quality, but it doesn't matter. It could be any genre—mystery, historical fiction, nonfiction, whatever interests you—but that is how you hone your thinking skills. You gain knowledge obviously. I'm concerned that young people don't read as much as they did in the past.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Very much so. I believe J. K. Rowling is helping with that.<br>
+
Very much so. I believe J. K. Rowling is helping with that.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I'm a big fan of hers and her Harry Potter series.<br>
+
I'm a big fan of hers and her Harry Potter series.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Me too.<br>
+
Me too.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
It's funny. It's kind of interesting that we live in an age where something has to become a media event. It's not that between when J. R. Tolkien and J. K. Rowling wrote that there has not been wonderful fantasy written in English. It's just that kids stopped reading it and it took this whole media event thing to get kids interested. But if it works, it works. If kids are reading again then I'm all for it.<br>
+
It's funny. It's kind of interesting that we live in an age where something has to become a media event. It's not that between when J. R. Tolkien and J. K. Rowling wrote that there has not been wonderful fantasy written in English. It's just that kids stopped reading it and it took this whole media event thing to get kids interested. But if it works, it works. If kids are reading again then I'm all for it.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
And particularly boys, because girls read more than boys.<br>
+
And particularly boys, because girls read more than boys.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
Line 1,579: Line 1,095:
 
Girls read more than boys. Right, that's true.  
 
Girls read more than boys. Right, that's true.  
  
==== Fringe Theatre Festival  ====
+
==== Performances of Blicq's plays, Fringe Theatre Festival  ====
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Are any of your plays ever produced in the New York area so that I might take one in?<br>
+
Are any of your plays ever produced in the New York area so that I might take one in?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
No. I had one in the Fringe Theatre Festival.<br>
+
No. I had one in the Fringe Theatre Festival.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Yes, in Winnipeg. It's a well-known festival.<br>
+
Yes, in Winnipeg. It's a well-known festival.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I had one last year and I'm just starting rehearsals next week for a new play. I'm using 11- and 12-year-olds. I had them in the last play, and they are the ones that did such a fantastic job. They are part of a drama training school and their presentations were so good people walked away and said, "That was so real, so good." And the actors wanted to do another play that was a sequel to the first.<br>
+
I had one last year and I'm just starting rehearsals next week for a new play. I'm using 11- and 12-year-olds. I had them in the last play, and they are the ones that did such a fantastic job. They are part of a drama training school and their presentations were so good people walked away and said, "That was so real, so good." And the actors wanted to do another play that was a sequel to the first.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
So you were actually commissioned to write a sequel?<br>
+
So you were actually commissioned to write a sequel?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. It's going to be great. Same characters–plus one, a 14-year-old girl. <br>
+
Yes. It's going to be great. Same characters–plus one, a 14-year-old girl.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
When is the Fringe Theatre Festival?<br>
+
When is the Fringe Theatre Festival?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
The 18th of July to the 29th. One hundred and twenty performance companies, each of which does seven performances.<br>
+
The 18th of July to the 29th. One hundred and twenty performance companies, each of which does seven performances.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
July is probably a pleasant time to be in Winnipeg also.<br>
+
July is probably a pleasant time to be in Winnipeg also.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. We were lucky last year. The mosquitoes didn't come out very much.<br>
+
Yes. We were lucky last year. The mosquitoes didn't come out very much.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
=== IEEE, IEEE Press Board, international technical writing societies  ===
 
=== IEEE, IEEE Press Board, international technical writing societies  ===
Line 1,645: Line 1,141:
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I want to make sure I cover all the points I need to for the Society. This has been fascinating. I have learned a great deal. I may get hold of your textbooks because I think I can probably get them free through IEEE if I pull some strings–not the other book, but the IEEE one.<br>
+
I want to make sure I cover all the points I need to for the Society. This has been fascinating. I have learned a great deal. I may get hold of your textbooks because I think I can probably get them free through IEEE if I pull some strings–not the other book, but the IEEE one.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Oh yes.<br>
+
Oh yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
That has the same principles in it, right?<br>
+
That has the same principles in it, right?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Absolutely.<br>
+
Absolutely.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I think this could help my own teaching and professional communication.<br>
+
I think this could help my own teaching and professional communication.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
By the way, remember that I was also on the Press Board for four or five years.<br>
+
By the way, remember that I was also on the Press Board for four or five years.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Has Press published a lot in the technical writing field?<br>
+
Has Press published a lot in the technical writing field?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Some. Most of it not bad. One very good book on all communication by David Beer. It's a series of papers by different people. I think it has gone into a second edition.<br>
+
Some. Most of it not bad. One very good book on all communication by David Beer. It's a series of papers by different people. I think it has gone into a second edition.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
How else are you involved in IEEE besides the Society and the Press Editorial Board? Any particular way?<br>
+
How else are you involved in IEEE besides the Society and the Press Editorial Board? Any particular way?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
No. We had a chapter here for a while. We do not now. It just faded away.<br>
+
No. We had a chapter here for a while. We do not now. It just faded away.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
How active are the overall broader sections?<br>
+
How active are the overall broader sections?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
The section here is, I think, a very good section.<br>
+
The section here is, I think, a very good section.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I know that they have done a couple of IEEE Milestones, which shows a lot of activity and interest.<br>
+
I know that they have done a couple of IEEE Milestones, which shows a lot of activity and interest.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
And they are very active in the GOLD (Graduates Of the Last Decade), which caters to younger engineers. I have done presentations for them not on technical writing but on personal development and opening up doors and that sort of career development thing.<br>
+
And they are very active in the [[IEEE GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade)|GOLD (Graduates Of the Last Decade)]], which caters to younger engineers. I have done presentations for them not on technical writing but on personal development and opening up doors and that sort of career development thing.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. Your own career presents an interesting case study.<br>
+
Right. Your own career presents an interesting case study.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I based the presentations partly on myself, yes.<br>
+
I based the presentations partly on myself, yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. The Winnipeg Section is quite long established—it was founded in 1953. Are there a lot of life members such as yourself in this section? Do you think there would be an interest in a life member affinity group?<br>
+
Right. The [[IEEE Winnipeg Section History|Winnipeg Section]] is quite long established—it was founded in 1953. Are there a lot of life members such as yourself in this section? Do you think there would be an interest in a life member affinity group?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
We are doing such a thing, and it's having a meeting this coming month.<br>
+
We are doing such a thing, and it's having a meeting this coming month.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Do they like to work with the young people and help mentor them?<br>
+
Do they like to work with the young people and help mentor them?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
They do some, but not extensively.<br>
+
They do some, but not extensively.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
You have mentioned along the way some of the other societies–the two academic technical writing societies in the U.S. and Canada and the UK one and then INTECOM is an umbrella group. Have there been other professional organizations with whom you have interacted?<br>
+
You have mentioned along the way some of the other societies–the two academic technical writing societies in the U.S. and Canada and the UK one and then INTECOM is an umbrella group. Have there been other professional organizations with whom you have interacted?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
There is a German one. They are probably one of the biggest ones in the world and very, very active. And they have developed an umbrella group for the European Union called TC-Europe, working out of Brussels to improve communication amongst the European community. It is very encouraging to see. And Germans document things so well.<br>
+
There is a German one. They are probably one of the biggest ones in the world and very, very active. And they have developed an umbrella group for the European Union called TC-Europe, working out of Brussels to improve communication amongst the European community. It is very encouraging to see. And Germans document things so well.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. They do like to do that.<br>
+
Right. They do like to do that.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
New Zealand also has a very, very good society. I have spoken twice to them. The president of INTECOM at the moment is a New Zealander.<br>
+
New Zealand also has a very, very good society. I have spoken twice to them. The president of INTECOM at the moment is a New Zealander.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Does INTECOM also like to go and try and encourage countries that don't have national societies to create them and join?<br>
+
Does INTECOM also like to go and try and encourage countries that don't have national societies to create them and join?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
That's part of our role, to help societies develop. Norway has just started one, and we are helping them. We have helped South Africa. There is another one in Portugal coming along at the moment they are trying to develop.<br>
+
That's part of our role, to help societies develop. Norway has just started one, and we are helping them. We have helped South Africa. There is another one in Portugal coming along at the moment they are trying to develop.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Is there any tension in the fact that, as we mentioned earlier, that IEEE views itself as international or transnational, IEEE as a whole, and yet the IEEE PCS has a seat at the table in INTECOM with all these other national organizations?<br>
+
Is there any tension in the fact that, as we mentioned earlier, that IEEE views itself as international or transnational, IEEE as a whole, and yet the IEEE PCS has a seat at the table in INTECOM with all these other national organizations?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
No.<br>
+
No.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Everyone gets along splendidly?<br>
+
Everyone gets along splendidly?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It's been more difficult for the STC, the Society for Technical Communication, because although STC centrally supports working with INTECOM, it is really structured around local chapters. The presidents of the local chapters are always trying to build their own chapters, so there are clashes. Apart from that, no. The IEEE and PCS have a very good reputation internationally because of the work we have done. We held a conference in England in the ‘90s, a conference in Ireland last year, and a conference in Russia four years ago. It is not viewed as competition in any way at all, but rather as extra value on top of local activity and INTECOM.<br>
+
It's been more difficult for the STC, the Society for Technical Communication, because although STC centrally supports working with INTECOM, it is really structured around local chapters. The presidents of the local chapters are always trying to build their own chapters, so there are clashes. Apart from that, no. The IEEE and PCS have a very good reputation internationally because of the work we have done. We held a conference in England in the ‘90s, a conference in Ireland last year, and a conference in Russia four years ago. It is not viewed as competition in any way at all, but rather as extra value on top of local activity and INTECOM.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
It can also be viewed as cooperation with the local societies. That's excellent. This will be a good model for other branches of IEEE.<br>
+
It can also be viewed as cooperation with the local societies. That's excellent. This will be a good model for other branches of IEEE.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I think so, yes.<br>
+
I think so, yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
We do run into that tension sometimes.<br>
+
We do run into that tension sometimes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Possibly in some of the more technical societies.<br>
+
Possibly in some of the more technical societies.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right.<br>
+
Right.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
In professional communication it works quite well. One of the reasons is that most of these other societies have a focus on technical writing while the focus of PCS is improving the communication skill of the technical professional. Very different focus.<br>
+
In professional communication it works quite well. One of the reasons is that most of these other societies have a focus on technical writing while the focus of PCS is improving the communication skill of the technical professional. Very different focus.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right.<br>
+
Right.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Therefore we are not in competition with the other societies.<br>
+
Therefore we are not in competition with the other societies.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
So the emphasis towards education really created a niche for the Society that has become very important.<br>
+
So the emphasis towards education really created a niche for the Society that has become very important.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I think it's an essential thing. Yes.<br>
+
I think it's an essential thing. Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I think engineers could use the help whether they recognize it or not, and I guess sometimes whether their organizations and corporations recognize it or not. Would you say now, that going forward is a big mission of the PCS: to get the word out to the engineering profession that this help is necessary and available?<br>
+
I think engineers could use the help whether they recognize it or not, and I guess sometimes whether their organizations and corporations recognize it or not. Would you say now, that going forward is a big mission of the PCS: to get the word out to the engineering profession that this help is necessary and available?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It's available. And I think also it has to be presented by people who present the way I like to see courses presented. It is not another language course. It's a course to help you create a better image of yourself when you write information. It would help immensely. Too often what happens is when somebody is in trouble they eventually come to a PCS course, whereas it would be much more helpful if they had come much earlier.<br>
+
It's available. And I think also it has to be presented by people who present the way I like to see courses presented. It is not another language course. It's a course to help you create a better image of yourself when you write information. It would help immensely. Too often what happens is when somebody is in trouble they eventually come to a PCS course, whereas it would be much more helpful if they had come much earlier.  
  
