Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Archive for September, 2014

Nihongo Word Processor v1.10

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 20, 2014

The second X68k word processor I’ll look at is the “SHARP X68000 日本語ワードプロセッサ Ver 1.10”, produced circa 1990 by Sharp itself. It is credited with programming by H. Nakamoto and management by H. Tanaka.

Nihongo Word Processor v1.10

For being only about two years newer, Sharp’s Nihongo Word Processor (henceforth, NWP) looks much nicer than EW. Its interface reminds me very much of classic Macintosh programs. Coincidentally, the Mac also used a Motorola 68000 CPU, though somehow I doubt it influenced interface design.

Besides being pretty, NWP is a perfectly serviceable word processor, with the standard features, plus one very neat divergence from the norm: on the right side of the screen is a pinboard with two notes attached to it. These represent the dual clipboard arrangement NWP uses. The left clipboard holds text which has been cut, and the right text which has been copied. There are separate paste commands for each.

It’s a minor thing, perhaps, but it’s exactly the kind of uniqueness that makes me interested in software from this era. At this time, the clipboard functionality was provided by each program individually, rather than by the operating system (and its associated standard libraries), so the implementation is a conscious choice by the developer.

As you look further back in software history, you can see different interface paradigms contending against one another for mindshare, each representing a different developer’s idea about how the interface ought to be. Single clipboard with no history won this particular battle, though there are outliers like emacs’s kill ring or the various ‘clipboard managers’ that provide something extra for the power user.

It looks like NWP shipped with certain models of the X68k. A positive bargain!

Posted in 1990, Word Processor, X68000 | Leave a Comment »

EW

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 19, 2014

Now that I’ve looked at the two major players on PC, let’s take a look at some word processors for other platforms, beginning with the Sharp X68000.

EW

This word processor is identified as “X68000 Word Processor << EW >> Version 1.20O”, a 1988 release by EAST Co., Ltd. (which company still exists, by the way).

EW looks quite similar to other word processors from the eighties: simply and ugly, including the (inexplicable!) choice to display hard returns on screen. Its ruler also measures not the size of the text on the page, but the number of columns occupied by the text. Fully 96 (half-width) columns are available.

You interact with the program’s extended features by either pressing escape to select from the menu, or pressing control key combinations to access other functions.

EW doesn’t have quite the feature set of WordPerfect, but it’s much lighter–roughly 900k, of which 388k is the dictionary. Being small may not be sufficient excuse for being ugly and limited, though: if my brief foray into historic Japanese sources (vintage 1989/1990–practically ancient!) doesn’t mislead me, EW wasn’t a well-regarded piece of software.

Posted in 1988, Word Processor, X68000 | 6 Comments »

Microsoft Word 5.0 (DOS) & Microsoft Word 1.1 (Windows)

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 19, 2014

Like the last post, this one is a double feature. Sadly, unlike WordPerfect 5.1, which was released for both DOS and Windows with the same version number, MS Word used different numbers for is DOS and Windows version. So I’ve arbitrarily picked a DOS and Windows version each released at around the same time as WordPerfect 5.1 to look at.

word_001

On first glance, MS Word 5.0 for DOS, released in 1989, looks fairly similar to WordPerfect 5.1. It’s a big blue screen with some status info at the bottom. But that’s not quite all. In Word, the toolbar is constantly visible at the bottom, taking up several lines, and the text entry area is surrounded by a box. This box isn’t just for show, though: you can choose to split the view into many different windows, which each may contain different documents. In practice, splitting the screen into more than two windows is probably not very useful, since the available space will be tiny, but it’s still a nice feature.

As for the toolbar at the bottom, though, that’s a waste of space. They should have just devoted a bit of space on the bottom line to say “Menu: Esc”, or something, instead. I give them half credit for the interface.

krnl386_004

MS Word 1.1 for Windows, released in 1990, looks more like what we’re familiar with from Word. With the standard menu-and-toolbar interface, it’s a fairly usable word processor, even if it has some quirks in the display.

