As I mentioned earlier, we started TASC as a technical writing and training company. Our early days were occupied in training individuals on Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Office 95, PowerBuilder, C, C++, Microsoft Visual Basic, and the like. It was after a couple of months of starting the company that we got our first technical writing contract; and what a contract it was!
It was from a company based in Gujarat that was developing an RDBMS. They were looking for comprehensive technical documentation for their product. One of the directors of this company knew us from the time we authored some books on PowerBuilder and he approached us to create the documentation for the RDBMS.
We had to create some 12 manuals on topics ranging from installing and configuring the RDBMS to SQL commands and functions. We had 7 months to do it in. The development team was based in Gandhinagar while the headquarters were in Mumbai. So we travelled often to Gandhinagar (fly to Ahmedabad and travel by road to Gandhinagar by road) for meetings with the development team and for review meetings.
Aldus PageMaker (now Adobe PageMaker) was the mandated tool. At first, we decided to directly author in PageMaker, but soon realised how painful that was. So, we employed a DTP operator to layout the manuals while we swtiched to the easier Microsoft Word for authoring. FullShot was the screen capture tool.
Those were the days of dial-up internet with a princely 9.6 kbps data transfer rate and our files were gigantic. So we used printouts and floppy disks to deliver documentation for review. This typically involved a late night run to Mulund, a distant suburb of Mumbai, where the client had a sales office for another of his businesses. There were people who travelled to Gandhinagar every week from here, and they would carry printouts to and from the development team.
On other days, we used the famed angadia service that delivered anything from documents to diamonds overnight to Gujarat. It was a boon when First Flight Couriers started deliveries to Gandhinagar.
Fun and games aside, it was an exhilarating if exhausting few months. We were given every facility we needed to get our work done. Be it access to people, books, equipment, travel support….
The client trusted us to know what would be required of documentation for such a product. We read manuals from Microsoft and Oracle to understand how manuals were written, what should be included, how should the manual look… We learnt everything there was to learn about RDBMS’s. Everything was a discovery. And we learnt such a lot.
Even today, I can write the most complex of SQL queries with ease.
While we may not have realised it then, for us, living up to the faith reposed in us became the thing. And we did.
The sense of accomplishment when we heard that the documentation passed a certification process initiated by a major US-based venture capitalist is indescribable.