 
=== Educational mission of the IEEE PCS, pre-collegiate technical writing education  ===
 
=== Educational mission of the IEEE PCS, pre-collegiate technical writing education  ===
Line 1,897: Line 1,311:
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
You raised another question. Is there a place for this in various places of IEEE and the world called K-12, pre-college, pre-university education? Is that too soon to do this kind of writing?<br>
+
You raised another question. Is there a place for this in various places of IEEE and the world called K-12, pre-college, pre-university education? Is that too soon to do this kind of writing?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Not at all! When I retired I was approached by the Manitoba Department of Education. They wanted to set up a technical writing course, communication course, within the high schools. I worked with English teachers to develop the curriculum. It was a knives-drawn battle, and eventually they agreed that it would work, but only as an elective, given the structure of the educational system. There were some teachers who agreed to participate, but when they learned that I had to teach them how to teach the course, this is how they met me: "You're not going to teach me anything." Yet now there are some people out there in the high schools doing this elective in grade 12 who are doing a fantastic job. When students who have taken this course enter my college I taught at, I hear of them as soon as they get into the program, because they already know the concepts so well. I think long-range we need to be looking at K–12.<br>  
+
<flashmp3>471 - blicq - clip 2.mp3</flashmp3>
  
<br>
+
Not at all! When I retired I was approached by the Manitoba Department of Education. They wanted to set up a technical writing course, communication course, within the high schools. I worked with English teachers to develop the curriculum. It was a knives-drawn battle, and eventually they agreed that it would work, but only as an elective, given the structure of the educational system. There were some teachers who agreed to participate, but when they learned that I had to teach them how to teach the course, this is how they met me: "You're not going to teach me anything." Yet now there are some people out there in the high schools doing this elective in grade 12 who are doing a fantastic job. When students who have taken this course enter my college I taught at, I hear of them as soon as they get into the program, because they already know the concepts so well. I think long-range we need to be looking at K–12.
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
It would be nice if it were required in high school and not just an elective.<br>
+
It would be nice if it were required in high school and not just an elective.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
That would be even better. The difficulty is getting it past the English Departments, who think of it as competition. We are not saying it is competition. It is an added aspect.<br>
+
That would be even better. The difficulty is getting it past the English Departments, who think of it as competition. We are not saying it is competition. It is an added aspect.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. And it is an increasingly important added aspect in an increasingly technical world in which these young people are going to be operating.<br>
+
Right. And it is an increasingly important added aspect in an increasingly technical world in which these young people are going to be operating.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Right.<br>
+
Right.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
Line 1,939: Line 1,343:
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
When a person retires they have got to find something to do or they just fade away. I am doing some of the things I talked about, but I had always wanted to fly a glider so I also joined the Gliding Club. In the last twelve years I have gotten my license as a glider pilot and I have that. It is very interactive because you will help each other.<br>
+
When a person retires they have got to find something to do or they just fade away. I am doing some of the things I talked about, but I had always wanted to fly a glider so I also joined the Gliding Club. In the last twelve years I have gotten my license as a glider pilot and I have that. It is very interactive because you will help each other.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Is Winnipeg a big center for gliding? I’m not an expert, but I would think with the landscape I’ve seen that this would be a great place for gliding.<br>
+
Is Winnipeg a big center for gliding? I’m not an expert, but I would think with the landscape I’ve seen that this would be a great place for gliding.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
It's very good at a place 30 km away called Starbuck—not where you get coffee! There is an old-fashioned grass field with a triangle-shaped runway. And on good summer days, in another month, there will be flying over it.<br>
+
It's very good at a place 30 km away called Starbuck—not where you get coffee! There is an old-fashioned grass field with a triangle-shaped runway. And on good summer days, in another month, there will be flying over it.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
That's great. Good for you.<br>
+
That's great. Good for you.  
  
=== International professional communication conferences, PCS archive ===
+
=== International PCS conferences, PCS archives ===
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Thank you. Now, just to go back and fill in a bit of the picture from the interview. I brought some information—you can have it for your files—on some of the specific PCS programs in which I was involved. We ran three of the annual international conferences in Canada, including one in Winnipeg in 1987.<br>
+
Thank you. Now, just to go back and fill in a bit of the picture from the interview. I brought some information—you can have it for your files—on some of the specific PCS programs in which I was involved. We ran three of the annual international conferences in Canada, including one in Winnipeg in 1987.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Were you instrumental in it?<br>
+
Were you instrumental in it?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes, I was program chair for the one in Banff and I chaired the conference in Quebec City and of course the one in Winnipeg. For the Quebec one we got some of the best attendance that we ever had. Two things contributed: first, it was truly international; and, second, the U.S. dollar went a lot farther in Canada in those days.<br>
+
Yes, I was program chair for the one in Banff and I chaired the conference in Quebec City and of course the one in Winnipeg. For the Quebec one we got some of the best attendance that we ever had. Two things contributed: first, it was truly international; and, second, the U.S. dollar went a lot farther in Canada in those days.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
So more Americans felt they could afford to come to the conference?<br>
+
So more Americans felt they could afford to come to the conference?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Exactly. Here are the brochures.<br>
+
Exactly. Here are the brochures.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I'm happy to see them, thanks. It's unfortunate that with the current political situation it might be easier to hold an international conference in Canada than in the U.S. and get participation from certain other countries.<br>
+
I'm happy to see them, thanks. It's unfortunate that with the current political situation it might be easier to hold an international conference in Canada than in the U.S. and get participation from certain other countries.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. And they come. That's true. This was the program of the one in Quebec. This is the program from the 1987 one in Winnipeg at the Sheraton Hotel downtown. I also brought some old professional communication''Transactions'' – 1971, 1972. Most of mine have gone to the Society archives.<br>
+
Yes. And they come. That's true. This was the program of the one in Quebec. This is the program from the 1987 one in Winnipeg at the Sheraton Hotel downtown. I also brought some old professional communication''Transactions'' – 1971, 1972. Most of mine have gone to the Society archives.  
  
