Mike Austin, a distinguished technical author and a former vice-president of the ISTC, passed away in September 2004.
During a career that began as a Spitfire pilot, Mike worked as Publications and Publicity Officer of HML Engineering, Technical Author with the de Havilland Engine Company, Peabody Ltd and several technical publications agencies. Mike was also the author of two books relating to driving instruction and road safety, one of which received high praise from the Minister of Transport. Mike also had many articles published on a wide range of subjects.
Within the ISTC, Mike will be best remembered for the ISTC handbook, which has been popular amongst practitioners and academics for nearly 20 years. To quote a former Council member, Dr John Kirkman, “I doubt if the Handbook would have come into being if Mike had not set it in motion and followed through with all the negotiations with publishers”.
Mike joined the ISTC Council in May 1975 and attended almost every Council meeting and AGM until he retired from Council in May 1987 and, in those days, Council met every two months. On joining Council, Mike immediately took the role of Press and Public Relations Officer. The next ten years saw the ISTC represented at many relevant events and articles published in both trade journals and the national press.
In 1981, Mike suggested investigating whether the ISTC should become a publisher. By 1985, the first issue of The ISTC Handbook of Technical Writing and Technical Publication Techniques was published. Only last year, our follow-up publication, Professional Communication and Information Design was made available around the world through digital printing.
Also in 1981, Mike began looking into ‘competitions for various classes of technical communication’. The ISTC documentation awards are still going strong and are presented annually at Conference.
For someone like myself, who spoke to Mike only once, it is obvious from a quick look at the minutes of Council meetings during his time that he played during his time that he played an important and active role in most, if not all, discussions that came before Council. Many of the projects that he was involved in, including those he initiated, are still going strong almost 30 years later.
Mike’s death will be a great loss to those who knew him personally and to those of us who know his work and his reputation.
Obituary written by Gavin Ireland FISTC – ISTC President (2002-2007).