53 votes

Word Processing like it's 1993

I thought younger people may find it interesting to experience what older, very popular, word processors were like.

Here's WordPerfect 6.0, emulated in the browser: https://archive.org/details/msdos_wordperfect6

Here's a link to the instruction manual: https://archive.org/details/wordperfectversi00word/mode/2up

Here's a bit of history: DOSDays - WordPerfect $495 in 1983 is roughly $1500 today.

Here's the recommended specs (not the minimum specs)

Personal computer using 386 processor
520k free conventional memory
DOS 6.0 or memory management software
Hard disk with 16M disk space for complete installation
VGA graphics adapter and monitor

F1 is the default help key.

Page 409 of the manual talks about menus. This is version 6 so they give you a drop down menu. To get an idea of how version 5 and earlier would appear by default (without the menubar, just the blue screen), hit alt v, then p. T (To get the menu back hit alt =, then V, then P) People might find it weird but those drop down menus first appeared in 5.1, and were a bit deal: "On 6th November 1989 WordPerfect released what would be their most successful version - WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS, selling for $495 in the U.S. This was the first version to support Macintosh-style text-based pull down menus to supplement the traditional function key shortcuts and mouse support."

I'd be interested to know how easy people find it to use. At the time I had the keyboard overlay (example for WP5) and the muscle memory, but that's all gone now.

25 comments

  1. [4]
    vord
    Link
    For further reference, a 386 originally clocked in around 20 or 25 MHz, at about 4 clocks per instruction. I recall writing several papers on this (on a 486, blazing fast), as well as moving up...

    For further reference, a 386 originally clocked in around 20 or 25 MHz, at about 4 clocks per instruction.

    I recall writing several papers on this (on a 486, blazing fast), as well as moving up through the word processors.

    Like, for the most part....they were feature-complete circa 2000. There's been refinements and improvements since then...but as far as core functionality the biggest hindrance has been terrible proprietary file formats.

    15 votes
    1. ButteredToast
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Agree that they’ve been feature complete since around 2000. I’d have no trouble writing in say Word 2000 or AppleWorks 5/6 from the same era. What I find confusing is why there are so few modern...

      Agree that they’ve been feature complete since around 2000. I’d have no trouble writing in say Word 2000 or AppleWorks 5/6 from the same era.

      What I find confusing is why there are so few modern word processors (or office suites) that reproduce that circa-2000 experience with a few rough edges smoothed. To me that seems like such a natural set of features to target, and with a static featureset, once feature completeness has been achieved, development efforts can instead go toward stability, bug fixes, responsiveness, etc. if you pop open LibreOffice, the experience isn’t all that much more lightweight than its corporate counterpart (no shade, it’s a great project, but it isn’t lean).

      12 votes
    2. [2]
      chocobean
      Link Parent
      The first MS Word I used came with a writing grade level scoring display, what they call the readability level...

      The first MS Word I used came with a writing grade level scoring display, what they call the readability level

      https://support.microsoft.com/en-au/office/get-your-document-s-readability-and-level-statistics-85b4969e-e80a-4777-8dd3-f7fc3c8b3fd2

      The formula for the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score is:

      (.39 x ASL) + (11.8 x ASW) – 15.59

      where:

      ASL = average sentence length (the number of words divided by the number of sentences)

      ASW = average number of syllables per word (the number of syllables divided by the number of words)

      How do they figure syllables per word, using the same dictionary as the spell checker?

      4 votes
      1. unkz
        Link Parent
        Probably at the time they used a heuristic algorithm, many of which are more than accurate enough for these purposes. The number of edge cases wouldn’tt have any significant effect on the score....

        Probably at the time they used a heuristic algorithm, many of which are more than accurate enough for these purposes. The number of edge cases wouldn’tt have any significant effect on the score. Just a guess though.

        8 votes
  2. zod000
    Link
    I used WordPerfect for a good decade and only switched to Word in college because that was what they had in the lab. I griped about it for years until I acclimated and then it seemed like every...

    I used WordPerfect for a good decade and only switched to Word in college because that was what they had in the lab. I griped about it for years until I acclimated and then it seemed like every version was MS fumbling around with obnoxious UI changes because Office had essentially been feature complete for several years.