<br> '''Geselowitz:'''  
+
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
We discussed earlier off tape that your Society has established an archive, and the History Center definitely wants to work with you to help you there and also to perhaps work with other Societies on best practices in moving forward with that. <br>
+
We discussed earlier off tape that your Society has established an archive, and the History Center definitely wants to work with you to help you there and also to perhaps work with other Societies on best practices in moving forward with that.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I have a lot of material, but nowhere is there somewhere where somebody could go because I don't have an office. I mentioned this to Michael Goodman at a meeting and Michael said, "I think we should do something," and he and I formed a committee. It is so helpful to set up the archives in one place, where I've sent all my stuff.<br>
+
I have a lot of material, but nowhere is there somewhere where somebody could go because I don't have an office. I mentioned this to Michael Goodman at a meeting and Michael said, "I think we should do something," and he and I formed a committee. It is so helpful to set up the archives in one place, where I've sent all my stuff.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Speaking of the ''Transactions'', you know that I had interviewed Rudy Joenk earlier. For many years he was editor of the ''Transactions''.<br>
+
Speaking of the ''Transactions'', you know that I had interviewed [[Oral-History:Rudy Joenk|Rudy Joenk]] earlier. For many years he was editor of the ''Transactions''.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
+
Yes.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
This one actually predates his editorship.<br>
+
This one actually predates his editorship.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Oh yes. This article is about the 1972 conference. In this photograph I looked like you.<br>
+
Oh yes. This article is about the 1972 conference. In this photograph I looked like you.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
A young Ron Blicq.<br>
+
A young Ron Blicq.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
1972 was thirty-five years ago. That was the second one I attended.<br>
+
1972 was thirty-five years ago. That was the second one I attended.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. Interesting. And this is also a ''Transactions.<br>''  
+
Right. Interesting. And this is also a ''Transactions.''  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. That is 1972 as well.<br>
+
Yes. That is 1972 as well.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
There's an article by you, and also a review of your book.<br>
+
There's an article by you, and also a review of your book.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
What? I hadn’t noticed the review. I brought it to show you the article.<br>
+
What? I hadn’t noticed the review. I brought it to show you the article.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
They reviewed your book in the same issue in which they accepted your article. <br>
+
They reviewed your book in the same issue in which they accepted your article.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
That’s the book that got the whole thing started. <br>
+
That’s the book that got the whole thing started.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. And the Quebec conference was another milestone. It was so many papers that it had a big proceedings which is still cited.<br>
+
Yes. And the Quebec conference was another milestone. It was so many papers that it had a big proceedings which is still cited.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. Would you say the conferences have been growing over the years?<br>
+
Right. Would you say the conferences have been growing over the years?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
No. They had been growing, but since 9/11 they dropped quite a bit, but that's the standard.<br>
+
No. They had been growing, but since 9/11 they dropped quite a bit, but that's the standard.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Yes, that has happened throughout IEEE conferences. First of all it's all about your belief, but I imagine that it's all associations that depend on conferences worldwide. Again, holding them in Canada might be easier for people to get visas.<br>
+
Yes, that has happened throughout IEEE conferences. First of all it's all about your belief, but I imagine that it's all associations that depend on conferences worldwide. Again, holding them in Canada might be easier for people to get visas.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Exactly.<br>
+
Exactly.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
It might be viewed as more affordable, and it might be viewed as less politically fraught.<br>
+
It might be viewed as more affordable, and it might be viewed as less politically fraught.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
We picked sites. I chose Winnipeg for the first one because I was here. It helped. I would pick Vancouver, which we have not yet done.<br>
+
We picked sites. I chose Winnipeg for the first one because I was here. It helped. I would pick Vancouver, which we have not yet done.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Isn't the upcoming one in Seattle, which is near to Vancouver but on the U.S. side?<br>
+
Isn't the upcoming one in Seattle, which is near to Vancouver but on the U.S. side?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
That's right. Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend because I have to be in Britain on the same day.<br>
+
That's right. Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend because I have to be in Britain on the same day.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
That's a shame.<br>
+
That's a shame.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I know, but I am committed to present there.<br>
+
I know, but I am committed to present there.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I am glad we were able to capture your memories on tape. Perhaps we will be able to make some of them available to the attendees in your absence because I was telling Brenda she might want to consider having a panel of the old-timers.<br>
+
I am glad we were able to capture your memories on tape. Perhaps we will be able to make some of them available to the attendees in your absence because I was telling Brenda she might want to consider having a panel of the old-timers.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I’m happy to participate. Here are the fliers we were looking at earlier. You can have those for your files.<br>
+
I’m happy to participate. Here are the fliers we were looking at earlier. You can have those for your files.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
This one is from the original short courses and workshops and this is the 1987 conference brochure?<br>
+
This one is from the original short courses and workshops and this is the 1987 conference brochure?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Yes. That was one of the things that PCS put out. I don't know if anybody has got any of those brochures.<br>
+
Yes. That was one of the things that PCS put out. I don't know if anybody has got any of those brochures.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Okay. I will talk with the PCS archives. I won't take your originals of which you only have one copy, but as I told you I will contact and make sure to go out to the PCS archives and take a look at that.<br>
+
Okay. I will talk with the PCS archives. I won't take your originals of which you only have one copy, but as I told you I will contact and make sure to go out to the PCS archives and take a look at that.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Do talk to Michael Goodman.<br>
+
Do talk to Michael Goodman.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I will, thanks. I'm going to follow up with that, because that's a great idea. Are there any other thoughts with which you would like to leave us?<br>
+
I will, thanks. I'm going to follow up with that, because that's a great idea. Are there any other thoughts with which you would like to leave us?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
I think of all the societies to which I have belonged–and I know that you are interviewing me on behalf of the IEEE PCS, so it may seem self-serving–but I have gotten more out of PCS than I have out of any of the others. It's been realistic. It has also been a very comfortable group of people with whom to work. There is a very warm feeling about working with technical communicators. We are very much in a helping mode. That will be my main point I would want to make. It has been a great experience, and forty-nine years of it.<br>
+
I think of all the societies to which I have belonged–and I know that you are interviewing me on behalf of the IEEE PCS, so it may seem self-serving–but I have gotten more out of PCS than I have out of any of the others. It's been realistic. It has also been a very comfortable group of people with whom to work. There is a very warm feeling about working with technical communicators. We are very much in a helping mode. That will be my main point I would want to make. It has been a great experience, and forty-nine years of it.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
And you are just getting started. You only had your first retirement. You still have several retirements left. And I've been very comfortable speaking with you, and I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.<br>
+
And you are just getting started. You only had your first retirement. You still have several retirements left. And I've been very comfortable speaking with you, and I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
 
'''Blicq:'''  
  
Thank you.<br><br><br>
+
Thank you.  
  
[[Category:People_and_organizations]]
+
[[Category:People and organizations|Blicq]] [[Category:Universities|Blicq]] [[Category:Communications|Blicq]] [[Category:IEEE|Blicq]] [[Category:Engineering profession|Blicq]] [[Category:Engineering education|Blicq]] [[Category:Culture and society|Blicq]] [[Category:Leisure|Blicq]] [[Category:Literature|Blicq]] [[Category:Computers and information processing|Blicq]] [[Category:Computer applications|Blicq]] [[Category:Telecommunication computing|Blicq]] [[Category:News|Blicq]]
[[Category:Universities]]
+
[[Category:Communications]]
+
[[Category:IEEE]]
+

Revision as of 17:17, 30 March 2012

Contents

About Ron Blicq

Ron Blicq was born on the British Channel island of Guernsey. After the island was occupied by the German Army, Blicq was evacuated to England at the age of 15. With his parents and brother he immigrated to Winnipeg, Canada. On his eighteenth birthday, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). At the war’s end, Blicq transferred to the Royal Air Force in England where he remained until his wife’s death in 1957. He then returned to Canada with his sons and until 1967 wrote manuals for the U.S. Air Force and the RCAF on the installation and maintenance of early warning defense systems. In 1967 Blicq was offered the position of head of the Technical Communication Department at Red River College in Winnipeg, Canada. Blicq developed the program in technical writing and presentation and published the textbook Technically-Write! during his twenty-three year tenure at Red River. He has been active in the IEEE Professional Communication Special Interest Group over most of his career. Blicq has also been involved in other international organizations, including INTECOM, which promotes written and oral communication education for engineers. Although Blicq is officially retired, he remains active in PCS and INTECOM and continues to write plays for the stage, including the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival.

About the Interview

RON BLICQ: An Interview Conducted by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, 28 March 2007, Winnipeg, Canada

Interview #471 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Ron Blicq, an oral history conducted in 2007 by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Interview

Interview: Ron Blicq

Interviewer: Michael Geselowitz

Date: 28 March 2007

Place: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Childhood and educational background

Geselowitz:

It's a lovely spring day in Winnipeg. I'm interviewing you for the IEEE Professional Communication Society (PCS) project. Welcome, and thank you very much for agreeing to participate. I'd like to start at the beginning and get some background and then work our way up to some of the more interesting questions. Would you tell us a little about your youth and how you first got interested in engineering and technical subjects?

Blicq:

Starting at what level or age?

Geselowitz:

Where were you born?

Blicq:

There is an island called Guernsey off the coast of France, one of the British Channel Islands. It was a beautiful place to live and I lived there until I was 15 until just before it was occupied by the German Army. The school, with parental approval, was evacuated to various parts of England. I was evacuated with my school. I have a little book I have written about this.

Geselowitz:

Oh. Is this a copy of the book you have here?

Blicq:

Yes, it's running out of stock.

Geselowitz:

The Center would like to purchase a copy, if we may.

Blicq:

Please, take this one with you with my compliments when we are done. I'll talk about it now a little bit.

Geselowitz:

Terrific, thank you. I appreciate it very much.

Blicq:

This book tells the story of what happened to my family and me. There you are. You have that history in your hands.

Geselowitz:

Right. So now you are high school age.

Blicq:

I was at high school. My two brothers and I were initially separated from our parents. We were evacuated to England in the hull of a Dutch cattle ship. My parents got out later and, eventually, about a month later, I found them. My mother had a brother in Winnipeg, and so it was decided we should go there. We were okayed for passage across the Atlantic in a passenger ship, which was more comfortable than the cattle ship, but still dangerous

Geselowitz:

In a very dangerous time.

Military service and transition to industry

Blicq:

Right. I finished my high school in Winnipeg, worked briefly for the provincial government as an audit clerk, and then, on my 18th birthday, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Trained first of all as a radio operator.

Geselowitz:

Was that your first technical training?

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

Your first exposure to radio engineering?

Blicq:

Yes. At the end of the course I was sent on a second course, which qualified me to be a navigator, and then was assigned to an aircraft called a “Mosquito,” a twin-engine, two-seat, mid-wing bomber. At the end of the war I decided I wanted to stay in and the only way I could do it was to transfer to the Royal Air Force (RAF) in England. I did that and then flew with them until 1957. I was married and we had two boys by then, and then unfortunately my wife died.

Geselowitz:

I’m so sorry. Where were you living at that time?

