Thursday, March 15, 2018

"The First Hit Is Free"

     Tam has loaned me her old iPad 2 -- as in clean-slated it and handed it over -- so I "can see what it's like."  I have been a Windows/Android user ever since they yanked MS-DOS out from under me and dumped me into a world of colorful, simplified icons.

     For those of you who aren't old, or who had successfully avoided computers until they became ubiquitous, to many of us the abandonment of MS-DOS for Windows felt like a step back, or at least a step toward the softly-safe Apple world, where you could do whatever you wanted just as long as you did it Apple's way, with Apple's fully-tested-and-approved software and hardware.  If you'd started out with grotty mainframes (the "big machine" my extension campus had timeshare access to was a DECsystem10, sixty miles away in Indianapolis; the smaller, slower one was a PDP-11, or one of the PDP-series, at another campus), moved up to CP/M (the last operating system I was really comfortable with) and nice little Kaypro-II (which -- except for color and fancy graphics -- did more in 64K than modern computers manage with 2 Mb*) and then clawed your way into desktops running MS-DOS, with all the crazy frustration of trying to make the pieces work together and do useful things, the Apple world looked like a coloring book and when Microsoft decided to do the same, it appeared to be a betrayal.  Having been hauled into GUIs kicking and screaming, there was no way me or any of my peers were gonna go Apple.  Nope, nope, nope....  (Meanwhile, one of the most user-friendly remote-control devices at my workplace ran on touchscreen Macs, and the system ran great right out of the box.  Thank you, Michelle Unpronouncable and your coworkers at Troll Technologies!)

     And here I am, multiple versions of Windows on, poking at the screen of an iPad.  If I can get it to recognize one of my (supposedly) dual-system wireless keyboards, it's going to be interesting to play with.  After all, this going from one to the other hasn't done Tam any harm -- and CP/M or MS-DOS isn't staging a comeback, last time I checked.

     (But if someone wants to port PerfectWriter for any modern computer?  Oh, where do I sign up to support that!)
* PerfectWriter spoiled me for word processors, with easily-implemented standard TEXT/PAGE NUMBER headers or footers, automatic building of tables of contents and footnotes, and a clear set of inline commands -- and it was seamlessly integrated with the database and spellchecker.  The awkwardness involved in setting up Word to produce plain, standard-formatted manuscripts never fails to frustrate me -- PerfectWriter did it with a simple command.  Q10 is as close as you can get, but lacks much of the dot-command formatting features. 


Jerry said...

Quite agree with you. Pre-GUI CADKEY was faster because you could use both hands at the same time; not unlike playing a piano. GUI interfaces wrecked that. We had WordPerfect at the defense contractor I worked for but our favorite was an IBM Text editor, Personal Editor II. PE2 was unique in that the macro file could change the function of any valid key. For instance, one could temporarily redefine the "Z" key to enter "the Frammistat valve on the Turboencabulator". It made typing lengthy technical reports quite convenient.

JimBob said...

Well all you gotta do is CTL-ALT-SHFT-F7, then reload the printer driver while ALT-TAB-ESC, then....

You want the printout to look like the screen? Bwaaaaaahahaha.....

Yeah,, those were the days

Eck! said...

I'm of the age of back when I was cutting edge as in pre-CP/m and
still remember the bin loader for PDP-8. Since then Ive gone
through all of it to the win10 mess. However that pain was for work.
I be linux user. Along the way it was the art, science, and practical
use of many computers from PDP-8/10/11/VAX though all of the 8/16/32/64

Editors, my favorite was VTEDIT, VEDIT and most of the teco derived editors
The VAX TPU was a big hit as it did teco or full screen to multicolumn.
Now editors are rather bland and uninteresting. I still hate M$ Word
with a purple passion as the worst standard ever derived.

And Hey, I still have a kaypro II and 4/84 and I use them as they boot and do useful work faster than ost hardware available now. For sport Rpi-3b for fun.


