An interesting article in Popular Science charts the rise and laments the fall of the manual. Instructions Not Included: What the Disappearance of the Common Manual Says About Us, traces the origins of the manual as a form of technical communication, and notes how many products now come with no manual. It draws from this dire fears of human decline.
By dispensing with [manuals], we could, consciously or no, be setting the stage for something few would relish: a society divided.
This is accomplished by a parlor trick in two parts. The first is to build up the civilization changing role of the manual: