Word processor

Last updated
Toshiba JW-10 stand-alone word processor, released 1978 TOSHIBA JW-10.JPG
Toshiba JW-10 stand-alone word processor, released 1978
WordStar, released 1978 Wordstar Screenshot.png
WordStar, released 1978
WordPerfect, first released for minicomputers in 1979 and later ported to microcomputers WordPerfectX3.png
WordPerfect, first released for minicomputers in 1979 and later ported to microcomputers

A word processor (WP) [1] [2] is a computer program or device that provides for input, editing, formatting and output of text, often plus other features.

Contents

Early word processors were stand-alone devices dedicated to the function, but current word processors are word processor programs running on general purpose computers.

Word processor (electronic device)

A word processor is an electronic device or computer software application that performs the task of composing, editing, formatting, and printing of documents.

A word processor program is a computer program that provides word processing functions. Originally a separate type of application to desktop publishing, the two program types now overlap, with many word processors now including what were once desktop publishing functions.

The functions of a word processor program fall somewhere between those of a simple text editor and a fully functioned desktop publishing program. However the distinctions between these three have changed over time, and are somewhat unclear. [3] [4]

Text editor Software to modify text documents

A text editor is a type of computer program that edits plain text. Such programs are sometimes known as "notepad" software, following the naming of Microsoft Notepad. Text editors are provided with operating systems and software development packages, and can be used to change files such as configuration files, documentation files and programming language source code.

Desktop publishing creation of documents using page layout skills on a personal computer

Desktop publishing (DTP) is the creation of documents using page layout skills on a personal ("desktop") computer primarily for print. Desktop publishing software can generate layouts and produce typographic quality text and images comparable to traditional typography and printing. This technology allows individuals, businesses, and other organizations to self-publish a wide range of printed matter. Desktop publishing is also the main reference for digital typography. When used skillfully, desktop publishing allows the user to produce a wide variety of materials, from menus to magazines and books, without the expense of commercial printing.

History

Background

From the outset, “word processors” did not develop out of computer technology. Rather, they evolved from the needs of writers; and only later did they merge with the computer field [5] . The history of word processing is the story of the gradual automation of the physical aspects of writing and editing, and then to the refinement of the technology to make it available to corporations and Individuals.

Word processing burst into American offices in early 1970s as an idea about reorganizing typists, but its meaning soon shifted to describe automated text editing. At first the designers of word processing systems combined existing with emerging technologies to develop stand-alone equipment, creating a new business quite separate from the emerging world of the personal computer. The term “word processing” arose from the more general data processing, which since the 1950s had been the standard term used to describe the application of computers to business administration [6] .

Through history, there have been 3 types of word processors: mechanical, electronic and software.

Mechanical word processing

The first word processing device (a "Machine for Transcribing Letters" that appears to have been similar to a typewriter) was patented by Henry Mill for a machine that was capable of "writing so clearly and accurately you could not distinguish it from a printing press". [7]

Henry Mill was an English inventor who patented the first typewriter in 1714. He worked as a waterworks engineer for the New River Company, and submitted two patents during his lifetime. One was for a coach spring, while the other was for a "Machine for Transcribing Letters". The machine that he invented appears, from the patent, to have been similar to a typewriter, but nothing further is known. Other early developers of typewriting machines include Pellegrino Turri. Many of these early machines, including Turri's, were developed to enable the blind to write.

More than a century later, another patent appeared in the name of William Austin Burt for the typographer. In the late 19th century, Christopher Latham Sholes [8] created the first recognizable typewriter that although it was a large size, which was described as a “literary piano” [9] .

These mechanical systems could not “process text” beyond changing the position of type, re-fill empty spaces or jump lines. It was not until decades later that the introduction of electricity and then electronics into typewriters began to help the writer with the mechanical part. The term “word processing” itself was created in the 1950s by Ulrich Steinhilper, a German IBM typewriter sales executive. However, it did not make its appearance in 1960s office management or computing literatures, though many of the ideas, products, and technologies to which it would later be applied were already well known. But by 1971 the term was recognized by the New York Times [10] as a business "buzz word". Word processing paralleled the more general “data processing”, which since the 1950s had been the standard term used to describe the application of computers to business administration.