Blicq:

In England. I tried coping and then realized my life was too dangerous for a single parent, so I brought them back here to Winnipeg and lived with my parents for a brief while. I was one of the early male single parents. I left the Air Force and joined industry—a company called CAE Industries—as a technical editor and training coordinator in the engineering department, based on my experience. We were doing maintenance of the northern radar defense lines for the United States Air Force.

Geselowitz:

On what basis did they hire you in a technical writing capacity?

Blicq:

Toward the end of my Air Force career I had had a three-year stint at the Central Navigation and Control School as a teacher of navigation and the editor of all the technical manuscripts. I got into technical writing, as people did in those days, really by accident, and I learned the craft by osmosis.

Geselowitz:

So your company said, “We need someone to edit this. Who is around?" And you knew the military and you had done technical editing.

Blicq:

There were no other technical writers in Winnipeg. So there I was, writing manuals under contracts with the USAF. The USAF was working together with the RCAF to install and maintain the northern early-warning defense systems.

Geselowitz:

What years did you work for this company?

Blicq:

1957 to 1967.

Geselowitz:

Okay.

IRE Professional Group on Engineering, Writing, and Speech

Blicq:

It was while I was there, in 1958, that I heard about IRE’s technical communication group.

Geselowitz:

Right. It was not yet the IEEE, but was still the IRE. What was the group called?

Blicq:

The IRE Professional Group on Engineering, Writing and Speech. I joined in 1958. This is my forty-ninth year as a member.

Geselowitz:

It was founded less than a year earlier, so you are one of the first members.

Blicq:

The first conference I went to was in 1960 in Chicago. I thought--and the company supported me here–that there was no one else doing technical communication locally. I had to go elsewhere to find it and get reinforcement.

Geselowitz:

Right. And to find out what was happening in industry and the best practices, and so forth.

Blicq:

I wrote a paper to present, which meant the company felt obligated to send me.

Geselowitz:

How had you heard about the group?

Blicq:

I cannot answer that. There was no Internet. Obviously somebody must have told me about it, and also the Society for Technical Communication, and I had to pick one. The IEEE–then the IRE–was the better one for me because I was working with engineers. I was writing and editing engineering proposals.

Geselowitz:

Right. And that was an IRE organization.

Blicq:

Yes. Of the two organizations it was more natural for me at that time to join IRE, and ever since I think this has been the better choice for me.

Geselowitz:

You attended your first meeting in 1960. How did that impact you?

Blicq:

Very well. It was incredible meeting people. In fact, they changed it from a national conference to an international conference because I went. Everyone else was from the U.S.

Geselowitz:

So that was, in effect, the first international technical communication conference?

Blicq:

It was a very small group in those days. In some of the documents I have got in here you can see some of the names of the people involved.

IEEE Professional Communication Society

Geselowitz:

As we said, what is today the IEEE PCS started with the IRE Group on Engineering, Writing and Speech. You say you worked for your company for 10 years, from 1957 to 1967. It was during that time the IRE joined with AIEE to form the IEEE.

Blicq:

I don't know the exact year.

Geselowitz:

It was in '63. They basically changed the name to the IEEE Professional Technical Group, and then the IEEE Group, and then eventually it became a society as IEEE evolved their society structure. I want to come back to the name changes later, since they may reflect an evolving field. During the ten years from 1957 to 1967 did you notice any particular developments in the field? Were there important developments in the field of engineering, writing and speech?

Blicq:

The focus at that time was on two distinct areas. One was on how to make a good professional presentation at a conference as a technical person, because often technical people are focused on the technology and not the presentation. That is why we (the PCS Group) later moved into education. The other focus was how to write a good paper, because a lot of the people were writing their first papers. Those were the main thrusts at that time. It was really ten years later that we started doing things about education and helping technical professionals become better communicators.

Geselowitz:

The people initially attending were technical writers and editors?

Blicq:

Yes, almost entirely.

Geselowitz:

They just wanted to share best practices and meet each other and reinforce themselves if they were in more isolated settings?

Blicq:

There were so few of us.

Geselowitz:

Over time you came to realize that there was a need that engineers who would not necessarily pursue that as their main focus still needed help in those areas.

Blicq:

Yes.

Teaching career at Red River College

Technical communication education through engineering and English programs

Geselowitz:

Okay. Back to your career, what happened in 1967 that made you leave your position?

Blicq:

Red River College—a local educational institution—started a program for engineering technologists, what in the U.S. are called engineering technicians. It was a very high-level two-year program, a very big and good one. The English Department was teaching English and the Technical Department wanted technical writing to be taught in the college. I went for an interview, even though I did not really want to go, because I liked my job. But I wanted to tell them they were doing it all wrong. I knew I didn't even have the credentials. But somehow they offered me the job. Weird. They split the English Department in half, leaving half in the English Department in the Liberal Arts program, and moving the other half into the new Technical Communication Department in the Engineering Technology program. I became the head of that department.

Geselowitz:

Was that common in those days in either Canada or the United States to start a Technical Communication Department?

Blicq:

No.

Geselowitz:

And this was in spite of or because of the fact that in the interview you told them they were doing it wrong? They decided to do it your way?

Blicq:

To some extent I influenced that decision. The interview was held mostly by engineers. There was one person from the English Department, but three others were engineers and they liked my approach.

Geselowitz:

I want to follow this up as we go through the interview, but it is my understanding that even to this day, at least in U.S. universities, most of the technical writing courses are actually taught as service courses by the English Department–which is not actually directly in the technical college. Presumably they hire specialists to teach those courses but the administration is still in liberal arts.

Blicq:

Actually, it is not always specialists. It is often the newcomers in the Liberal Arts English Department that are assigned to teach technical communication, without even any experience.

Developing technological writing textbook

Geselowitz:

We are going to have to come back to that, how you have worked on that and tried to change it. But now back to 1967—you began an academic career at Red River College.

Blicq:

Yes. Within three months I realized that the books that had been preordered—a book of essays and a grammar book, were not suitable course books for what I wanted to do and I was having real trouble teaching. I went to the principal and said, "I've got a problem here." He was brilliant. He said to me: "Cancel your classes for a week, start making notes, and teach what you think should be taught." That was how my students got their notes. I was creating more notes as I went along just to stay ahead of them–the notes were based on my experience in the Air Force and in industry. There was no textbook in this field at that time, but Prentice Hall happened to learn of those notes, and those notes developed into my first textbook.

Geselowitz:

What year was that?

Blicq:

The textbook came out in 1972, but it was pretty well written in 1969 and 1970.

Geselowitz:

So, by 1972, Prentice Hall saw a market for a technological writing textbook?

Technical employment for Red River College students

Blicq:

It was a pioneer in the market at the time. I was very, very fortunate to have tremendous support from the college. I think they recognized that engineering students and engineering technicians needed the help and they assigned 120 hours in a two-year course to teach technical communication, which is a hell of a lot.

Geselowitz:

That's a very significant amount of time devoted to communication in a two-year technical program.

Blicq:

Yes. The graduates coming out of that course today still get the same amount. They get readily hired by the consulting firms, the telephone utility and the big power utilities. They do not have trouble getting jobs.

Geselowitz:

Manitoba Hydro is a big local utility, so it must be a major employer.

Blicq:

Yes, and we've got the high-power, high-voltage DC line.

Geselowitz:

Yes, the high-voltage DC line.

Blicq:

I was involved consulting with a firm that is doing all the documentation on it.

Geselowitz:

That DC line is now an IEEE Milestone.

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

That is one of the major industries here. But industrial jobs must be limited. Do your students in this area often go off to Toronto and Ottawa and other places?

Blicq:

Actually, there is a fair amount of technical employment right in this area. There is Bristol Aerospace, Standard Aero Limited, and several engineering consulting firms. I'll give you an example. One company I consult with now is Wardrop Engineering. They started with forty people and now have 950 employees across the country, but they are still based here.

Geselowitz:

Based in Winnipeg.

Blicq:

Yes. I think the awareness of a need to be a good communicator as a technical professional is well established in this community. They understand that. It is not always the case in other places.

Geselowitz:

Interesting. What is the title of your pioneering textbook?

Blicq:

Technically-Write! That’s “W-r-i-t-e”—with an exclamation mark!

Geselowitz:

Almost exactly at that same time in 1971 the IEEE group changed its name from Writing and Speech to Professional Communication. What was the logic behind that?

Blicq:

I cannot remember the details of that decision. I do recall that even afterwards there were more discussions. "Let's change our name again," I kept hearing, but they never have. I think it is still the right name, but I didn't influence it.

Geselowitz:

And that is because it encompasses speech and writing and any other forms of communication that may come along. Of course now we have the Internet and audiovisual and interactive and whatever else. You don't have to change your name every three years because you've got a name that covers the whole story.

Blicq:

Yes.

Administrative duties

Geselowitz:

How long did you stay at the college?

Blicq:

Twenty-three years, until I "retired." With quotation marks.

Geselowitz:

For the benefit of those listening to the tape. You headed the department all that time?

Blicq:

Not all the time. I stepped down occasionally because I loved the teaching. As a department head you still teach some, but you spend most of your time with administration—I didn't like all the bureaucracy.

Geselowitz:

So, you had a lot of administrative duties?

Blicq:

Yes. I don't mind doing them, but the teaching is the part I like. And working with technical people.

Geselowitz:

And since you left, is the program still going strong?

Blicq:

I just talked two days ago to members of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Manitoba—about twenty-two people—and most were graduates of the program, so yes. But the influence is broader than just Winnipeg. Besides building the program, what happened along the way is that I developed a thing called the “pyramid method of writing.”

"Pyramid method of writing"

Geselowitz:

I know you are well known for this, so maybe you could explain it for the sake of the interview.

