August 31, 2011

Modern artifacts

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 7:18 pm

Recalling this post on doing actual work with an old IBM PC, I bring you mint condition blast from the past:
Desert Fox

Yes, a ‘word processor’! The manual is from 1985 and, interestingly, has this directive:

The PC-Write distribution diskette, containing a copy of this manual, may be freely copied and shared, but printed copies of this document may not be copied in any way without permission in writing from Quicksoft. Thank you.

This was produced by a company called Quicksoft that was founded by Bob Wallace, Microsoft employee #9 and so-called “Father of Shareware” who left that company to form Quicksoft; this is one of the first shareware programs, explaining the directive above. Make sure you click the link; Bob was apparently quite a guy, sadly no longer with us. I guess he liked cats:
Desert Fox

And here’s the first page:
Desert Fox
I never used it myself, but I remember the first time — using WordPerfect 5.x — that I copied and pasted a block of text, I thought the heavens had opened up and the angels were singing! You young’uns may not be all that impressed, but back when everything was done on actual paper, this was really something magnificent. I can’t imagine typing a single paper on a typewriter let alone a whole stinkin’ dissertation! Not sure how widespread PC-Write was, although I vaguely remember it from the later ’80s. I recall WordStar, WordPerfect, and Word being the main ‘word processors’ back then. Heck, there were many full systems — hardware and software together — that were sold as standalone word processors. At the bank I worked at for a bit, they had an entire small section that used 2-3 large word processing systems to create documents for the bank. They had large CRT screens (phosphor green, natch) and supersized floppy disks, on the order of 10″ or so. They sold them at some point to employees and I briefly considered snagging one but I already had a little PC at the time so I didn’t bother. This was 1985-86.

And if you want, it even has the disk:
Desert Fox

I poked around a bit trying to find a PC-Write download that could run on newer Winblows, but couldn’t find one. I have nothing to read this disk anymore, so it’s useless to me.

You know what would be kind of cool? A slightly updated copy of something like WordPerfect 5.1 for Win/Mac. Updated just enough to utilize the mouse and a few other features, but basically keeping the same sparse screen and control codes. And then distribute it for free. C’mon, Corel, set someone on it for a couple of weeks and let us have WP5.1 back!

UPDATE: Okay, I just spent the last half hour trolling around the Interwebs for a downloadable copy of WP5.1 but those scum at Corel seem to have it locked down pretty tightly.

1 Comment


    Comment by erowid — January 1, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

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