Thus by 1972 discussion of word processing was common in publications devoted to business office management and technology, and by the mid-1970s the term would have been familiar to any office manager who consulted business periodicals.

Electronic word processing

By the late 1960s, IBM had developed the IBM MT/ST (Magnetic Tape/Selectric Typewriter). This was a model of the IBM Selectric typewriter from the earlier part of this decade, but built into its own desk, and integrated with magnetic tape recording and playback facilities, with controls and a bank of electrical relays. The MT/ST automated word wrap, but it had no screen. This device allowed rewriting text that had been written on another tape and you could collaborate (send the tape to another person for them to edit or make a copy). It was a revolution for the word processing industry. In 1969 the tapes were replaced by magnetic cards. These memory cards were introduced in the side of an extra device that accompanied the MT/ST, able to read and record the work.

In the early 1970s, word processing then became computer-based (albeit with specialty based computing) with the development of several innovations. Just before the arrival of the Personal Computer (PC), IBM developed the “floppy disk”. Also in the early 1970s word-processing systems with a CRT screen display editing were designed.

At this time these stand-alone word processing systems were designed, built and marketed by several pioneering companies. Linolex Systems was founded in 1970 by James Lincoln and Robert Oleksiak. Linolex based its technology on microprocessors, floppy drives and software. It was a computer-based system for application in the word processing businesses and it sold systems through its own sales force. With a base of installed systems in 500 plus customer sites, Linolex Systems sold 3 million units in 1975 — a year before Apple Computer, was first incorporated in 1976 [11] .

At this time, Lexitron Corporation also produced a series of dedicated word processing microcomputers. Lexitron was the first to use a full size video display screen (CRT) in its models by 1978. Lexitron also used 5-1/4 inch floppy diskettes, which were the standard in the personal computer field. The program disk was inserted in one drive, and the system booted up. The data diskette was then put in the second drive. The operating system and the word processing program were combined in one program [12] .

Another of the early word processing adopters was Vydec, which created in 1973, the first modern text processor, the “Vydec Word Processing System”. It had built-in multiple functions like the ability to share content by diskette and print it. The Vydec Word Processing System sold for $12,000 at the time, (about $60,000 adjusted for inflation) [13] .

The Redactron Corporation (organized by Evelyn Berezin in 1969) designed and manufactured editing systems, including correcting/editing typewriters, cassette and card units, and eventually a word processor called the Data Secretary. The Burroughs Corporation acquired Redactron in 1976 [14] . A CRT-based system by Wang Laboratories became one of the most popular systems of the 1970s and early 1980s. The Wang displayed text on a CRT screen, and incorporated virtually every fundamental characteristic of word processors as we know them today, a true office machine, affordable by organizations such as medium-sized law firms, and easily learned and operated by secretarial staff.

The phrase "word processor" rapidly came to refer to CRT-based machines similar to Wang's. Numerous machines of this kind emerged, typically marketed by traditional office-equipment companies such as IBM, Lanier (AES Data machines - re-badged), CPT, and NBI. All were specialized, dedicated, proprietary systems, with prices in the $10,000 range. Cheap general-purpose personal computers were still the domain of hobbyists.

Word processing software

The final step in word processing came with the advent of the personal computer in the late 1970s and 1980s and with the development of word processing software. Word processing systems that would create much more complex and capable text were developed and prices began to fall, making them more accessible to the public.

In December 1976, Electric Pencil was first offered for sale by Michael Shrayer Software. This was the first word processing software package for a microcomputer. In 1978 WordStar appeared on the market which then dominated the market. The first word processing software became popular among computer owners with CP/M, then DOS, then Microsoft Windows. WordStar was replaced by WordPerfect, which differed from WordStar in an important way—it kept the key commands off-screen, putting the focus on the words instead - in the mid-80s, becoming the then “standard” for DOS . WordPerfect turned word processing software into big business.

