The Importance of Instructions: The Printed Circuit Board

By David Alan Rech of Scribe Inc.


During the 1950s, electronics manufacturers had to overcome problems before they could reliably mass-produce new, up-and-coming products. They experienced rapidly shifting standards, an expanding array of products, difficulty outsourcing in a scalable fashion, unreliable vendors, and inconsistent quality.

Despite these obstacles, the first transistor radio hit the consumer market on October 18, 1954. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese emerged as the dominant force in the electronics market, with Sony releasing the first Japanese transistor radio—the TR-55—in August 1955. And with that, Japanese manufacturers began their undisputed domination of the electronics market.*

You might think that this was the natural order of things, because today Japanese electronics production is synonymous with high-tech precision. But it wasn’t always that way. After World War II, the Japanese struggled to produce consistently high-quality electronics.

A variety of developments made it possible for the Japanese to emerge at the forefront of the technological market. One of those developments was the regular use of the printed circuit board. The printed circuit board is a model of communications—this one essential piece comprises the specifications, instructions, and quality control necessary for efficient and reliable functionality.

Fortunately, in XML the publishing industry has the equivalent of the printed circuit board—a tool for communicating project specifications and instructions and creating quality control mechanisms. XML communicates a book’s structure and conveys (along with style sheets, templates, and rendering instructions) how a book’s elements are to be presented for publication in today’s market. By implementing an XML workflow, publishers can increase their output and the quality of their materials. To employ XML, a few things need to happen:

  1. We need, both as an industry and as individuals within it, to better understand and embrace XML.
  2. We need to learn, using normative processes, how to apply XML early in the publishing chain.
  3. We need to teach personnel how to make our XML-encrypted content match our design requirements (e.g., by properly using a template or style sheet).
  4. We need to properly document and disseminate our processes and use of XML.
  5. We need to create true feedback, or rather quality assurance systems, not merely issue error reports.

Because XML communicates structure clearly and can be validated and checked for correctness, it offers us the ability to overcome the issues we face. But like the printed circuit board, the manufacturer (i.e., the publisher), and not a vendor, needs to convey the instructions contained within XML. If done during the editorial process, applying XML can result in the efficient production of high-quality books. Only then will we have a book that is well formed and can be used in any available format—from print to e-book—for today’s demanding market.

Yuzo Takahashi, “Progress in the Electronic Components Industry in Japan after World War II,”,_Japanese_Electronics_afte….