Category Archives: Programs

WordPerfect

Bruce Bastian, a Brigham Young University (BYU) graduate student, and BYU computer science professor Dr. Alan Ashton joined forces to design a word processing system for the city of Orem’s Data General minicomputersystem in 1979. Bastian and Ashton kept the rights to the WordPerfect software they produced. The two founded Satellite Software International, Inc. of Orem, Utah to market the program to other Data General users.WordPerfect 1.0 represented a significant departure from the previous Wang standard for word processing.

The first version of WordPerfect for the IBM PC was released the day after Thanksgiving, 1982. It was sold as “WordPerfect 2.20”, continuing the version numbering from the Data General. Over the next several months, three more minor releases arrived mainly to correct bugs.

In 1983 WordPerfect 3.0 for DOS came out. This was fully updated to support DOS 2.x and be able to use subdirectories and hard disks. It also provided a solution to the problem of printer support – WordPerfect 2.x only supported Epson and Diablo printers, which was also hard-coded into the main program executable. Adding support for additional printers this way was impractical, so the company introduced the novel feature of printer drivers, which essentially amounted to a file containing a list of control codes for each particular model of printer. Version 3.0 thus had support for 50 different printers and within a year, this was expanded to 100. WordPerfect also supplied an editor utility that allowed users to make their own printer drivers or modify the included ones.

During this time, the company considered adding copy protection to the program, but ultimately decided against it.

The next year WordPerfect 4.0 was released.

The program’s popularity took off with the introduction of WordPerfect 4.2 in 1986, with automatic line numbering (important to law offices), and automatic numbering and placement of footnotes and endnotes (important to law offices and academics). WordPerfect 4.2 became the first program to overtake the original market leader (WordStar, the leading word processing program) in a major application category on the DOS platform. The 4.2 release only supported the text enhancements of Bold and Italic.

On 6 November 1989, WordPerfect Corporation released the program’s most successful version, WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS, which was the first version (aside from the short-lived WordPerfect 5.0) to include (text-based) Macintosh-style, CUA-style, pull-down menus to supplement the traditional function key combinations, support for tables, a spreadsheet-like feature, and full support for the typesetting options (italic, redline, strikeout, etc.) permitted by laser printers. This version of WordPerfect included, as a “Print preview”, a graphical representation of the final printed output. (This was the foundation for WordPerfect 6.0’s graphic screen editing.) The data format used by WordPerfect 5.1 was, for years, the most common word processing file format. All word processors could read (and convert) that format, and many conferences and magazines insisted that people ship their documents in 5.1 format. With the release of later versions of WordPerfect (for Windows), and an accompanying change of file format, a presumably final update of 5.1 was released which could read and write to the new format.

Unlike previous DOS versions, WordPerfect 6.0 for DOS (released in 1994) could switch between its traditional text-based editing mode and a graphical editing mode that showed the document as it would print out known as (WYSIWYG: What You See Is What You Get), including fonts. The previous text-based versions used different colors or text color inversions to indicate various markups, and (starting with version 5.0) used a graphic mode only for an uneditable print preview that used generic fonts rather than the actual fonts that appeared on the printed page.

WordStar

WordStar is a word processor application that had a dominant market share during the early- to mid-1980s. Formerly published by MicroPro International, it was originally written for the CP/M operating system but later ported to DOS. Although Seymour I. Rubinstein was the principal owner of the company, Rob Barnaby was the sole author of the early versions of the program. Starting with WordStar 4.0, the program was built on new code written principally by Peter Mierau.

WordStar was deliberately written to make as few assumptions about the underlying system as possible, allowing it to be easily ported across the many platforms that proliferated in the early 1980s. As all of these versions had relatively similar commands and controls, users could move between platforms with equal ease. Already popular, its inclusion with the Osborne 1 computer made the program become the de facto standard for much of the word processing market.

As the computer market quickly became dominated by the IBM PC, this same portable design made it difficult for the program to add new features and affected its performance. In spite of its great popularity in the early 1980s, these problems allowed WordPerfect to take WordStar’s place as the most widely used word processor from 1985 onwards.

SuperSort and WordMaster were the first products sold by MicroPro International in September 1978. The company was formed by two employees of IMS Associates, a computer manufacturer which designed the IMSAI computer.

When Seymour Rubenstein was director of marketing for IMS, he started developing an early version of a word processor for the IMSAI 8080 computer. He convinced Rob Barnaby, a genius software programmer, to also leave IMS and join him at MicroPro adventure.

Barnaby wrote the first version of WordStar in September 1978. The program was entirely written in assembly language. Six months later, the commercial version was ready and first sales started in ComputerLand stores.

WordStar was then the best selling software program of the early eighties. Paradoxically, one of the main reasons of its commercial success was that it has also been the most pirated software in the world for several years. Much more books and WordStar manuals were sold than the software itself.

WordStar was designed to run on any CP/M machine. At the time, most of them used a serial video terminal as display device, with no editing and arrow keys. All the editing functions were thus performed through various combinations of Ctrl+letter keys. When the user got used to make the most of Control keys, typing and editing tasks were performed very quickly and WordStar was a very efficient tool.

From 1978 to 1984, sales jumped from $100,000 to $70 million. Wordstar, CalcStar and DataStar (first office suite) were ported to CP/M86 and PC/MS-DOS. In 1984, Micropro was the largest software company in the USA.

However, turnover curve started to reverse when several word processors were launched and began to compete with WordStar. Two of them will eventually supplant it, WordPerfect and later the first version of Microsoft Word. In 1985, Micropro released a new version called WordStar 2000, but it was rejected by users. WordStar source code was then sold to successive companies and the mythical word processor of the 80’s sank gradually into oblivion.