"I'm heading to the big city to become famous!" -- Unknown

Famous Technical Writers

  • Thomas Pynchon (Gravity's Rainbow, Mason & Dixon, Vineland) was a writer for Boeing in the early 1960s.
  • Kurt Vonnegut worked as a technical writer for General Electric.
  • Amy Tan, who wrote the "Joy Luck Club" once worked at Nortel Networks as a Technical Writer.
  • John Steinbeck who wrote "Log from the Sea of Corte".
  • Tina, the tech writer, from Dilbert.

Miscellaneous Comments About Famous Technical Writers

"Well, the standard model of "fame" as it refers to a specific profession depends on how much a person's work penetrates into the common body of knowledge all people in the profession are expected to have. Therefore, "fame" only really occurs if your discipline has a strong academic presence. I could guarantee you all particle physicists, for example, can tell you who Schrodinger was, because they all had to learn about him as part of their schoolwork."

"How about a little broader -- technical communicators. I feel that the greatest technical communicators of all time are Ed Yourdon and Tom DeMarco (of structured systems analysis fame). 

"However, I base my criteria for fame on whose books/papers we read/studied in my graduate technical writing program. The authors that I would consider famous are those whose books/papers I wasn't tempted to sleep through (and those who have been published often). I realize that I consider these people famous, but others might not. Joann Hackos would definitely be on my list. Other members of my "famous" list are: John Carroll, Paul Anderson, Carolyn Rude, Robert Johnson, Carolyn Miller, Rachel Spilka"

"I'd say first of all, our own Eric J. Ray, for starters.... (*see HTML for Dummies). Then add Peter Kent ("Making $$ in Tech writing)... Laura LeMay (Web design stuff) Bill Horton (online stuff) and a host of others... just go to your local MicroCenter and check out the books!"

"Laura LeMay is the most famous technical writer when it comes to Internet development. She wrote the first comprehensive HTML book in 1994. It was a bestseller, followed by several similar ones. Being a technical writer at Sun Microsystems, she subsequently wrote other books on Java. Her style is very concise, yet very clear. She is my all-time reference. John December also produced several good books, such as the HTML Bible, as early as 1995."

"I consider John McPhee to be a famous Technical Writer. Though he is a journalist, he is wonderfully adept and discussing technical material."

"I can tell you who the FIRST software technical writer was (is): Joe Chapline. Joe worked for Eckert and Mauchley back in the 40s, and he was the first person ever employed just to document the way a software operating system worked. I had the pleasure of inviting him to speak at an InterChange conference in the Boston area a few years ago, and he was fascinating. I even held his copy of that first manual - and it could pass muster today! One other possible candidate (with a stretch): Julius Caesar - some of his military treatises are very technical."

"My first reaction is to point out that the owners of... TECHWR-L, Eric J. Ray and Deborah S. Ray wrote a book that I have, "HTML 4 For Dummies Quick Reference." That makes them famous in my eyes..."

"What about Robert Pirsig, of _Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance_fame? His book's been in print for a long time. And isn't E. Annie Proulx (one of my favorite authors) also a tech writer? And, OK, this is stretching it, but what about Bob Newhart's character on the 2nd Bob Newhart show? He wrote those how-to-do-it books".

"If fame means recognition by your peers, try the STC Fellows, Associate Fellows, and Honorary Fellows lists. You'll find names like Bill Horton, Marty Shelton, Edward Tufte, Ginny Reddish, and S. I. Hayakawa, just to mention a few. BTW, there's a guy named Eric Ray who's pretty well known around these parts, too. If fame means public recognition outside the tech writing profession, then how about Isaac Asimov, Don Norman, James Burke, Martha Stewart (yes, THAT Martha Stewart, and a bunch of other people who do "how-to" television) and Buckminster Fuller? Oh yeah, take a look at Herman Melville's description of "The Try Works" in Moby Dick."

"My vote is for David MacAulay, author of "The Way Things Work" books. He's not incredibly famous, but maybe he'll do in a pinch. (They have made TV shows and software based on his books, after all.)"