RTFM: It is not just for computers


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Jan 31, 2011 GMT
Jon maddog Hall


Some friends of mine own a consulting company with about twenty employees.


Every once in a while they buy “something nice” for the common area used by all the employees, and very recently it was an automatic coffee maker.


This is not just any coffee maker, but a very sophisticated machine that can either use ground coffee OR it can grind the coffee beans and put them directly into the brewing cycle. The machine can also heat and froth the milk for cappuccino, make small or large cups of coffee, and allow all sorts of adjustments for weaker or stronger coffee. The number of buttons on the front is only slightly less than you would find in the cockpit of a Boeing 747 airplane. Most of the time you only have to hit one button, but you have to know which button to hit.


The machine comes with a manual that is about the size of “War and Peace”, but amazingly enough, when you actually start to read it you find out that it is written in fifteen different languages, so for any particular language the manual only is about thirty pages, and twenty of them are for cleaning the machine. Only ten pages are needed to tell you how to make a wide variety of different coffee drinks, in different sizes and strengths.


On the first day I was in the office I made a couple of cups of coffee. No big thing because I really only had to put my coffee up under the spout and hit one of two buttons, either the button that showed a small cup, or the button that showed a big cup. About fifteen seconds later I had a nice cup of coffee.


All of this sophistication is a bit strange, since the people in this office will make coffee and either drink it black, or put dried artificial creamer into the coffee. I do not like artificial creamer, so I volunteered to buy some milk for the company's refrigerator.


Once there was real milk on the premises the owner of the consulting firm, fairly technical himself, decided that what I really wanted was a cappuccino. So he poured a little cold milk in my cup, pulled out the little tube to stick into the milk, pushed a button that showed steam coming out of it, and turned a knob to allow the steam to flow. The milk bubbled and frothed like expected.


Then he turned off the knob and the button and put the cup under the coffee spout and hit the button for “big cup”.


Nothing happened, other than the “small cup button” and the “large cup button” began blinking.


The owner started hitting the buttons randomly. Nothing happened.


“Maybe we should read the manual”, I suggested. Stony silence from the owner. He was not about to read the manual to find out how to do something as simple as make a cappuccino.


Then he turned the machine off and back on (you can think of this as “rebooting”). While the machine dutifully went through the cycle for shutting down and starting back up, it still would not give me coffee.


Fortunately the owner was called away to a meeting, leaving me with rapidly cooling milk and no coffee.


I looked around, making sure no one was watching, and I grabbed the manual and opened it to the pages in English.


I found the section for making cappuccino, and the manual warned that sometimes the water in the heater becomes too hot while frothing the milk, and you have to turn off the heater, clear the heating reservoir of the superheated water, then put your cup under the coffee spout and hit one of the two coffee buttons. I followed the instructions, the machine started properly and I had a really good cappuccino.


I put the instruction manual back in its place.


For the rest of the time I was at the company I had nice cappuccinos. From time to time the water would get too hot while frothing the milk, but now I knew how to quickly cool the reservoir and continue the process. I am not sure the owner ever discovered this.


RTFM, it is not just for computers....and how much time and energy could we save in life if we just "read the manual" first?


Carpe manual!


  • RTFM -coffee-

    well no mater the level of management or worker .. I seen cases where only the manual solves the problem.
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