Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

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Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

Postby tezza on Sat Sep 27, 2014 9:30 pm

I've just dragged my old XT out and have been feeling nostalgic about all those old word processors...

My pre-gui Word Processor history goes like this...

Dick Smith System 80

Scripsit
(My first taste. First as a cassette WP then disk)

Lazywriter
(I wrote a thesis with this one)

IBM PC

Wordstar 3.3
(My first taste of 80 columns WP. WS ran on disk A:, data on disk B:)

IBM XT then AT

Xywrite
(Great WP and my personal favourite. What I liked about this one is that providing you didn't put any formatting in, all you got was straight ASCII code. Made for a good general editor as well as a word processor therefore.)

Word Perfect 5.1
(The standard for MS-DOS before Windows came along. OK, but I preferred Xywrite. Graphical WYSIWYG pre-printing view.)

Then there was Windows and Word and that was the end of non-bitmapped Word Processors. I briefly flirted with Word Perfect for Windows (it was a dog!) then went to Microsoft Word. Twenty years later I'm still using Microsoft Word. :shock:

Having just played around with Wordstar and Xywrite even nostalgia is not enough to ever wish those days again. Arrgg. :D

Anyway, what early Word Processors did you use and what was your favourite?
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Re: Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

Postby Gibsaw on Sun Sep 28, 2014 12:08 pm

Well, I stuck with the Apple IIe far longer than anyone imagined, so AppleWriter was my thing... That and "Print Shop" for anything fancy.

I dabbled with "AppleWorks", but went back to AppleWriter 2....

Pretty much straight from there to MS-WORD 2.0.

(I've use WP5.1 and First Choice at school as well, but by the time I could afford my own PC compatible, it was MS-Word 2.0)
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Re: Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

Postby xjas on Sun Sep 28, 2014 1:02 pm

Heh, I have half a novel written (relatively recently) in Wordperfect 6.0 for DOS. I need to get on finishing it... I tried Wordstar after hearing how many current professional authors still use it, but the only version I could find online was so ancient it doesn't support subdirectories (3.0?) I didn't think it was worth my time to learn.

For general text editing I still use QEdit 2.something for DOS *a lot* - to the point of firing up DosBox on a modern machine to edit things with it. Putting a copy of QEdit in the path is one of the first things I do when setting up a new system. It has some interesting features like key macros and the ability to open wildcards - i.e. 'q *.nfo' from the command like will let you rapidly flip through all .nfo files in the directory. Extremely useful. Why can't modern editors be this convenient?

(Interestingly if you download QEdit 2.x from somewhere and F11/F12 pan the screen window up and down without moving the cursor line, you're using *my* QEdit - those are macros I added years ago. I think I uploaded it somewhere in the '90s for some reason, but it's still kicking around the web; I've found it in a few places since then.)

On Linux/OSX I have a drop-down console that appears with one keypress (F12 on Linux, ctrl+~ on OSX) and I edit whatever with VIM. I only learned it in 2008 but it became intuitive really quickly. That said I still don't have *all* the features down. I have VIM for DOS too but I don't use it as much - QEdit loads quicker. Another interesting VI-derivative installs with OpenWatcom C; it's more of a screen editor like QEdit but it implements VI's command mode too. Best of both worlds.

Here's a good rundown on DOS text editors from a programming perspective (with some downloads as well.)

If I *really really need* to use a 'modern' word processor I stick with LibreOffice (I can't stand MS-office-anything but seeing as I don't run Windows on anything it's a non-issue.) That said the fifth time I have to go back and 'correct' an auto-capitalized word that I didn't want capitalized or undo some stupid auto-formatting in Libre I usually rage-quit and go back to a text editor.

(This post was written in VIM. Copy+paste FTW.)

*** Edit: How could I forget Speedscript 3.2 for the C-64? I think my dad typed in all 6kb of assembly code from Compute Magazine to get this one going. I seem to remember doing elementary school assignments in it, was probably the only kid in the class submitting typed papers @ 10 y.o.! My handwriting has always been terrible so I'm sure the teachers appreciated it. ***
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Re: Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

Postby artig on Mon Sep 29, 2014 7:43 pm

I've used program editors much more than word processors. The earliest ones were line based, often using tape drives, on various development systems. Then Intel brought out a screen editor, called Credit, which ran on their huge blue Intellec II development system with 128K 8" disk drives. And fans that sounded like jets at takeoff. On the PC my favourite for many years was Brief, a very versatile editor with user-programmable code. Unfortunately Borland bought it and didn't keep it updated or converted to Windows. For editing in Windows I use Multi-Edit. That hasn't been updated for a number of years, although the developer keeps promising a new version is in the pipeline. Both Brief and Multi-Edit were modified to save a copy with a unique name of every single file they edited. That archive now goes back more than 20 years.

In the early days there were dedicated word processors. For the TRS-80 I used Scripsit, and ended up making a number of changes to it before writing a completely new compatible program which was sold by Howe Software under the name Typitall. There were versions for the Model I/III and for the Model 4 with TRSDOS6/LDOS6.

Recently I read a book by the author of Lazywriter, David Welsh and his wife Theresa Welsh, called "Priming the Pump: How TRS-80 Enthusiasts Helped Spark the PC Revolution". An interesting read which brought back many memories, although I never tried or used Lazywriter. It's available on Amazon as an ebook.
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Re: Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

Postby tezza on Mon Sep 29, 2014 8:57 pm

For some reason Typitall rings a distant bell...