    7 votes
  3. RheingoldRiver
    Link
    I have two Word Perfect stories. My family had Word Perfect on our first computer, and I remember """""writing""""" """""""""""""""poetry"""""""""""""""" in it, where I'd just spam on the keyboard...

    I have two Word Perfect stories.

    1. My family had Word Perfect on our first computer, and I remember """""writing""""" """""""""""""""poetry"""""""""""""""" in it, where I'd just spam on the keyboard a bunch and then get my parents to waste tons of ink and paper printing my creation (was probably about 5 or 6 years old at the time). I really enjoyed typing lots of random keypsam made up of many letters and then follow that with just holding down 1 key for a long time so that there was a dichotomy between order and chaos (although I'm not sure I would've put it into quite those words at that age).

    2. Despite having a computer relatively early, my parents are NOT early adopters, and so later on in grade school, several years into the existence of Microsoft Word, they tried to have me compose in WordPerfect instead since that's what they were still using. My teacher wanted a large font size for headings and I got so mad that when you increased the number that represents the size in WP the size went down, I think it was "letters per inch" or some such. Eventually they found that MSWord was installed too, and so I got to switch, although I was still sad that it was different from what we used in school (some Apple thing).

    6 votes
  4. [10]
    chocobean
    Link
    That's so fun!! I looked at the pictures in your keyboard overlay link and thought, What are those holes? Read the blurb and thought, oh wow they gave you PLASTIC cards with the software? You'd be...

    That's so fun!!

    I looked at the pictures in your keyboard overlay link and thought, What are those holes? Read the blurb and thought, oh wow they gave you PLASTIC cards with the software? You'd be lucky to get a printable pdf these days. Buy the plastic for extra money, each sold separately, plastic part not included

    And also, looked at my (non mechanical) keyboard and thought, huh how would they even sit over these flat keys.

    Keyboard keys at the time were really tall!!

    5 votes
    1. [9]
      zod000
      Link Parent
      "at the time"... and here I am writing on my IBM Model F heh

      "at the time"... and here I am writing on my IBM Model F heh

      6 votes
      1. [8]
        chocobean
        Link Parent
        I googled it! Are you serious? :D is it an original (vintage, I guess) or a reproduction/reprint? How do you like it? Is it like a mechanical keyboard or...my apologies, do mechanical keyboards...

        I googled it! Are you serious? :D is it an original (vintage, I guess) or a reproduction/reprint? How do you like it? Is it like a mechanical keyboard or...my apologies, do mechanical keyboards just means Ye Olde Keyboardes?

        I hate the tiny flat keys on the laptop but I've been using those cheap Logitech ones for so long they're just normal now.

        3 votes
        1. [6]
          tanglisha
          Link Parent
          You are on the edge of a very deep rabbit hole, my friend. Here are the basics.

          You are on the edge of a very deep rabbit hole, my friend.

          Here are the basics.

          8 votes
          1. [5]
            bushbear
            Link Parent
            Why have you done this to me? Looks like I'm about to dive into the abyss.

            Why have you done this to me? Looks like I'm about to dive into the abyss.

            2 votes
            1. [3]
              chocobean
              Link Parent
              I read a good bit of that but pulled back out before being spaghetti-zed. I can't afford a whole new hobby at this particular point even if it looks extremely interesting.

              I read a good bit of that but pulled back out before being spaghetti-zed. I can't afford a whole new hobby at this particular point even if it looks extremely interesting.

              1. crdpa
                Link Parent
                You can have an affordable mech keyboard, but it is a superfluous and dangerous hobby. I settled with this one, but I really wanted an ergonomic. I just can't justify the price since I am not a...

                You can have an affordable mech keyboard, but it is a superfluous and dangerous hobby.

                I settled with this one, but I really wanted an ergonomic. I just can't justify the price since I am not a heavy computer user anymore. I use it for like half an hour tops per day.

