Tuesday, December 28, 2004


How much is a manual worth?

The value of a manual is no longer a philosophical question for me. I know from experience that users don't read manuals, and so many companies, especially in software, don't bother to print them. Some bright sparks argue that if you need a manual, the product is too complicated anyway.

But last week a bought a complicated product, and it didn't come with a manual. My used Mazda came straight off the docks of Japan, looking for a loving home in New Zealand after being rejected by its native land as too old. It's a nice car, but never intended for export. Mazda never produced an English language manual for it. Sure I can figure how to turn the ignition and the lights on, but there are still many knobs and button I don't quite get. And what I can't see, like the innards of the engine, is an even greater mystery. Fortunately, a company in New Zealand specializes in translating Japanese language car manuals. I can get one on my model for $50. Is it worth it, I wonder? I'm not sure it will explain the most perplexing device, the Alpine stereo, which may not have been factory installed.

Ah yes, Alpine stereos. Probably best to get this directly from Alpine, if you can, or you may be able to find one on the Web.
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