Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Forty years of using WordStar!

by Rob - December 16th, 2023.
Filed under: Uncategorized. Tagged as: , .

Forty years ago today, on December 16, 1983, I started using the word-processing program WordStar.

Two days earlier, I’d acquired my first computer, an Osborne 1B, which came bundled with the CP/M operating system, SuperCalc spreadsheet, Microsoft BASIC, and WordStar 2.26.

And, today, I still use WordStar: WordStar for DOS 7.0 Revision D, the final version ever produced. It has file-stamp dates of thirty-one years ago (December 21, 1992).

George R.R. Martin also still uses WordStar for DOS, but he stopped upgrading at version 4.0.

As Anne Rice said, “WordStar was magnificent. I loved it. It was logical, beautiful, perfect. Compared to it, MS Word is pure madness.”

And I do love it. I love that I can still open and edit files I wrote forty years ago with ease.

I love that it was designed for touch-typists: you never have to take your hands off the home typing row to do anything (yes, you can use a mouse or function keys if you wish, but you never have to).

I love that you can mark a block and then do something else before having to deal with it (unlike Word, where if you mark a block and then start typing, everything in the marked block is gone as Anne said, pure madness!).

I love that it lets me see (or hide) the formatting codes in the document (an idea WordPefect stole from WordStar, and something Word sorely lacks).

I love that it changes cursor shape so that I can tell at the insertion point whether I’m in insert or overtype mode.

I love that I can have italics in a different color than regular text, making it easy to see if a period or comma is italicized or not.

I love that it’s utterly distraction-free if you wish, with a minimalist screen.

I love that it provided a night-mode decades before Word offered such a thing.

I love that it’s freely installable on any computers I own, and that, with DOSBox-X, the emulator I use, it runs flawlessly under Windows, Mac, or Linux.

I love it for all the reasons I describe here:

Years ago, I wrote a conversion routine that flawlessly converts WordStar files to RTF for flawless importation into Word, and I do that when I have to submit something.

I’ve written everything for the past forty years in WordStar: novels, short stories, articles, screenplays, teleplays, HTML code, and, yes, this very post. And I intend to go on using it for the rest of my life.

1 Response to Forty years of using WordStar!

  1. Hooray for WordStar (on the Osborne 1, no less!)

    Back in 1981 that was the word processor and computer I first learned on, and my fingers still remember the control key commands for so many of the features. Even on a unix or linux box these days I tend to install the jove editor because it uses so many of the same commands and my hands just *know* them.

    For the record, I collect old computers as a hobby and my two old Osborne 1s are the oldest machines in my collection right now.

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