- onMarch 7, 2016
- Vol.31 Spring 2016
- byKim Junghyuk
- The Library of Musical Instruments
Tr. Kim Soyoung 2008307pp.
I still hadn’t written the first sentence yet. I was already stuck in “Precautions.” If this was an ordinary product, writing the “Precautions” would be a piece of cake. Just recycle the old ones, with some rewording and rearrangement. For instance, replace ‘it could be dangerous’ with ‘it is dangerous’ and ‘disassembling could cause a severe shock’ with ‘do not disassemble.’ But this was no ordinary product; it had features I had never seen before. No wonder I was stuck, even though the product developer had explained them to me many times. I needed to think hard to figure out where to start. I believe in order and organization. Even the most insignificant manual must have it.
I still remember the first manual I had ever seen in my life: it was the manual of a digital camera that I had spent a month’s savings on. When I opened the package that came in the mail, it wasn’t my new digital camera that overwhelmed me. It was my new digital camera’s 300-page manual. I hadn’t even considered taking my camera out of the box when I picked up its manual, and I went on to read it all night, as if my camera would break if I started using it without reading the manual first. I carefully read and reread “Precautions,” “Parts & Components,” “Getting Ready to Take Pictures,” “Basic Features,” “Advanced Features,” “Tips on Taking Nice Pictures,” “Appendices,” and “Specifications.” My digital camera’s manual touched me. It had laid the groundwork for the structures of knowledge in my head and built them up with texts, figures, and tables. The result, it seemed, was the digital camera town constructed in my head. The manual struck me as a fascinating piece of architecture. By the time I finished reading it, I had a pretty good idea about what a digital camera was.
That’s when I began collecting manuals. They gave me the feeling of actually using products that I didn’t have. I downloaded free PDF manuals from the Web and scrounged free copies of all sorts of manuals from the salesclerks at electronics stores.
The hundreds of manuals that I have read tell me that there are two kinds of manuals in the world: good manuals and bad manuals. Good manuals lay solid groundwork in my head, whereas bad ones pile up random information like sandcastles. Good manuals are logical and ersuasive, whereas bad ones are selfassertive and unkind. I have been inclined to believe that people who make bad manuals are obviously bad people.
“You haven’t even started yet,” Park said. Our design manager was looking at my monitor. I knew he was laughing at me, and I hated him for it. But I couldn’t get mad at him because we made good manuals as a team, which meant that he couldn’t be a bad person.
“It’s your fault. You signed this contract.”
“Excuse me? You told me to go find contracts. If you don’t want it, cancel it.”
“No way. I have bills to pay.”
“Then write your texts already. You have people to feed, too. The product illustration is almost done, in case you’re wondering.”
“You sound like you run this place. I think if you were really the boss, you would tie my hands to the keyboard.”
“Wrong. I would fire you. You get paid too much for what you get done. You whine, too.”
“Enough. I’ll get my writing done by tomorrow. So stop bugging me and get lost.”
Sipping his coffee, Park returned to his desk. And my eyes returned to the monitor, a bleak desert. Blinking over the desert was the black cursor. The blinking cursor looked like a distress signal from someone buried in the desert. Look, I am suffocating almost as much over here as you are over there. Just stay buried, okay? Sending out distress signals is a waste of time. There’s no one out here to help you anyway. But I also felt like sending out distress signals to someone over there in the desert.
“Send me the production illustration file. I need some inspiration,” I shouted at Park. My voice had come out so loud that the faces of all three employees turned toward me. Making manuals for the product release was often stressful, but this project was an extreme case, even by my standards. The employees looked uneasy and weary as though they were handling a ticking time bomb.