word processor history -- interesting article (Evan Koblentz)

Paul Koning paulkoning at comcast.net
Fri Jul 8 15:04:55 CDT 2016

> On Jul 8, 2016, at 3:43 PM, Fred Cisin <cisin at xenosoft.com> wrote:
> On Fri, 8 Jul 2016, Paul Koning wrote:
>> I may have missed it, but I haven't seen the IBM MT/ST mentioned. That's certainly a rather old system, dating back to 1964 according to Wikipedia, which says it's the oldest word processor (and references an article about WP history).
> The original post that started this thread referred to a URL
> http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/06/how-to-write-a-history-of-writing-software/489173/?platform=hootsuite
> It suggested that one significant contender for that author's "FIRST author to write a book on a word processor" was Len Deighton.  In the late 1960s he bought one.  He wrote first drafts on his typewriter, then his secretary, Ellenor Handley, retyped it into his MT/ST and edited it there.
> Specifically, a novel entitled "Bomber", published in 1970.
> 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.

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.


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