Most early word processing software required users to memorize semi-mnemonic key combinations rather than pressing keys such as "copy" or "bold". Moreover, many early PCs lacked cursor keys; for example WordStar used the E-S-D-X-centered "diamond" for cursor navigation. However, the price differences between dedicated word processors and general-purpose PCs, and the value added to the latter by software such as “killer app” spreadsheet applications, e.g. VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3, were so compelling that personal computers and word processing software became serious competition for the dedicated machines and soon dominated the market.

Then in the late 1980s innovations such as the advent of laser printers, a "typographic" approach to word processing (WYSIWYG - What You See Is What You Get), using bitmap displays with multiple fonts (pioneered by the Xerox Alto computer and Bravo word processing program), and graphical user interfaces such as “copy and paste” (another Xerox PARC innovation, with the Gypsy word processor). These were popularized by MacWrite on the Apple Macintosh in 1983, and Microsoft Word on the IBM PC in 1984. These were probably the first true WYSIWYG word processors to become known to many people. Of particular interest also is the standardization of TrueType fonts used in both Macintosh and Windows PCs. While the publishers of the operating systems provide TrueType typefaces, they are largely gathered from traditional typefaces converted by smaller font publishing houses to replicate standard fonts. A demand for new and interesting fonts, which can be found free of copyright restrictions, or commissioned from font designers, occurred.

The growing popularity of the Windows operating system in the 1990s later took Microsoft Word along with it. Originally called “Microsoft Multi-Tool Word”, this program quickly became a synonym for “word processor”. Microsoft 1983 added an important tool to the word-processing workflow: the mouse. Eventually, that addition would lead to its full blossoming as a GUI-based editor that most everyone in most every office now uses.

See also

Related Research Articles

PDP-1

The PDP-1 is the first computer in Digital Equipment Corporation's PDP series and was first produced in 1959. It is famous for being the computer most important in the creation of hacker culture at MIT, BBN and elsewhere. The PDP-1 is the original hardware for playing history's first game on a minicomputer, Steve Russell's Spacewar!

IBM Series/1

The IBM Series/1 is a 16-bit minicomputer, introduced in 1976, that in many respects competed with other minicomputers of the time, such as the PDP-11 from Digital Equipment Corporation and similar offerings from Data General and HP. The Series/1 was typically used to control and operate external electro-mechanical components while also allowing for primitive data storage and handling.

Typesetting composition of text by means of types

Typesetting is the composition of text by means of arranging physical types or the digital equivalents. Stored letters and other symbols are retrieved and ordered according to a language's orthography for visual display. Typesetting requires one or more fonts. One significant effect of typesetting was that authorship of works could be spotted more easily, making it difficult for copiers who have not gained permission.

IBM 5110 portable computer released by IBM in January 1978

The IBM 5110 Computing System is the successor of the IBM 5100 Portable Computer.

Phototypesetting

Phototypesetting is a method of setting type, rendered obsolete with the popularity of the personal computer and desktop publishing software, that uses a photographic process to generate columns of type on a scroll of photographic paper.

Friden Flexowriter

The Friden Flexowriter was a teleprinter, a heavy-duty electric typewriter capable of being driven not only by a human typing, but also automatically by several methods, including direct attachment to a computer and by use of paper tape.

TRS-80 Model 100 early portable computer

The TRS-80 Model 100 is a portable computer introduced in 1983. It is one of the first notebook-style computers, featuring a keyboard and liquid crystal display, in a battery-powered package roughly the size and shape of a notepad or large book.

The Actrix computer, released in 1983 by Actrix Computer Corporation, was a Zilog Z80-based transportable personal computer running CP/M-80 V2.2. It was initially released as the Access Computer, made by Access Matrix Computer Corporation, but both the company and its product changed names after trademark disputes.