Yes, I'm familiar with that book. In fact David and Theresa were interviewed about it and their experience with Lazywrite development in one of the TRS-80 episodes on the Floppy days Podcast a year or so ago.

Another screen editor I used on the PC for straight ASCII was called "Mince". Very similar to EMACS I believe. All those keystrokes to remember... :)
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Re: Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

Postby Carcenomy on Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:39 pm

WordPerfect 5.1 is what my school was still using in the typing labs right up until 1998 when they replaced all the existing machines (mostly 386s) with brand new state of the art... Cyrix 6x86MXs running Windows 95 ;)

From there on it was Office all the way.
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Re: Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

Postby Matt on Tue Dec 02, 2014 6:47 am

On the //e:

Appleworks
Fulltext (was this a nz product?)
Multiscribe (advanced for it's day)
Bank St writer (teacher made us use this one in form 2)

Now libreoffice and for coding QtCreator or emacs
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Re: Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

Postby SpidersWeb on Tue Dec 02, 2014 8:11 am

Unfortunately I only really caught the tail end of pre-GUI word processing but my list:

Amsword (Amstrad CPC) - don't remember much sadly
pfs: First Choice (PC) - used this a lot
WordPerfect 5.1 (PC) - always loved how much you could do with this

After that the GUI came in, and I was using Word for Windows 1.1. I likely would've used a word processor on my Acorn system too but I wouldn't remember the name now. That Acorn also had my first personally owned printer attached - which I think was a Citizen GSX colour dot matrix.

The machines I used First Choice on were connected to two printers - a dot matrix and a daisy wheel. I'd love a nice daisy wheel in my collection (although my partner probably would not).
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Re: Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

Postby Radar on Tue Dec 02, 2014 10:23 am

Matt wrote:On the //e:
Fulltext (was this a nz product?)


Fulltext.Pro.80 for the Apple IIe was definitely a NZ written word processor. I'll see if I can dig out my copy and upload some photos.
There was also a version for the BBC called "Fulltext MASTER".

Dr John Shanks of Spacific Software (Dunedin/Otago Uni Maths Dept) was the developer.

It was heavily used in Schools / education for a number of years.
From memory it was the first Word Processor to have a Maori dictionary and handle macrons.
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Re: Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

Postby Gibsaw on Tue Dec 02, 2014 10:41 am

Can you throw me a disk image for this fulltext wordpro? I'd be keen for a play. :D
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Re: Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

Postby arjoll on Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:15 pm

The first time I can remember typing anything it was for a standard 4 assignment in 1982 - typed out on the Sord M23 in PIPS-III. Think using a spreadsheet as a word processor and you won't be a million miles away :) Printed it out on 15" gold band lineflow on a 9 pin, very high tech!

From there it was Sord WP then Sord WP2 - competent enough, but no spell checker kept you on your toes! Anything done at school would have been in Appleworks on a //e.

When school switched from Apple to PC in 1988 (Exzel XTs to be precise) I started using MS Word for DOS, and when we switched from Sord to PC (an Ultra 286) I pinched a copy to use at home. My parents bought WordPerfect 5.1 but I always preferred MS Word, and used it on that 286 (which I was given in late 89) until I bought a 386 in 1993 - from there it was Word for Windows. University work all had to be in WordPerfect 5.1 though, so I was "bilingual" when it came to word processing - WP 5.1 for INFO assignments and at uni, Word at the flat for everything that was submitted as hard copy.

At work (Ernst & Young) they used MS Word for DOS as well, and I still remember the resistance from the typing pool when they moved them to Word for Windows.
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Re: Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

Postby tezza on Tue Dec 02, 2014 8:47 pm

arjoll wrote:At work (Ernst & Young) they used MS Word for DOS as well, and I still remember the resistance from the typing pool when they moved them to Word for Windows.

I remember the resistance from the typing pool (My department, Massey Uni) when they moved from typewriters to computers (some kind of dedicated WP 8 bit CP/M machines). :)
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Re: Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

Postby Matt on Wed Dec 03, 2014 6:01 pm

artig:
>>> I used Scripsit, and ended up making a number of changes to it

How were you able to do that? I like to hear how programming was done in the day since it has changed so much.

I'm guessing you didn't have source so maybe some disassembly or reverse engineering?
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Re: Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

Postby artig on Sun Dec 07, 2014 8:04 pm

Basically the process was program disassembly, hours of study, modify the output of the disassembly with comments and modifications to the formatting, then make any required changes to the source code and reassemble. I ended up totally rewriting the word processing program, using program overlays to allow for more features while retaining as much text in memory as possible, but retaining as much compatibility with Scripsit as possible.

In those days I spent hundreds of hours disassembling and modifying programs, including VisiCalc, EDAS editor/assembler, Scripsit, the EPROMs in the Epson MX-80 printer, and numerous others. One VisiCalc modification was published in 80-Microcomputing.

Later the process became known as reverse engineering.
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Re: Remembering those pre-GUI word processors

Postby Matt on Wed Dec 10, 2014 1:03 pm

Thanks Artig.

Part of the fascination for me in vintage computing is the compressed time scale over which things have changed so drastically.
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