Blicq:

I developed the pyramid method of writing at the college. At Columbia University they were using an inverted pyramid for other forms of writing. I turned it over. My idea is that at the very top of the pyramid is where one puts the most important piece of information the reader needs. And keep it very short, because it's only introducing the topic—the pyramid reflects both the order and the amount of text devoted to each section. Then further down the pyramid one breaks down the main points–the background, then the details and then finally an action statement. We call it SBDA, for subject, background, details, and action. If you need more information on it, I can tell you another time.

Geselowitz:

Did this appear in your first textbook?

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

You developed this concept in the first few years of teaching?

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

So this was in your notes and that became your first textbook that we discussed earlier. That textbook became very widely used, I believe.

Blicq:

Yes. The technical professional who has been immersed in literary writing suddenly sees that he does not have to build a case from the ground up as in other professions. Rather, he can identify his reason, focus information directly for that reason, tell the readers what they most need to know, and then support it with the facts. It works for him. They suddenly find it easier to write. Over my teaching career, I have seen a lot technical professionals who actually could talk quite well, but could not write. When they put words on the paper, it was really bad.

Geselowitz:

Do you feel that your main message is that the structuring of one’s thinking and writing is more important than the small mechanics, like breaches of grammar? Obviously one has to be precise in usage and not incorrect, but is it really the structuring of the thought that is going to make good or bad writing?

Blicq:

Yes, structuring the thought. The incredible thing is that if you follow a system such as the pyramid method, the writing just seems to sort itself out.

Geselowitz:

Interesting. Your textbook originally focused on engineering and engineering technology, and has been published in several editions. Did the focus remain the same?

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

It seems to me that you could define technical very broadly and use this approach. In other words, first of all any foreign engineering technology but also any science. And really anything where there is specialized knowledge held by specialists and they are trying to communicate that knowledge to others, they could use the same approach.

Blicq:

Exactly. For example, they teach this method for health care products’ technical sales people. The concepts do not change; it is the words used and the steps used in demonstrating a particular product that changes with the product. The structure is the same, but then one builds an example and exercises based on the specifics. My other textbooks use the same concept—but my own examples remain technical.

Consulting work

Geselowitz:

Since your quote-unquote "retirement," you have been doing consulting and additional editions of your textbook.

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

Had you begun the consulting before?

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

So, while you were teaching and occasionally administering the program here in Winnipeg, you also started consulting?

Blicq:

Yes, and it contributed to the teaching, because I would go to engineering firms and say, "What sort of projects and problems do you run into?" so that I could get ideas of projects to get the students at the college to write about. It kept my teaching relevant to the field into which they would be going. The students, instead of being turned off by having to go to another English class, were turned on because they found they were writing about things that they would actually encounter once they graduated.

Geselowitz:

They saw that it actually was exactly going to fit into their career ideas and career paths.

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

Wow. So you were able to help the companies and help your students, and then the companies were further helped when they hired your students, who were ready to contribute. You started locally in Winnipeg?

Blicq:

Yes.

Textbook publication and revision

Geselowitz:

I would like to look at two things that may not be related but would seem to me to be related that must have happened in parallel in this period of the '70s and into the '80s and '90s until your first retirement. You had mentioned that you started your program in Winnipeg with the local companies, though the textbook was marketed in North America by Prentice Hall initially.

Blicq:

I started with Wiley, and then IEEE Press picked up the first one of my books and I did a major revision. So, essentially, there are two versions of the book – a Canadian version with Prentice Hall and an IEEE version which is now put out by Wiley, which is the new partner of IEEE Press. I later ended up serving on the IEEE Press Board.

Geselowitz:

Yes, instead of being a stand-alone publishing house, IEEE Press is now an imprint of Wiley. That was your own career, but now you have mentioned transnational companies in your consulting. You mentioned having a Russian partner. At the same time you mentioned that when you went to the 1960 IRE professional group meeting you single-handedly made it international.

Blicq:

Yes.

Leadership in the IEEE Professional Communication Society Education Committee

Geselowitz:

And yet we know today that IEEE as a whole is very international. I think even the Professional Communication Society is fairly international. I'd like for you to discuss if these are indeed related to an internationalization of this field of professional communication. We see it in your work and we see it in the Society. How did that come about and who is now involved in this thing?

Blicq:

Other societies were formed. In the UK, their first association was the ISTC (Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators), which was formed in 1948. They were ahead of us. I knew of them but I didn't have any relations with them until much, much later. I am now a Fellow of their Society. Within the IEEE and the PCS–I'm probably going off on a tangent and you may wish to reel me in–I got dragged onto the AdCom (Administrative Committee). I was on the AdCom for probably twenty-seven years. What really happened was that they asked me to be Education Chairman.

Geselowitz:

When did the Education Chair first get formed?

Blicq:

I cannot tell you, but I have a copy of a brochure here for the Society’s educational programs—you can have it for your files. We didn't put the year on it, but I know that by 1976 we were in full operation. You can see there were six cities–including New Haven, Atlanta, and Los Angeles–where I did two-day workshops, on a Friday and a Saturday—for the IEEE. These were all based on the pyramid method of writing.

Geselowitz:

This brochure appears to be meant for IEEE members who were not teaching engineers in university, but were the actual engineers who needed help with professional types of communication.

Blicq:

Yes, and the workshops were very well attended.

Geselowitz:

Did the local sections in each of these cities help support it?

Blicq:

It was self-supporting and it was run out of the main IEEE operations center in Piscataway, New Jersey, USA. I worked with the people there. They marketed it, and they made all the arrangements. I believe they did market it heavily through the local sections and chapters. And we used an IEEE-published course packet as the textbook. I have a copy here.

Geselowitz:

I see.

Blicq:

Yes. Now I don't remember if it was published in 1974 or 1976. That is the only copy that I have.

Geselowitz:

Okay. I'll make sure I return it to you.

Blicq:

Yes. Okay.

Geselowitz:

We may want to scan it electronically. Who knows if IEEE maintained any copies? If you have only one copy, then make sure that we can preserve it in the IEEE Archives—if not the original physical then at least the text.

Blicq:

Good idea. At any rate, it may have begun in 1974 but I suspect it was 1976.

Geselowitz:

So, based on this, the Society decided you would be the right person to be the Vice President for Education, or whatever they called the position.

Blicq:

Chair of the Education Committee. We ran courses on all handwritten communication. I worked with Nancy Corbin who did the oral side while I handled the written side. We did these courses around the U.S. and Canada. We did them in Russia on behalf of the IEEE PCS. Rudy Joenk went over with me as well. There were four of us who went the first time. Then we did two sets of courses elsewhere in Europe–and in Estonia and in Germany. Since then I've done a few more like that.

Internationalization and the IEEE PCS

Geselowitz:

Right. About your focus on structuring the thought process of communication is it translates well internationally. You don't have to worry about language so much. Did you give these seminars in English?

Blicq:

Yes, but with a translator doing serial translation where I would say something and he would say it. In Russia, the gentleman was a technical specialist in the computer field and was very good indeed. For instance, if we would say something that he did not think would translate well, he would say "Uh-huh" instead of just translating it—and then we would have to restate it.

Geselowitz:

Was this in St. Petersburg?

Blicq:

No, that was in Moscow.

Geselowitz:

How about in Germany? Was that done in English? Because many German engineers speak English.

Blicq:

Yes. It was in English. Also in more recent years I participated in an organization called INTECOM (International Council for Technical Communication). All our meetings are in English—and sometimes the English of the other delegates is better than mine!

Geselowitz:

I understand that INTECOM is an umbrella organization.

Blicq:

Yes, it is an umbrella society made up of sixteen member societies from around the world. I have been the IEEE delegate since 1993, and I was President from 1998 until just recently.

Geselowitz:

Does ISTC (the society in the UK that you mentioned) also belong to INTECOM?

Blicq:

Yes. Each member society has our delegate to INTECOM.

Geselowitz:

What are the issues with which this international umbrella group involves itself? Or do they feel that each country can just go its own way?

Blicq:

We don't set standards; we set guidelines. One in which I was particularly involved was on the following problem: If you are writing documentation for a product or software and it is going to be used around the world and it is going to be written in English–as it often is–and will only be in English, what local guidelines do you follow? You may say, "Oh, well, that's easy enough," and choose either U.S. or British English. But if you are in Finland, for example, they say, "Well, we are not sure. We have established federal guidelines which products must follow, but they don’t work well.” So we tried to establish a universal set of guidelines, which we posted to the INTECOM site. They are very extensive. For various words that you use, how to use them and which is the best way to use them for an international audience. That gives some idea of the types of things we do.

Geselowitz:

So the guidelines are like your workshop, where you have something that is written, and the guidelines cover written and oral presentation?

Blicq:

No, these are all written. Let me give you an example. Within English, do you use British or American spelling: C-o-l-o-u-r or c-o-l-o-r? Be careful not to use the word "presently," because in Britain it means "in good time," and in the U.S. it means "right away." It gives a lot of hints on words with which one should be careful or which words to use. There are some expressions particularly in the automotive field where you have a hood which in Britain means a different thing than it does in the U.S.

Geselowitz:

Right. Or a boot versus a trunk and so forth.

Blicq:

Exactly. Those are minor ones compared to many. It's a fascinating list. It's permanently on the web. I chaired its development as the IEEE delegate. Somebody else from Australia has taken it over now.

Geselowitz:

Maybe Australian English should be the standard. They have a lot of interesting expressions.

Blicq:

True! In any event, it's very international, very interesting.

Impact of computers and the Internet on professional communications

Geselowitz:

I think now we could turn to the past twenty years or so. There has been a revolution in communications, meaning in the technical way in which information is sent and stored and retrieved. That is the Internet and the Worldwide Web and even locally the ready availability of computer-run audiovisual information. I thought maybe we could talk a little bit about how that has impacted the field of professional communications. I assume it has.

Blicq:

Very strongly.

Geselowitz:

That was meant to be a leading question.

Blicq:

And it certainly was! The whole secret is that anybody who was writing a report or paper or document twenty-five years ago or twenty years ago with handwriting had access to a secretary. Secretarial skills had come into play and a lot of the language happened to be corrected by the secretaries. Nowadays that does not happen because everybody writes their own documentation on paper. Therefore there is even more need for the Professional Communication Society to be helping the engineers within the IEEE communicate more efficiently when they have got their hands on the keyboard. Does that answer your question?

Presenting information visually

Geselowitz:

Yes. That's one very important piece. In engineering–because it's about the making of things and solving your own problems–it has always been very visual.

Blicq:

Right.

Geselowitz:

Therefore since the time of Thomas Edison, if one wanted to give a talk one could use a magic lantern. One could actually prepare a photographic image and project it. Certainly when I came of age as an engineer, there were two ways one could go: One could produce a 35-mm slide or produce what we called a foil, which is a transparent sheet that can be projected on an overhead.

Blicq:

This can also be called a transparency.

Geselowitz:

This can be called the transparency. Let me clarify. In your textbook and in your teaching do you talk at all about the visual presentations that accompany written work–either illustrations in the written work or else images projected on a screen to accompany the oral version of the work.

Blicq:

Yes. In the textbook we have a whole chapter devoted to effective presentation of information visually–either diagrams from paper or projected on a screen. Some people say to us, "Yes, but now there is software that does it for you." However we feel very strongly that although some of that software does beautiful images it does not know how to focus on a particular thought. Not accurately. The engineer who is working with that software needs to know the background of what makes a good image and the factors he should be considering to help the reader grasp the information he most needs to know. If anything, our need to do this has increased.

PowerPoint

Geselowitz:

You are really more on the writing side, but you were the department chair and you know the whole field and have been one of the leaders of the Society all these years. Some people have had the custom even in the transparency days of placing bullet points, summaries or whatever—that is, not just showing images to accompany the speech but actually showing words on the screen in addition to speaking. I don't believe that style was universal. I don't know what your recommendation was and I'll let you tell me in a minute. What has happened in the past ten years is a particular software application called PowerPoint has become an industry standard. It steers the user into certain style modes, including bullet points and sub-bullet points. I think that some people feel that may not be the ideal way to be thinking about structuring the talk or communicating. I was wondering if you would comment on both the use of bullet points and summaries on transparencies or slides even before PowerPoint, and then how PowerPoint has affected that.

Blicq:

Okay. I'll start with PowerPoint and then go back to the other, broader question. We did not always use PowerPoint, because to some extent we find it limiting because it has its own structures. For many years we used Astound Presentation which is another program that still exists. We switched to PowerPoint because when you go in with your presentation on some sort of portable drive, and they don't have your program loaded, then you are stuck. Therefore we have got to be compatible and we are using PowerPoint. In our presentations we do use bullet points, because we are talking about writing and we are giving ideas. We are very strict on using Arial type and good bold type and not too many words on the screen at one time. I find personally there is a certain amount of limitation that is imposed by PowerPoint makers, Microsoft. There is that aspect. Should we use bullets and so on? Yes, we should. We make our point. However, I would like to impress upon engineers who are making a presentation, by all means use your slides or PowerPoint but do not issue the copies of your slides to your audience, which most do, because three months down the road those bullet points do not mean very much. When we teach our course, for example, we always have a narrative description which presents the critical information in a readable, prose format, using the pyramid method. We supply that as a support document after any presentation. Am I answering your question there?

Geselowitz:

Yes. That's how you do it. Would you advise your students to do the very same thing?

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

PowerPoint is a nice visual assist that gives the audience another way to follow the presentation. Some people are visual learners and some are audio learners, so everybody in the audience will be looking at the screen and they will be listening to you, but what you are really doing is telling a narrative and the screen is just to sort of back you up or help draw out a few points visually. Just like when you show an image you are trying to make certain visual points.

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

And it's really the narrative that is the message and it follows your pyramid scheme.

Blicq:

Just giving a general interest talk I would just have the PowerPoint. However for instance I'm giving a talk next month for the STC. I will use PowerPoint physical diagrams on my screen but I will support it with a narrative of the key points so that later on if somebody says, "What did Ron say?" they can go back and hear my voice. You don't hear a voice behind a slide. I don't know if this makes sense.

Geselowitz:

It makes perfect sense. I'm not going to put you on a spot and ask you this question, but I find myself wondering if ultimately PowerPoint has helped or hurt professional communication. Does the fact that it is such an industry standard help people who are otherwise poor communicators organize their thoughts?

Blicq:

It does help.

Geselowitz:

I don't know if you know the name Edward Tufte. He's a person who has made a career out of trying to convince people that visual presentation of data is important and it is often done poorly.

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

I read an article by him recently—lately he has been on a campaign specifically against PowerPoint. He feels that it does a disservice. But you are saying you feel in the balance it does a service.

Blicq:

I think for the person who is going in to do a presentation and has never done one before it is a very useful tool. It has one failure that transparencies did not have. With a transparency you can see the next slide that is coming up. You can be preparing yourself for it. With PowerPoint, you click and the next one comes up. You have got to have a printout to be able to follow.

Geselowitz:

Right. But that's a technical trick that can usually be taught.

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

You could very easily teach someone, "Don't think you can stand there and click. You need your copies of your slides in front of you and you need to be glancing at the next one before you click." That could be taught vigilantly.

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

Interesting.

Blicq:

In its way Astound is better.

Geselowitz:

Is this still available commercially even though it's a tiny market share?

Blicq:

As far as I know it is still available. With the very first Astound you had to have a high-power overhead projector. Then you had a special panel that you put on top of it. That was the first use of digital slides, before there were even LCD projectors.

Geselowitz:

I see.

Blicq:

However it was very difficult to get the brightness needed. Eventually they came up with the LCD projector.

Geselowitz:

Right. And now, whatever your software is, pretty much everyone has access to a computer or laptop and an LCD projector.

Receptivity of engineers and academics to communication education

Blicq:

Yes, but these are technical details. The hardest thing throughout my time as an educator in this field is the mandate to try to help all members of the engineering community to be better communicators. But we don't always get the best information to them, and even when we do the average engineer does not want to hear it. I think we have got to somehow get that focus straightened out so that when we do face the engineers, it is in a way they will want to hear us.

Geselowitz:

What about academic engineers? Do they have any interface with the Society? I don’t mean those involved in teaching communication like yourself. I mean academics who may need help communicating in their own technical field to students and to other academics. You have mainly been talking about helping people in industry communicate technically.

Blicq:

Of course, IEEE has both academics and industry people.

Geselowitz:

I think there is an issue in engineering where very often someone who is a very bright student will be told, "You should go to graduate school." Then they do well in graduate school and they get their master's and then they are told, "You should really go on for the Ph.D." Once they have Ph.D.s they are supposed to be teaching, but what they really made their careers on was their research. They put them in research labs, they are new assistant professors or whatever and they say, "We need you to teach introduction to electrical engineering to two hundred freshmen." It's been ten years since they were freshmen themselves and their sole knowledge of teaching such a large course is to remember from ten years previous when they were freshmen. Should we try and help in any with that kind of academic communication? Your pyramid scheme could apply to that as well as a technical paper.

Blicq:

It is not done. At the university here they use it to some extent, but they have only got a 33-hour course. The engineering professors are teaching pure engineering. Some of them are aware of what we are doing. Let's put it that way.

Geselowitz:

Is that an area where you think the PCS could do more?

Blicq:

It could, yes.

Geselowitz:

But they have connections with their colleagues in the various schools and departments of engineering, presumably.

Blicq:

They do, but they don't bother to teach in-house as far as I know.

Geselowitz:

What they are really doing is helping to train the undergraduates who are going to get a terminal bachelor's degree and go into industry. That's what they're doing.

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

And they don't have any influence on their colleagues who are teaching on a day-to-day basis and may not be communicating as clearly as they could with their students.

Blicq:

Exactly. I have been thinking of the college at which I taught. Because we were embedded right in the Engineering Department, knowledge and awareness was much higher. When I first went there one day I overheard somebody in the automotive field telling students about my course, "Well, just go and take this course. You go in to get the credit, but don't worry about it. You'll never use it." However that only lasted a certain while. Eventually it was, "Take this course. It will be part of your development when you go into industry." At the college at which I taught the awareness was clearly because we were within the department. And the local university, the University of Manitoba, also happens to have three instructors of professional communication in the Electrical Engineering Department. But that does not always happen. We have been very lucky here.

Geselowitz:

Obviously that grew somewhat over time. Would you say it has leveled off now and that the departments that have it now have it and the ones that do not are not going to have it?

Blicq:

It probably won't change much now.

Geselowitz:

Right. How common is that in Canada and the U.S. to have the technical writing staff within the Department of Engineering?

Blicq:

It is not very common. It is more standard to situate such courses in Communications or English Departments. It's a little bit of a rarity, I must admit, but it is a very important development.

Geselowitz:

Do you think that your small college influenced the University of Manitoba? Your department was first, from what you said.

Blicq:

No.

Geselowitz:

It is just coincidence that they also chose to bring them in-house?

Blicq:

Prentice Hall told me that we would never sell Technically-Write! for the students at the university because of a certain bias against books written by community college instructors.

