word processor history -- interesting article

Fred Cisin cisin at xenosoft.com
Fri Jul 8 15:42:06 CDT 2016

[continued discussion from the URL that Evan posted]
>> If the MT/ST was released in 1964, then even with its high price, it 
>> seems odd that so many years would go by before anybody used it for a 
>> book manuscript.

On Fri, 8 Jul 2016, Paul Koning wrote:
> I can think of any number of reasons.  $10k, in 1964?  That's half a 
> house.  Its user interface may have been ill suited for the job; after 
> all it was designed for business documents.  Finally, the tape capacity 
> was 25 kbytes, which is only a few percent of the size of a typical 
> book.  Len Deighton was a very successful writer by 1970; he may have 
> decided to spend piles of money on a new tool because he could.  But few 
> writers strike it rich; they'd buy a good typewriter because it's a 
> mandatory tool, but few would want to spend more than that.

I agree that it was hideously expensive, and a writer would have to be 
wealthy to consider it.

In those days, it was common practice for a writer to pay a typist to 
retype his typed manuscript before submitting it to a publisher.  And, if 
submitting to more than one, MT/ST made multiple typed copies practical, 
whereas few publishers would bother to read carbon copies.

And, as I mentioned previously, it was quite common for secretaries 
moonlighting as typists to bring work in and use them after-hours. 
(sometimes with tacit approval from the boss!  My boss gave me after-hours 
access to use 026 punches, ('course I left them cleaner than when I 
started, with emptied bins, refilled card supply, jams cleared from down 
punches, etc.))

Admittedly, many typists with access to one would have re-typed later 
drafts, rather than use the editing capabilities, if there were more than 
a few changes per paragraph.  To a real typist (>100WPM), moving a cursor 
to position took as long as typing the line.   Drafts close to the final 
one, where entire paragraphs, pages, or even tapes could be left alone 
would be where it would finally be very worthwhile.

Therefore, Deighton's sole claim to fame in this was OWNERSHIP of the 
MT/ST that his manuscripts were processed on.

25K per tape would mean a box of tapes, but that's not surprising nor 
daunting.   Unlike "modern" wordprocessors which use Megabytes per page, 
in order to maintain capability of including dancing kangaroos and 
yodelling jellyfish, that 25K was probably about a dozen pages (per 
tape).   If one or two tapes could be used for each chapter, it would work 
out great.

Grumpy Ol' Fred     		cisin at xenosoft.com

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