Word 1.1 does have a big flaw, though: when I tried to open in Word 1.1 the document I made in Word for DOS, it actually crashed DOSBox! It did successfully open the document I made in WordPerfect 5.1, though… I think I’m going to have to give this point to WordPerfect.

2014-09-18_22-17-59

Furthermore, opening the documents I made in either the DOS or Windows version of Word in Libreoffice yields a bunch of garbage. I know that technically it’s not Word’s fault if a piece of software written a quarter century later doesn’t properly import its documents, but it’s still a sad lack of longevity.

In short, 1989’s version of MS Word had some neat tricks with the multi-window interface, but I prefer the minimalist (and less-space-wasting) WordPerfect interface. WordPerfect 5.1 for Windows looks better than Word 1.1 for Windows, too, though both were apparently rather buggy, so they’ll be winning no awards: above all, software must work, after all.

WordPerfect was still king of word processors at this point, but over the course of the 90s, its crown would be stolen by Word, leaving the once-mighty application little more than an also-ran, relegated to filling out the OEM software stack of budget PCs.

Posted in 1989, 1990, DOS, Windows, Word Processor | Leave a Comment »

WordPerfect 5.1

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 16, 2014

Technically, this blog is meant to be about video games. But I’ve written about hardware and magazines and books and whatever this is, so I figure anything fitting broadly under the retrocomputing banner is fair game.

wp_000

This one may be familiar to you. WordPerfect 5.1, released in 1989, was quite a popular word processor, and it persisted for many years. In fact, it seems that people still want to use it to this day. It was used in my keyboarding class, in high school, so this is a bit of nostalgia for me.

wp_001

When you first open WordPerfect 5.1, you’re greeted with a blank, blue screen, plus some details about the current position of the cursor. I’m fairly sure this violates a few interface design principles. On the other hand, considering that WordPerfect cost hundreds of dollars, perhaps they expected people to be willing to read the manual.

wp_002

Once you know how to use it, WordPerfect 5.1 is a powerful word processor, capable of doing pretty much anything you’d like. More modern word processors may be prettier, but all of the basic functions were there. The image above is what WordPerfect calls draft mode–a semi-WYSIWYG display suitable for general use. You could also turn on ‘reveal codes’ mode, which displays markup in a manner reminiscent of HTML or BBCode:

A blank, blue screen is just so… [Italc On]inviting[Italc Off]… wouldn’t you say?[HRt]

Naturally, when printed, the document would actually use italic or bold text, or whatever other formatting was selected. WordPerfect was intended, after all, for preparing documents for print, not for display on a computer screen. All of the various options could be accessed either though a menu (activated with Alt+=) or through some combination of modifier and function keys.

krnl386_001

The Windows version of WordPerfect 5.1, released in 1991, defaults to a WYSIWYG view that should seem familiar modern computer users. It does still support draft mode and ‘reveal codes’ mode, for those who long for the (shall we say) simplicity of the DOS version.

I never used the Windows version of WordPerfect 5.1, back in the nineties. The word on the internet seems to be that it’s very buggy, which is a shame, since it seems like a fairly usable word processor, otherwise.

2014-09-15_19-49-43

Just for fun, I tried just double-clicking the document I saved in WP 5.1 for DOS, opening it in LibreOffice. As you can see, it opens and renders flawlessly, despite the programs being released 25 years apart–a true standard-bearer for backwards compatibility! It makes me wonder if the present incarnation of WordPerfect could do the same.

I could spend pages discussing all the features of WordPerfect 5.1, but I really just wanted a quick look at it, to allow for comparison, so this much will suffice. I’ll write similar overviews of other contemporary word processors (Coming soon! Maybe.) and other applications, to show some of the variety in software on the market. There was a great deal of evolution in a fairly short time, so it should be interesting to see how they compare.

Posted in 1989, 1991, DOS, Windows 3.x, Word Processor | 1 Comment »