Press Enter to Continue

Book Review by Jane Aronovitch

Press Enter to Continue is the clever title of a book written by Joan Francuz, a friend, colleague, former STCer and now author—in her own right, for what do we do, in our profession, but write books, tomes, pages, testaments and scripts of various sorts for our clients, just not for the general public in most cases.

When Joan autographed my copy of the book, she added “…and Ctrl S to save” after the title. That’s quintessential Joan Francuz and gives a taste of her witty style. While the book is historical—comprehensively so, but distilled to perfection—it is also chatty and full of personal treasures and stories too. In fact the book reads like Joan is talking to you, which makes it even more engaging. All of which makes this history of writing through the ages both personal and universal, as Joan discovers and exemplifies this “character trait—some call it a flaw—that compels people throughout history to sit down and write everything they know.”

And so it is that we learn of Joan’s love of gardening, her family, various jobs, travels and homes. But the meat of the book is the wealth of information on how scribes came to be and how they fashioned and used the tools of their trade through the ages.

With Joan’s deft touch and skill it all comes to life—from the Sumerians, to the Greeks, Romans, so-called Barbarians, and Renaissance men (I’m sure they had women too!); from symbols to characters to alphabets (first uppercase only, then lowercase) and the introduction of numbers and publishing; from all of these to the effects of religion, commerce, patents, railroads and more, including telegraphy and photography and how they influenced the dissemination of information. And all the while Joan relates to the material anecdotally, personally or with modern day comparisons. This is no dry history text!

A section entitled “Then people became data” introduces the digital age and brings us to “the time called now.” The book concludes with the thought that in every age people had a need to document the world around them. Press Enter to Continue carries on this tradition in exemplary fashion. It is a well researched piece of work documenting the history of our profession, with a bit of humour and personality thrown in for good measure. It is well worth the read!

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