Blast from the Past – Volume 1: The First American Technical Communicator?

Today’s entry from the TCGM grad school archives is from April 2010, when I was still a tech comm fledgling. Note the reference to Walter Issacson towards the end of the entry. His name might be more familiar to us now, as he is the official biographer of the late Steve Jobs, and whose book came out just after Jobs’ death last fall.  I have always been a history geek, so it was fun to try to make this connection back then (and I still stand by it!)

So what do you think…would ol’Ben here have been an m-learning advocate? Knowing his love of communication and technology, as well as his avid promotion of literacy and education, methinks he would’ve totally supported it!

Benjamin Franklin On a night when I finally felt mentally and physically exhausted enough to take a break, I found my husband channel surfing on TV. (Now that we have an HD-TV, he’s on it a lot more than he used to be.) Among the channels that he does like to watch– and I do too, is the History Channel in HD. Last night, I think the show was Modern Marvels, and they actually had the whole episode dedicated to the works of Benjamin Franklin. Now, I’ve always had a slight soft spot in my heart for Ben Franklin, ever since I was in about third grade, and read my first biography about him, and knowing that he had strong ties to Philadelphia, which is the city I most associated with when I was growing up (even though I lived halfway between New York and Philly, Philly has family and that was the “culture” I was oriented around.) This was recently revived with a trip to the Franklin Institute with my son.

Anyway, I didn’t catch the whole show, and of course, my husband would be channel surfing during commercials, but from what I was catching of the program, which was towards the end of the episode, they were talking about Franklin being ahead of time on many levels–which he was–and how he was a big player when it came to eighteenth century communication and science. We know that Franklin was the one who was a newspaper printer, a philosopher, a statesman, a politician, and a scientist. But the thing that ties all those other elements of this post-Renaissance man is that he was a writer. He was a prolific writer, in fact, writing everything from the contents of the Pennsylvania Gazette, to books about philosophy, and writing letters and documents that helped to form the United States and its diplomatic ties. He also opened up the first public library in the United States, specifically the Library Company of Philadelphia, whereby patrons could join for a small fee and share the books in the library, for the purpose of learning and being able to exchange ideas.

The  author Walter Issacson, who wrote a biography about Ben Franklin, was one of the commentators, and he was saying that if Ben Franklin lived in this day and age, he’d be loving it! With this being the digital age of email, computer communications, cell phones, Twitter, etc., Franklin would’ve been totally in his element, as he was all about the latest in science and communication, and for a guy in his time, he was on the cutting edge of such things. Part of a segment I saw talked about how Franklin was the first one to help devise the concept of watermarks and other security devices to protect the manufacturing of money, some of which are still used today.  It was also mentioned that if Franklin had a new way of doing something or a new invention, he always shared his ideas and how he did them, with the exception of this currency security printing method, understandably.  So, that makes me think that perhaps with all the cool inventions and discoveries he made, and considering that he was both a scientist AND a writer, that sharing that information made him the first American technical communicator.

What do you think? It’s a pretty good theory, anyway. 😉

About TechCommGeekMom

Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who has recently started her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, BASF North America, Merck, and Deloitte, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog, TechCommGeekMom.com, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, TCUK (ISTC) and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/daniellemvillegas, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog.
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