Sunday, 1 June 2008

Manual Review: The Canon 8300 Combined Printer/Scanner by Gordian

Ask any manual aficionado for a list of the most important user guides and instruction booklets in the last twenty years, and a few titles will invariably crop up more than others. 1988’s Xerox BSIV Photocopier; 1990’s Commodore Junket v.1.01; 1992’s Sony XLS Discman; 1998’s Nokia 22-22; 2001’s Ikea Munta Cabinet Kit; 2005’s Trapped Butterfly metal puzzle solution. The connection between these influential instruction manuals? They were all written by Gordian, the most sought-after and innovative user guide-writer in the business.

A new Gordian-penned instruction manual always creates waves of excitement amongst instruction book fans, and the new Canon 8300 Combined Printer/Scanner has been hotly anticipated since it was announced that this would be Gordian’s first project in nearly three years. But would it be worth the wait? Well, I have a much-prized pre-release copy, and I can say, without fear of hyperbole, that it is not just better than any other recent instruction manuals, it is the highlight of Gordian’s career.

From the first chapter onwards, the 8300’s instruction booklet is an absolute joy to read. The highlight for me is Chapter 8: Troubleshooting. On first view, it appears to be a normal series of questions and answers, much as one would find in any regular instruction booklet. But closer inspection reaps many rewards. The entire chapter is an acrostic, with the first letter of every word forming a very long sentence advising the reader what to do if they have no problems with the hardware, and reminding them how lucky they are. If the layering of messages ended there, it would be just another Gordian trick, but the great man has outdone himself, forming yet another acrostic using the first letters of each word in this acrostic! A meta-acrostic! Incredible! I will leave it for the reader to find out what it says, but suffice to say, I have followed the advice contained within and my salary has doubled as a result.

This manual sees a new stage in Gordian’s career and a new string to his bow with the hitherto-unseen appearance of poetry. The second chapter (Easy Set-up) is written alternately in iambic hexameter and haiku. Sometimes it is even written in a combination of the two, which is technically impossible, but somehow Gordian manages it. I showed a sample of his work to a famous literary professor in London and he wept. That’s how good it is.

Chapter 3 is yet another triumph, where Gordian outdoes his past victories. The subject of this section is the installation of the software that accompanies the printer, but instructions on how to uninstall it are nowhere to be seen. It was only after flicking through the book several times, convinced that maybe the great Gordian had made a terrible omission, that I realised that uninstalling instructions are found by reading the installation chapter backwards! Of course! How simple, and yet so effective! Gordian fans will be interested to note that this chapter replaces his customary palindromic chapter, in a wonderful evolution of his style.

The rest of Gordian’s touches are evident throughout the manual. If one takes a single piece of paper and traces every single full stop mark throughout the book, one will once again find a pointillist reproduction of a Renaissance masterpiece (though I won’t spoil the surprise by saying which one!). The ratio of nouns to verbs is, as ever, 1.618, the Golden Ratio. And so on.

And lest I be accused of concentrating this review on the tricks and touches that make Gordian’s booklets so special, I should say a word on the quality of writing. As always, Gordian’s prose remains easy to understand and not overly technical, while still stopping short of insulting the reader’s intelligence. Indeed, after reading through the manual the first time I began to re-read Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and was moved to throw it down in disgust and stamp on it with my feet; it just didn’t match up to what I had just been reading. Also, the diagrams are superb; Gordian has once again captured the very essence of the USB cable. The guide to the buttons on the printer is so beautiful, it really does create an infinite regression between the spirit of the ideal and the concrete in a way that would make Hegel piss his pants with aesthetic pleasure. I know I did.

I could write superlatives about the Canon 8300’s manual all day, but I will stop so that the reader can go out and get their own copy. But hurry, for they are sure to fly off the shelves faster than free bagels, such is the genius of this work.

The Imaginary Reviewer would like to thank the editorial staff of Instruction Manual Lover Monthly and many of the regulars on www.manualsmanualsmanuals.com for their assistance with this review.

6 comments:

Falwless said...

I've been excited to read this Canon 8300 Combined Printer/Scanner ever since GordianFanboy4Evr over at manualsmanualsmanuals.com posted about its upcoming release. There have been some rumors swilling about regarding the meta-acrostic but I didn't know whether to believe them or not! Nothing worse than getting my hopes up and seeing them so callously dashed. I learned my lesson with the rumors surrounding that Nokia 22-22. Chapter 9 was NOT written in anapaest. Ugh, don't even get me started; I'm still fuming.

Anyway, brilliant review, as always, sir.

Mathdude said...

Dude, you rock!

larsmcmanus said...

Very funny Mr. Imaginary Reviewer. Mr. Mathdude writes very positive things about you in his posting today.

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Falwless: That's the price one pays for brilliance, I guess. Everyone is always going to try and second guess Gordian, and some people's expectations are going to be too high. After the Sony Diskman's schematics were drawn in a Magic Eye-style, everyone exepected holographic images from his next opus, but - alas - 'twas not to be.

Mathdude: A fine assessment, sir. Thank you!

Lars: Welcome to the site! I'm glad you like it; Mathdude certainly has impeccable taste, I'm sure you'll agree!

BeckEye said...

Wait, I thought you only reviewed imaginary things. Isn't this manual real? Or is the review itself imaginary? God, I'm so confused.

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Hi Beckeye, thanks for visiting! No need for confusion, the entire manual is a creation from my own mind, it doesn't exist. Please don't feel bad, I sometimes get confused as well; Last summer I reviewed an Imaginary Uncle and was very disappointed when he stopped sending me book tokens for Christmas. It was only after all my letters were returned that I realised he didn't exist.