                1 vote
              2. bushbear
                Link Parent
                I know right! I will delve back into this when I finally start with my raspberry pi thing. I feel like this would go well together

                I know right! I will delve back into this when I finally start with my raspberry pi thing. I feel like this would go well together

                1 vote
        2. zod000
          Link Parent
          Yes I am serious lol. I actually own three Model F's, one of which is a reproduction of the rare F77. I'm using the F77 now as I prefer the form factor and the fact that it uses USB and not an...

          Yes I am serious lol. I actually own three Model F's, one of which is a reproduction of the rare F77. I'm using the F77 now as I prefer the form factor and the fact that it uses USB and not an archaic connector that requires a converter. Mechanical keyboards means it uses an actual mechanical switch, not that it's just old. There are tons of mechanical keyboards available that aren't quite so, well, "old". You've probably seen them at stores and didn't think much of them as it is usually gaming keyboards that end up on display.

          2 votes
  5. Piusbird
    Link
    For those wanting to see what 5.1 would be like wordperfect 8 for linux is derived from 5.1, very little in the interface is changed. Runs on modern linux thanks to a crew of misfits an luddites...

    For those wanting to see what 5.1 would be like wordperfect 8 for linux is derived from 5.1, very little in the interface is changed. Runs on modern linux thanks to a crew of misfits an luddites lead by a googler

    https://github.com/taviso/wpunix

    This is my legit daily driver
    of course the retrocomputing vibe is somewhat spoiled by using an ultramodern voice input system to control it. But i'm something of a Retrofuturist 👿

    4 votes
  6. [4]
    mild_takes
    Link
    Oh man, the days of big ass paper manuals. I will always remember the substantial SimCity 3000 manual in particular. EBay listing for context Anyone else have a favourite big manual?

    Page 409 of the manual talks about menus.

    Oh man, the days of big ass paper manuals.

    I will always remember the substantial SimCity 3000 manual in particular. EBay listing for context

    Anyone else have a favourite big manual?

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      DefinitelyNotAFae
      Link Parent
      Carmen Sandiego - where the DRM was answering what word was on a particular page.

      Carmen Sandiego - where the DRM was answering what word was on a particular page.

      3 votes
      1. lexabear
        Link Parent
        Monkey Island included a "wheel o pirates" - a disc with a spinner where you combined upper/lower pirate faces to get the key to run the game. Physical DRM was both great when themed like that but...

        Monkey Island included a "wheel o pirates" - a disc with a spinner where you combined upper/lower pirate faces to get the key to run the game. Physical DRM was both great when themed like that but also a PITA, and lord help you if you lost the doohickey.

        2 votes
    2. winther
      Link Parent
      Any Sid Meier game. I still have the 200 page Alpha Centauri manual and I think the one for Civilization II was at least as big, but I sadly don't have that anymore. Kids these days probably won't...

      Any Sid Meier game. I still have the 200 page Alpha Centauri manual and I think the one for Civilization II was at least as big, but I sadly don't have that anymore. Kids these days probably won't know the joy of reading game manuals in bed at night :)

      1 vote
  7. winther
    Link
    I grew up with some DOS version of WordPerfect and wrote my first school essays in that on the family's 386. I liked how it forced me to think of the layout conceptually by the use of layout codes...

    I grew up with some DOS version of WordPerfect and wrote my first school essays in that on the family's 386. I liked how it forced me to think of the layout conceptually by the use of layout codes rather than the WYSIWYG way. Sort of like how we use Markdown to today.

    2 votes
  8. Dr_Amazing
    Link
    I used this for years when I was a kid. Computers were so uncommon in my small town that my teacher got complaints from other parents who thought that using spell check was cheating. I had to...

    I used this for years when I was a kid. Computers were so uncommon in my small town that my teacher got complaints from other parents who thought that using spell check was cheating. I had to submit a "rough draft" of my typed paper with the mistakes still in and circle them with pen, to prove I had found them myself or something.

    Also there were so many keyboard commands in early word perfect, we had this strip of paper you taped to the top of your keyboard to help you remember what they all were.

    2 votes
  9. unkz
    Link
    I never switched from WordStar to WordPerfect — the keyboard shortcuts are still burned into my brain some 35 years later though.

    I never switched from WordStar to WordPerfect — the keyboard shortcuts are still burned into my brain some 35 years later though.

    1 vote