Geselowitz:

You apparently have the same two-tiered system as the United States.

Blicq:

It happens. There are good people over there who are doing a good job. There has been much more communication in more recent years.

Geselowitz:

Maybe there is some hope of some further change.

Blicq:

There is a Canadian association that teaches technical writing. There is a U.S. one also, and I am a member of both. In both cases they tend to be too directed to–and I am not the only one who thinks this way–academic teaching and writing academic papers and presenting academic papers in an academic way. Whereas they have big communities of teachers of technical writing.

Geselowitz:

Right. Would those people tend to belong to the IEEE PCS?

Blicq:

My experience here is no, they do not. I wish they would. However most of them are saying, "Well, if the college will pay for it," which is sad. They should be doing that on their own.

Geselowitz:

Right. It's a resource issue, but still I guess that is an area where the Society may need to try and do more reaching out because it seems like they could really benefit.

Blicq:

Generate more interest.

Distance learning and teleconferencing

Geselowitz:

I missed one thing. We talked about how technology is changing in the past twenty or so years, and we talked about word processing and PowerPoint. What about so-called distance learning or teleconferencing? How has the fact that now that meetings and professional communication might take place virtually where not everyone is in the same room impacted the field?

Blicq:

It is done. I have taught courses where I have been in the central location and all the people have been out on their different sites. I started with Technically- Write! correspondence courses through the IEEE relatively early on. From there we developed distance learning on the Internet using web-based courses. The difficulty there is most people do not know what makes good web learning. You have to be very careful with it and I think this is somewhere where PCS really could be pushing a bit more to develop a web program. Too many people take the written words and put them on the program. The guidelines are completely different. Also, until very recently the software did not let you get into truly interactive communication. Basic distance learning just goes step-by-step. The intrinsic program we have developed on our website is a system for sensing how well you are doing. It is measuring you all the time and is diverting you into different routes depending on your learning. That's what I would like to see done more and more, and for people to be trained to be able to develop information that way.

Geselowitz:

I know that will be in the next edition of your textbook. However it seems to me, just thinking about my own experience as a student and a teacher, a good live presentation is interactive.

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

You have a number of points that you want to cover.

Blicq:

Right.

Geselowitz:

And you want to make sure you cover them all, and you think your points are right and that they understand. However as you gauge where the audience is, first of all you engage them just a little forcefully to keep them interested. Having engaged them when you see where they are you may decide, "Well, they don't need my points 1, 2 and 3. I can give them pretty quickly because this audience is already up to 4." You can change your emphasis or you can even bring in a new point that you think would be more of interest to this audience. If you just take your canned talk and post it on the web you lose that interactivity. I think what you are saying is the web actually does give you the tools to do that sort of thing if you do it correctly.

Blicq:

Yes. When we developed our program five years ago the tools were not there. We had to create our own software. What is happening is that some organizations are doing what we call a hybrid course. They don't have the two-day course. The participants take the earlier, basic parts of the online learning course, and then write and submit an assignment so we know that they understand. We then spend one day with them teaching the higher-level structures, giving feedback on their work, and so on. That is the sort of thing that is an innovative way of teaching and transferring information and it could be done more and more–and not just in teaching communication but in teaching other subjects as well.

Geselowitz:

I think it could be really in a sense universal.

Dramatic and fictional writing

Relationship with technical writing

Blicq:

Yes. You don't have to spend a long time on the elementary stuff in the classroom.

Geselowitz:

I note in your biography that you do non-technical writing as well.

Blicq:

Very much so.

Geselowitz:

Could we spend a couple of minutes talking about how you got involved in that and what the interaction of that might be with your technical writing, if any?

Blicq:

Very, very positive results. I am a very strong believer–and somebody else is presenting a conference on this–that if you learn to also write in another domain, another job, it impacts on your other writing and makes it much better. Why did I get into drama writing? I have always had a feeling that technical writing and dramatic writing have halfway similar requirements. In technical writing you divide your information into "need to know" and "nice to know" and you concentrate on the need to know. In dramatic writing you only have an actor do something or say something if it contributes to character development or continuation of the plot. This is very similar to the pyramid method, so it is a natural way to go over to it. Writing drama was an accident in one sense in that I first tried to write children's literature. The editors kept saying, "Your descriptions are not good—work on them—but your dialogue is excellent." So I decided to take some of those stories and turn them into plays.

Geselowitz:

From what you just said, in the writing of prose or poetry as opposed to drama you do have to do the "nice to know" because there is no visual image.

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

Therefore you have to describe the background and so forth and so on, whereas if you are writing drama the dialogue just needs to move forward, the characters and the plot. The costumes and the set tell the other part of the story.

Blicq:

Yes. This applies not just to stage, although I write for stage. It applies to television, which is much more visual than stage drama.

Geselowitz:

Right. And cinema also, right?

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

When was your first play?

Blicq:

I wrote my first ones thirty years ago and they never went anywhere. My most recent ones were more successful. I found a drama group that likes to produce them. Strangely, they are in the UK on the island where I was born. They're an amateur group but they do professional-quality productions. They like what I write and we've had some very successful runs.

Geselowitz:

You feel that that writing exercise has helped your technical writing?

Blicq:

It has speeded up my writing.

Geselowitz:

You already explain how what you brought from technical writing helps you with the focus.

Blicq:

What it does is it helps you get to the point, the primary fact. It helps you think through something much faster because you have gotten used to writing in a different way. As you write in either way, the more you write the greater your skill at writing gets. By skill I don't mean the quality. I mean the skill of getting words on the paper or at the computer.

Geselowitz:

Probably the quality also, I imagine, is helped.

Blicq:

It has helped develop vocabulary.

Educational importance of reading

Geselowitz:

I also feel for example personally–and probably not in the realm of the PCS– but that one way one learns to learn is by reading.

Blicq:

Absolutely.

Geselowitz:

And just reading. It does not really matter what you read. I am not saying comic books, but as long as it is any kind of prose of any quality, but it doesn't matter. It could be any genre—mystery, historical fiction, nonfiction, whatever interests you—but that is how you hone your thinking skills. You gain knowledge obviously. I'm concerned that young people don't read as much as they did in the past.

Blicq:

Very much so. I believe J. K. Rowling is helping with that.

Geselowitz:

I'm a big fan of hers and her Harry Potter series.

Blicq:

Me too.

Geselowitz:

It's funny. It's kind of interesting that we live in an age where something has to become a media event. It's not that between when J. R. Tolkien and J. K. Rowling wrote that there has not been wonderful fantasy written in English. It's just that kids stopped reading it and it took this whole media event thing to get kids interested. But if it works, it works. If kids are reading again then I'm all for it.

Blicq:

And particularly boys, because girls read more than boys.

Geselowitz:

Girls read more than boys. Right, that's true.

Performances of Blicq's plays, Fringe Theatre Festival

Geselowitz:

Are any of your plays ever produced in the New York area so that I might take one in?

Blicq:

No. I had one in the Fringe Theatre Festival.

Geselowitz:

Yes, in Winnipeg. It's a well-known festival.

Blicq:

I had one last year and I'm just starting rehearsals next week for a new play. I'm using 11- and 12-year-olds. I had them in the last play, and they are the ones that did such a fantastic job. They are part of a drama training school and their presentations were so good people walked away and said, "That was so real, so good." And the actors wanted to do another play that was a sequel to the first.

Geselowitz:

So you were actually commissioned to write a sequel?

Blicq:

Yes. It's going to be great. Same characters–plus one, a 14-year-old girl.

Geselowitz:

When is the Fringe Theatre Festival?

Blicq:

The 18th of July to the 29th. One hundred and twenty performance companies, each of which does seven performances.

Geselowitz:

July is probably a pleasant time to be in Winnipeg also.

Blicq:

Yes. We were lucky last year. The mosquitoes didn't come out very much.

IEEE, IEEE Press Board, international technical writing societies

Geselowitz:

I want to make sure I cover all the points I need to for the Society. This has been fascinating. I have learned a great deal. I may get hold of your textbooks because I think I can probably get them free through IEEE if I pull some strings–not the other book, but the IEEE one.

Blicq:

Oh yes.

Geselowitz:

That has the same principles in it, right?

Blicq:

Absolutely.

Geselowitz:

I think this could help my own teaching and professional communication.

Blicq:

By the way, remember that I was also on the Press Board for four or five years.

Geselowitz:

Has Press published a lot in the technical writing field?

Blicq:

Some. Most of it not bad. One very good book on all communication by David Beer. It's a series of papers by different people. I think it has gone into a second edition.

Geselowitz:

How else are you involved in IEEE besides the Society and the Press Editorial Board? Any particular way?

Blicq:

No. We had a chapter here for a while. We do not now. It just faded away.

Geselowitz:

How active are the overall broader sections?

Blicq:

The section here is, I think, a very good section.

Geselowitz:

I know that they have done a couple of IEEE Milestones, which shows a lot of activity and interest.

Blicq:

And they are very active in the GOLD (Graduates Of the Last Decade), which caters to younger engineers. I have done presentations for them not on technical writing but on personal development and opening up doors and that sort of career development thing.

Geselowitz:

Right. Your own career presents an interesting case study.

Blicq:

I based the presentations partly on myself, yes.

Geselowitz:

Right. The Winnipeg Section is quite long established—it was founded in 1953. Are there a lot of life members such as yourself in this section? Do you think there would be an interest in a life member affinity group?

Blicq:

We are doing such a thing, and it's having a meeting this coming month.

Geselowitz:

Do they like to work with the young people and help mentor them?

Blicq:

They do some, but not extensively.