Pertec Computer Corporation (PCC), formerly Peripheral Equipment Corporation (PEC), was a computer company based in Chatsworth, California which originally designed and manufactured peripherals such as floppy drives, tape drives, instrumentation control and other hardware for computers.

IBM Displaywriter System dedicated microcomputer-based word processing machine that IBMs Office Products Division introduced in June 1980

The IBM Displaywriter System 6580 was a dedicated microcomputer-based word processing machine that IBM's Office Products Division introduced in June 1980. The system consisted of a central processing unit, based on the Intel 8086, in a desktop case, a monochrome CRT monitor atop the CPU, a detached keyboard, a detached dual disk drive that used 8-inch floppy disks, and a detached daisy wheel printer. The system booted from an 8-inch floppy disk that stored IBM's internally developed word processing software. The operator stored the "documents" on additional diskettes.

Micromation Inc. was as an early pioneer (1978–1983) in the design, manufacture and sale of microcomputer systems, circuit boards and peripherals. The company's products were built around early Intel and Zilog microprocessors, the S-100 bus and the CP/M and MP/M Operating System software from Digital Research. Micromation's headquarters and manufacturing plant were both located in San Francisco.

CPT Corporation was founded in 1971 by Dean Scheff in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with co-founders James Wienhold and Richard Eichhorn. CPT first designed, manufactured, and marketed the CPT 4200, a dual-cassette-tape machine that controlled a modified IBM Selectric typewriter to support text editing and word processing.

Compugraphic Corporation was an American producer of typesetting systems and phototypesetting equipment, based, at the time of the Agfa merger, in Wilmington, Massachusetts, just a few miles from where it was founded. This company is not to be confused with Compugraphics, a British company founded 1967 in Aldershot, UK that specializes in the production of photomasks used in the production of integrated circuits.

Personal computer Computer intended for use by an individual person

A personal computer (PC) is a multi-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and price make it feasible for individual use. Personal computers are intended to be operated directly by an end user, rather than by a computer expert or technician. Unlike large costly minicomputer and mainframes, time-sharing by many people at the same time is not used with personal computers.

IBM Selectric typewriter

The IBM Selectric typewriter was a highly successful model line of electric typewriters introduced by IBM on 31 July 1961.

Information Control Systems was a computer programming and data processing company serving clients in the Midwestern United States.

References

  1. Enterprise, I. D. G. (1 January 1981). "Computerworld". IDG Enterprise. Retrieved 1 January 2019 via Google Books.
  2. Waterhouse, Shirley A. (1 January 1979). "Word processing fundamentals". Canfield Press. Retrieved 1 January 2019 via Google Books.
  3. Amanda Presley (28 January 2010). "What Distinguishes Desktop Publishing From Word Processing?". Brighthub.com. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  4. "How to Use Microsoft Word as a Desktop Publishing Tool". PCWorld. 28 May 2012.
  5. Price, Jonathan, and Urban, Linda Pinneau. The Definitive Word-Processing Book. New York: Viking Penguin Inc., 1984, page xxiii.
  6. W.A. Kleinschrod, “The ‘Gal Friday’ is a Typing Specialist Now,” Administrative Management, vol. 32, no. 6, 1971, pp. 20-27
  7. Hinojosa, Santiago. "The History of Word Processors". The Tech Ninja's Dojo. The Tech Ninja. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  8. See also Samuel W. Soule and Carlos Glidden.
  9. The Scientific American, The Type Writer, New York (August 10, 1872)
  10. W.D. Smith, “Lag Persists for Business Equipment,” New York Times, 26 Oct. 1971, pp. 59-60.
  11. Linolex Systems, Internal Communications & Disclosure in 3M acquisition, The Petritz Collection, 1975.
  12. "Lexitron VT1200 - RICM". Ricomputermuseum.org. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  13. Hinojosa, Santiago (1 June 2016). "The History of Word Processors". The Tech Ninja's Dojo. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  14. "Redactron Corporation. @ SNAC". Snaccooperative.org. Retrieved 1 January 2019.