Roberta X said...

JimBob: the command set for PerfectWriter -- or, for that matter, for Pico, the text editor used by the *nix e-mail program Pine -- was small and easily learned. There was none of this clicking way into nested menus to do simple tasks, and no fussing with fonts and styles when you were writing. For serious writing, Word is a cake that is mostly icing -- lots of pretty stuff, not much nutrition. Q10 beats it six ways from Sunday as a composing engine, and Scrivener leaves it in the dust for serious long-form work. In fact, Scrivener is the first writing software I have used on Windows that is better than PerfectWriter -- and only at the price of considerable complexity and a less than intuitive user interface. Unlike Word, it will do the things I think need to be in the core functions of a word processor.

Jerry, PE2 sounds handy! I do like the key redefinion.

Roberta X said...

Eck: I remember vi being remarkably impenetrable. teco looks scary as can be!

Countglockula said...

In the beginning MS-DOS days I obtained a copy of Electric Pencil and decompiled it, studied the result, and then wrote a package I named 'Super Secretarial System'. It included an enhanced editor, print formatter, and other goodies. This was for the Radio Shack models 1 and 3, of course. I marketed it in a modest way, and it turned out to be one of the most bootlegged programs of the day.

Never made me any money, but it was a touch-typists dream, and had a macro capability that allowed cascading, so you could damn near write a tech manual with a handful of keystrokes.

As I recall, my personal TRS-80 Model 1 was in the first batch shipped out from Ft. Worth. Got it right before Christmas of 1977. Spent the whole holiday playing with it, which set the pattern for my entire working career. Moved from engineering to full-time programming after that.


Overload in Colorado said...

I used to know Bank Street Writer very well. Then, I got a Mac Plus, and discovered the wonders os WYSIWYG.

Eck! said...

Ah yes VI, ghaggg. that thing was awful.

Teco was the master of editors before the screen. Once screens became
it was Vteco, and their kin, you could see what it was doing and interact better but the command line was there for fixing all "hte" in the text in one fell swoop.
But it was from the era of programmers, not writers. Visual editors on screens would fix that. Still it beat the major crap out of punching and editing tapes.

EP and its kin are from the days of the screen as a resident fact and since the screen was updatable the concept of interactive text creation and editing was born. Good thing too and none too soon!

It would be a while before we could print it cheaply and be good looking on paper. But I got to see that come along.


Zendo Deb said...

WYSIWYG is fine until it isn't what you want. And Eck! VI ruled when you got good at it, though if emacs was available that would usually win out.

And I still prefer a good markup language. I type fast enough that adding tags to get exactly what I want in terms of paragraphs, lists, nested lists whatever isn't bad. But the only markup language (HTML) around much today is usually overridden by MarkDown - the simplified version.

LibreOffice will at least show me the markup when it is doing something insane.

Haven't used Word in over a decade. (Too damned expensive.)

Zendo Deb said...

Though the worst screen editor you can imagine beat the heck out of punching cards. No one ever added sorting numbers to the cards until after your dropped your first box of several hundred cards, and had to sort them by hand.

Roberta X said...

I barely got in on the tail end of the punchcard era -- thanks to that tiny extension campus, smaller than the High School I graduated from. It was enough to make me not a fan.

HTML is kind of nice. MarkDown has become popular with writers who use a simple text editor for composing, where really basic things like italics and bolding (* and ** on each side of the word, respectively) are useful and otherwise unavailable.

My second Internet provider had dial-up shell access, which kept me online with an MS-DOS desktop well into the Windows era; they finally dropped it after being bought up by a larger provider. Newsreaders tin and trn, Pine and Elm for e-mail, Pico and VI for editors.... (My first provider ran VAXen and I suspect he may have been selling access "out the back door" of a larger enterprise. I don't remember a lot about the UI -- it called for VT-100 terminal emulation and was fairly limited.)

BatChainPuller said...

Spent hundreds of hours "saving time" on this ones' brother