Technical communication is a method of researching and creating information about technical processes or products directed to an audience through media. The information must be relevant to the intended audience. Technical communicators often work collaboratively to create products (deliverables) for various media, including paper, video, and the Internet. Deliverables include online help, user manuals, technical manuals, White papers, specifications, process and procedure manuals, industrial videos, reference cards, data sheets, journal articles, patents, training, business papers, and technical reports.
Technical domains can be of any kind, including the soft and hard sciences, high technology including computers and software, consumer electronics, and business processes and practices. The origin of technical communication has been variously attributed to Ancient Greece, The Renaissance, and the mid 20th Century. However, a clear trend towards the professional field can be seen from the First World War on, growing out of the need for technology-based documentation in the military, manufacturing, electronic and aerospace industries.
In the United States, two organizations concerned with improving the practice of technical communication were founded on the East Coast in 1953: the Society of Technical Writers, and the Association of Technical Writers and Editors. These organizations merged in 1957 to form the Society of Technical Writers and Editors, a predecessor of the current Society for Technical Communication (STC).
In the United Kingdom, the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC) was formed in 1972 by the amalgamation of three existing associations: the Presentation of Technical Information Group (established in 1948), the Technical Publications Association (established in 1953, later the Institution of Technical Authors and Illustrators) and the Institute of Technical Publicity and Publications (established in 1963).
Technical communication is sometimes considered a professional task for which organizations either hire specialized employees, or outsource their needs to communication firms. For example, a professional writer may work with a company to produce a user manual. Other times, technical communication is regarded as a responsibility that technical professionals employ on a daily basis as they work to convey technical information to coworkers and clients. For example, a computer scientist may need to provide software documentation to fellow programmers or clients.