I actually wrestled with the title for this post. One alternative was, “From Simple Beginnings.” On one hand it is fitting for a post on the first word processor but then again those machines were anything but simple. When I first spotted the story on Gizmodo, How Word Processors Changed the Novel, I was intrigued enough to hop over to the original story, The Book-Writing Machine, which appeared in Slate.com.
I began my first novel when I was twelve, playing on a portable manual typewriter my mother had in her closet. By the end of high school I had moved onto an electric typewriter. I wouldn’t catch up to word processing until my mother bought the family’s first computer half way through my college career. This was a Tandy TL with an 8 mhz 286 processor, 640k of memory and a 20 MB hard drive. My mobile phone eats it for lunch, but such is the march of technology.
What catches my imagination, sadly not quite imagination, was that not too far back and certainly in many of our lifetimes, writers were typing and re-typing pages. I remember this with a bit of nostalgia and file folders still crammed with these pages. Technology has a way of wiping the memory faster than we would like. Now I write from virtually anywhere on cloud connected PC’s, my tablet and even my mobile. I can create, edit and publish a work without ever committing one mark to a piece of paper. Technically I can do all that without a keystroke, but I am a little old fashioned (isn’t that rich) in that I prefer typing, or my Schroeder like facsimile of typing. I am not ready to talk my story into my tablet. Who knows where we will be in twenty years, direct cranial transcription, maybe. While imagining the future is fun, I enjoy looking back at what once was the cutting edge and for that reason enjoyed reading this article.