Thursday, December 08, 2011

Processing the word

It must have been in the eighties when we first bought a computer, of sorts. It was a word processor and it was marvellous once we worked out how to drive it. It was quite a struggle. I seem to recall we almost gave up. R's computer course from a few years earlier, which involved sticking holes into paper cards or something like that, did not seem to be particularly useful. We continued to use it into the nineties when we bought our first proper computer. It has a floppy disk for storage and one with some instructions that I immediately erased when I read 'insert the disk and select format'.

Essentially you wrote a letter or whatever on the machine, edited it until you were satisfied, and then printed it out. It even had a built in spell checker. It could be used as a conventional electric typewriter too I think. One wonderful thing about it, it was designed in times before a pop up would say, 'It looks like you are writing a letter...'. There was little to surprise you in its operation once you learnt how it worked.

While I know little about operating systems, would it have used DOS?

Here are some pictures from who found one in a office storage cupboard and fired it up.


  1. I recall the first computer that appeared in our office around 1985. There was only the one unit for a staff of about 40 and the lowest paid worker in the place, a young woman who happened to have a lower intellectual age than her chronological age, was given the task of operating it.

    The computer was only used for locating and retrieving records. The young woman took to the computer as if it were the most natural thing in the world and was fantastic at manipulating it. I found the machine a high tech terror. It scared me and no matter how many times the young woman explained the top row of function keys to me I just could not get the hang of it.

    Looking back it all seems so primitive now.

  2. I was still using a manual Olympic typewriter back then and was brought kicking and screaming into the computer age in the early nineties when work started using computers. It wasn't until about 2006 that i finally bought a second hand computer for home :-).

  3. Yeah, I remember those things. They called them dedicated word processors and then I remember the first computer we had -- in 1982 and I think an Apple. And then, a XT and then an AT. The web was accessed by Unix and the www. I think.

  4. "a floppy disk for storage and one with some instructions that I immediately erased when I read 'insert the disk and select format'."

    oh oh oh snorrrrk.
    I went off for word processing lessons in 1987.
    I had a similar looking 1985 Typestar and it used shiny carbon ribbon which could only be used once. I think it cost a lot (relatively) like $400.
    I LOVE Vic's comment.
    Speaking of home printing,
    right now I am faffing about avoiding composing the obligatory letter which has to go into several Christmas cards before they are posted and I just can't face it. *now off to DailyMail online ...*

  5. Anonymous4:06 pm

    I remember when word processors entered the workforce in the
    mid-80's. I was working for the public service at the time and we copy typists fell in love with our new toys immediately! They made our jobs so much easier. V.

  6. Classic!

    I remember being very jealous of family friends who had a Commodore 64 in 1983. The database was literally a cassette tape that you'd have to sit and wait to play through before using. We'd lose interest and go back inside and play 'Pong' on the old black and white telly in their pool room instead.

  7. Now that you have reminded me I had one of those doodads I can spend the next 4 hours wondering what on earth I did with it.
    It was the most wonderful, brill thing ever [at the time]. Ahem, in fact I don't ever remember it crashing...

  8. Marvellous anecdote Victor. I thought this post might really fall flat.

    Windsmoke. You really are a dinosaur. I like you all the same.

    Rubye, you really are the tech godess with a computer in 1982. I have heard of Unix, but no idea what it really was.

    Em Stacks, yes, ours used the same type of ribbon. Re letter, so you have done something this year that you can include in a christmas card?

    V, they were pretty simple machines hey, and no more white out, carbons, erasing tapes. They were a mile ahead leap.

    Kath, we nearly bought a Commodore 64. We ummed and ahhed for so long, they went out of date. I am sure we wore Mother's old tv out with Pong.

    FruitCake, I think we just threw ours out in rubbish. I am not really sure now. In 2011 I finally have a computer that does not crash. But the gap between the word processor that never crashed and the present computer has been long and hard.

  9. I like that old machine you've pictured there. I wish I'd been able to get one instead of the electric typewriter I bought for my son to do his homework on.
    Our first computer was a Commodore 64, we couldn't get it to work no matter what we tried, (yes we did read the instructions),so took it back to the shop and spent the money on something else.

  10. If only the youth of today would realise how technologically far our generation has come!

  11. River, if you didn't have someone to show you how things worked, it was a real struggle with any new tech things then.

    Red, light we appreciated the electric light and the telephone?

  12. We had Apples in primary school, so mid 80's. From memory they had either green or orange writing on black. By grade 6 you could play "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego". I loved that game!

  13. Fen, I know you are young. Stop bragging. We made do with our dip in ink pens. I did have a logarithm ruler though, whatever that was.

  14. Oh I'm not that young!

  15. Fen, if you were in primary in the mid 80s, you are young. Are you the best younger demographic I can hope for?