Geselowitz:

You have mentioned along the way some of the other societies–the two academic technical writing societies in the U.S. and Canada and the UK one and then INTECOM is an umbrella group. Have there been other professional organizations with whom you have interacted?

Blicq:

There is a German one. They are probably one of the biggest ones in the world and very, very active. And they have developed an umbrella group for the European Union called TC-Europe, working out of Brussels to improve communication amongst the European community. It is very encouraging to see. And Germans document things so well.

Geselowitz:

Right. They do like to do that.

Blicq:

New Zealand also has a very, very good society. I have spoken twice to them. The president of INTECOM at the moment is a New Zealander.

Geselowitz:

Does INTECOM also like to go and try and encourage countries that don't have national societies to create them and join?

Blicq:

That's part of our role, to help societies develop. Norway has just started one, and we are helping them. We have helped South Africa. There is another one in Portugal coming along at the moment they are trying to develop.

Geselowitz:

Is there any tension in the fact that, as we mentioned earlier, that IEEE views itself as international or transnational, IEEE as a whole, and yet the IEEE PCS has a seat at the table in INTECOM with all these other national organizations?

Blicq:

No.

Geselowitz:

Everyone gets along splendidly?

Blicq:

It's been more difficult for the STC, the Society for Technical Communication, because although STC centrally supports working with INTECOM, it is really structured around local chapters. The presidents of the local chapters are always trying to build their own chapters, so there are clashes. Apart from that, no. The IEEE and PCS have a very good reputation internationally because of the work we have done. We held a conference in England in the ‘90s, a conference in Ireland last year, and a conference in Russia four years ago. It is not viewed as competition in any way at all, but rather as extra value on top of local activity and INTECOM.

Geselowitz:

It can also be viewed as cooperation with the local societies. That's excellent. This will be a good model for other branches of IEEE.

Blicq:

I think so, yes.

Geselowitz:

We do run into that tension sometimes.

Blicq:

Possibly in some of the more technical societies.

Geselowitz:

Right.

Blicq:

In professional communication it works quite well. One of the reasons is that most of these other societies have a focus on technical writing while the focus of PCS is improving the communication skill of the technical professional. Very different focus.

Geselowitz:

Right.

Blicq:

Therefore we are not in competition with the other societies.

Geselowitz:

So the emphasis towards education really created a niche for the Society that has become very important.

Blicq:

I think it's an essential thing. Yes.

Geselowitz:

I think engineers could use the help whether they recognize it or not, and I guess sometimes whether their organizations and corporations recognize it or not. Would you say now, that going forward is a big mission of the PCS: to get the word out to the engineering profession that this help is necessary and available?

Blicq:

It's available. And I think also it has to be presented by people who present the way I like to see courses presented. It is not another language course. It's a course to help you create a better image of yourself when you write information. It would help immensely. Too often what happens is when somebody is in trouble they eventually come to a PCS course, whereas it would be much more helpful if they had come much earlier.

Educational mission of the IEEE PCS, pre-collegiate technical writing education

Geselowitz:

You raised another question. Is there a place for this in various places of IEEE and the world called K-12, pre-college, pre-university education? Is that too soon to do this kind of writing?

Blicq:

Not at all! When I retired I was approached by the Manitoba Department of Education. They wanted to set up a technical writing course, communication course, within the high schools. I worked with English teachers to develop the curriculum. It was a knives-drawn battle, and eventually they agreed that it would work, but only as an elective, given the structure of the educational system. There were some teachers who agreed to participate, but when they learned that I had to teach them how to teach the course, this is how they met me: "You're not going to teach me anything." Yet now there are some people out there in the high schools doing this elective in grade 12 who are doing a fantastic job. When students who have taken this course enter my college I taught at, I hear of them as soon as they get into the program, because they already know the concepts so well. I think long-range we need to be looking at K–12.

Geselowitz:

It would be nice if it were required in high school and not just an elective.

Blicq:

That would be even better. The difficulty is getting it past the English Departments, who think of it as competition. We are not saying it is competition. It is an added aspect.

Geselowitz:

Right. And it is an increasingly important added aspect in an increasingly technical world in which these young people are going to be operating.

Blicq:

Right.

Geselowitz:

That's good. You really are active in that arena also. That pretty much covers what I hoped to hear from you, and I was wondering if you had any closing thoughts or ideas we did not cover that you like to make sure to get on the record?

Retirement activities

Blicq:

When a person retires they have got to find something to do or they just fade away. I am doing some of the things I talked about, but I had always wanted to fly a glider so I also joined the Gliding Club. In the last twelve years I have gotten my license as a glider pilot and I have that. It is very interactive because you will help each other.

Geselowitz:

Is Winnipeg a big center for gliding? I’m not an expert, but I would think with the landscape I’ve seen that this would be a great place for gliding.

Blicq:

It's very good at a place 30 km away called Starbuck—not where you get coffee! There is an old-fashioned grass field with a triangle-shaped runway. And on good summer days, in another month, there will be flying over it.

Geselowitz:

That's great. Good for you.

International PCS conferences, PCS archives

Blicq:

Thank you. Now, just to go back and fill in a bit of the picture from the interview. I brought some information—you can have it for your files—on some of the specific PCS programs in which I was involved. We ran three of the annual international conferences in Canada, including one in Winnipeg in 1987.

Geselowitz:

Were you instrumental in it?

Blicq:

Yes, I was program chair for the one in Banff and I chaired the conference in Quebec City and of course the one in Winnipeg. For the Quebec one we got some of the best attendance that we ever had. Two things contributed: first, it was truly international; and, second, the U.S. dollar went a lot farther in Canada in those days.

Geselowitz:

So more Americans felt they could afford to come to the conference?

Blicq:

Exactly. Here are the brochures.

Geselowitz:

I'm happy to see them, thanks. It's unfortunate that with the current political situation it might be easier to hold an international conference in Canada than in the U.S. and get participation from certain other countries.

Blicq:

Yes. And they come. That's true. This was the program of the one in Quebec. This is the program from the 1987 one in Winnipeg at the Sheraton Hotel downtown. I also brought some old professional communicationTransactions – 1971, 1972. Most of mine have gone to the Society archives.

Geselowitz:

We discussed earlier off tape that your Society has established an archive, and the History Center definitely wants to work with you to help you there and also to perhaps work with other Societies on best practices in moving forward with that.

Blicq:

I have a lot of material, but nowhere is there somewhere where somebody could go because I don't have an office. I mentioned this to Michael Goodman at a meeting and Michael said, "I think we should do something," and he and I formed a committee. It is so helpful to set up the archives in one place, where I've sent all my stuff.

Geselowitz:

Speaking of the Transactions, you know that I had interviewed Rudy Joenk earlier. For many years he was editor of the Transactions.

Blicq:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

This one actually predates his editorship.

Blicq:

Oh yes. This article is about the 1972 conference. In this photograph I looked like you.

Geselowitz:

A young Ron Blicq.

Blicq:

1972 was thirty-five years ago. That was the second one I attended.

Geselowitz:

Right. Interesting. And this is also a Transactions.

Blicq:

Yes. That is 1972 as well.

Geselowitz:

There's an article by you, and also a review of your book.

Blicq:

What? I hadn’t noticed the review. I brought it to show you the article.

Geselowitz:

They reviewed your book in the same issue in which they accepted your article.

Geselowitz:

That’s the book that got the whole thing started.

Blicq:

Yes. And the Quebec conference was another milestone. It was so many papers that it had a big proceedings which is still cited.

Geselowitz:

Right. Would you say the conferences have been growing over the years?

Blicq:

No. They had been growing, but since 9/11 they dropped quite a bit, but that's the standard.

Geselowitz:

Yes, that has happened throughout IEEE conferences. First of all it's all about your belief, but I imagine that it's all associations that depend on conferences worldwide. Again, holding them in Canada might be easier for people to get visas.

Blicq:

Exactly.

Geselowitz:

It might be viewed as more affordable, and it might be viewed as less politically fraught.

Blicq:

We picked sites. I chose Winnipeg for the first one because I was here. It helped. I would pick Vancouver, which we have not yet done.

Geselowitz:

Isn't the upcoming one in Seattle, which is near to Vancouver but on the U.S. side?

Blicq:

That's right. Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend because I have to be in Britain on the same day.

Geselowitz:

That's a shame.

Blicq:

I know, but I am committed to present there.

Geselowitz:

I am glad we were able to capture your memories on tape. Perhaps we will be able to make some of them available to the attendees in your absence because I was telling Brenda she might want to consider having a panel of the old-timers.

Blicq:

I’m happy to participate. Here are the fliers we were looking at earlier. You can have those for your files.

Geselowitz:

This one is from the original short courses and workshops and this is the 1987 conference brochure?

Blicq:

Yes. That was one of the things that PCS put out. I don't know if anybody has got any of those brochures.

Geselowitz:

Okay. I will talk with the PCS archives. I won't take your originals of which you only have one copy, but as I told you I will contact and make sure to go out to the PCS archives and take a look at that.

Blicq:

Do talk to Michael Goodman.

Geselowitz:

I will, thanks. I'm going to follow up with that, because that's a great idea. Are there any other thoughts with which you would like to leave us?

Blicq:

I think of all the societies to which I have belonged–and I know that you are interviewing me on behalf of the IEEE PCS, so it may seem self-serving–but I have gotten more out of PCS than I have out of any of the others. It's been realistic. It has also been a very comfortable group of people with whom to work. There is a very warm feeling about working with technical communicators. We are very much in a helping mode. That will be my main point I would want to make. It has been a great experience, and forty-nine years of it.

Geselowitz:

And you are just getting started. You only had your first retirement. You still have several retirements left. And I've been very comfortable speaking with you, and I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

Blicq:

Thank you.