Friday, December 27, 2013


IBM Displaywriter was the first word processor I used. It was a machine that, together with the printer, took up a small room in the college I taught between 1979 and 1983. I was allowed to use it after hours, i.e. After the administration had gone home, and I had stiff competition from another professor. Displaywriter should not be confused with Displaywrite, a desktop program that emulated Displaywriter.

One of the big problems with Displaywriter was the disks they used. They were the 8 inch format. When I moved to Purdue University in 1983, I had no longer access to this format. IBM was particularly useless when I tried to have the files transfer from this type of disk to 5.25 format. When I finally got to talk to a human being, he asked me how many thousands I needed to be transferred. When I said "three," he just laughed. I had to retype a whole book. This, by the way, led to a life-long aversion to IBM. I have never bought another thing from them.[1]

What was next? Wordstar.

1. Scroll up as well as down, if you want a more detailed history of the phenomenon.

1 comment:

Michael Leddy said...

I still have the disks I used for my dissertation. I bring them into class with a page of Ezekiel (circa 1250) — a useful contrast for thinking about the relative permanence or impermanence of (so-called) information.

My next step: AppleWorks.