The new home computer glares at you from its stand. You know its wires must plug in somewhere, but the instruction manual reads like a computer engineer's diary.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of translators, mostly women, who can turn technical jargon such as "take the interface card and secure it to the printer cable" into "please plug the computer into the printer."
Demand for writers who can break down computerese into layman terms is is at an all-time high in today's computer-oriented world, according to a report issued recently by the Society for Technical Communicators. "There are brilliant scientists and engineers around who just can't translate their ideas into simple terms," a group spokesman explained.
Membership in STC, which is dominated by IBM employes, has more than doubled, jumping from 5,000 to 10,800 during the past five years, according to executive director William Stolgitis. He said the report found that most of the technical translators are in the field of computing (30 percent), while the remainder are in the fields of electronics, autos and medicine.
The results of the survey, called "Profile '85," show that the "typical" technical commmunicator today is a woman who majored in English, graduated from college between eight and 17 years ago, works for the computer industry and makes $30,500 a year.
The findings are based on 1,250 survey samples chosen from more than 3,100 completed questionnaires.
One of the most interesting findings showed that 54 percent of STC's members are women, whereas a similar survey conducted by the society seven years ago found that 60 percent of the group's members were men.
"Profile '85" also revealed that the median salary for men ($34,000) is higher than that for women ($27,500). Stolgitis said that this pay gap is smaller than those found in other fields dominated by women.
The report also showed that the median salary for technical writers in the government/military sector was $2,000 higher than the $31,000 average for all workers in private industry. New York and Pennsylvania offered the highest median salary to technical writers ($33,500) while Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio paid the lowest ($27,500).
Not only have women members' ranks grown dramtically since the society was formed 29 years ago, but also, according to Stolgitis, engineers did all their own writing back then.
"When the society was founded in 1958, engineers were more comfortable doing their own writing," he said. "Now, most of the members are not engineers but English majors, which shows how the profession has transformed since then."
The survey also asked about education levels, types of job functions and number of years with the organization. It concluded that technical communicators are young, well-educated, satisfied with their jobs and are noticing an increase in the status of their field.
The STC, based in Washington, conducts seminars and workshops and distributes information about the field to its members. According to Stolgitis, it is the largest and fastest-growing professional organization devoted to the field of technical communication. It has more than 90 chapters and branches located throughout the United States, in Canada and in several other countries.
Three representatives, a columnist, a senator, a consumer advocate and a diverse crowd of nonprofit executives gathered last week at a convention here to review once again the issues surrounding the insurance liability crisis. The Greater Washington Society of Association Executives and the Small Business Legislative Council sponsored the event, held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel last Monday and Tuesday. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader, columnist Jack Anderson, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and a host of legislative and insurance industry representatives presented their views in hopes of offering association executives a balanced picture of the "crisis," according to Steve Carey, executive vice president of GWSAE. During the two-day session, attendees learned about the risks of insurance pools and other forms of self-insurance, and were urged by almost all speakers to support the overhaul of the Risk Retention Act of 1981 to increase companies' alternatives.
District of Columbia Hospital Association President Stephen H. Lipson is leaving that group to become executive vice president of the Ohio Hospital Association in Columbus, Ohio. Lipson was the first employe hired by the District association in 1978 and has since conducted two major research projects for them as well as lobbied Congress on their behalf.
The United States Telephone Association will gain a well-known industry representative as its general counsel in early April -- Martin T. McCue, director of government relations for the Chicago company Centel Corp. McCue, who has been in charge of that company's Washington office since 1981, succeeds Jack Herrington, the association's general counsel for the past 10 years.
Carolyn Herr, legislative representative for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, was honored recently with a distinguished service award by Washington's Women in Government Relations. The award is presented to the member who is most active in the 750-member lobbying organization.
A local clothing-store retailer has been reelected as assistant treasurer of Menswear Retailers of America: Robert C. Caras, vice president and treasurer of S. H. Berman Inc., a store in the Pentagon building that caters to the agency's 23,000 employes.
Board members of the American Industrial Health Council have appointed Josephine S. Cooper, former EPA assistant administrator, as senior vice president for policy and issues. The council is an affiliate of the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association.