Word Processing: A Tale of Love and Hate

Julie L.

I’m sure everyone saw the “Word” in the title and immediately began having convulsions. Not one person on the planet does not have some kind of horror story about losing EVERYTHING to an MS Word crash.... A thesis, a book, a legal document, a child’s class assignment that took DAYS over a holiday break to finish… A Will, written because of having to deal with Word.
Brief history lesson. To begin with, Microsoft’s Word was not the first word processor, nor the best, not even way back when.
Word processing began with universities and the military needing something that could transmit words digitally over their newly created LANs/WANs (local area networks/wide area networks) the way a typewriter could transmit words through the mail. LANs/WANs were individual computers, or a small series of computers, that talked directly to each other, but ONLY to each other. No one outside their networks could send or receive anything.
This precursor to the internet needed the ability to type digitally, but look and print like a typewriter. (Noisy, awful dot matrix printers anyone?) I worked with a dinosaur who used Volkswriter as WordPerfect was running the business world, with Lotus attempting to horn in, Windows was at the 3.0 version, and the Macintosh SE’s word processor was literally called something like Edit/Writer. It’s a weird romp down history to see just how many different word processors have been out and about before becoming extinct.
So, how did we all get stuck with Word?
Reverse engineering and shady business practices.
In a fuzzy nutshell, every keyboard combination, like Control S to save, came from WordPerfect.
Microsoft took all the codes and built them into Word. Word was then handed out like candy, and/or built into the affordable PCs through their operating system (Windows) for a couple years, to get everyone addicted, and shove the relatively pricey at the time WordPerfect, before moving it to something you had to pay bucks to keep. (Another interesting romp down history’s road is seeing how many lawsuits Microsoft has had to pay out over the years, due to shady practices.)
Calm the tremors, twitches and put the thoughts of chucking your computer out the window away. There are alternatives.

Read the entire article in the February 2021 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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