Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

'Old School' Writer Dissatisfied with Word Processors

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

'Old School' Writer Dissatisfied with Word Processors

Article excerpt

NEW YORK - As a writer, I am interested in word processors. And as a curmudgeon of the old school, I have yet to find a word processing package that truly suits me. According to certain members of my family, in fact, the reason I periodically aspire to add geese to our farm menagerie is solely to assure myself of a steady supply of quill pens. Although this is the type of hyperbole with which our teenagers frequently confront me - I just happen to like fresh goose on St. Martin's Day - I cannot deny that my writing is done on narrow-lined yellow paper, the last upgrade in my production style having occurred some twenty years ago when I gave up leaky fountain pens for smeary ballpoints.

Word processin in typed manuscripts. But as a composing tool, a typewriter or computer keyboard has never been to my liking. I'm by nature a napkin-scribbling note taker, working on as many as 20 or 30 different pads at once and writing by association. You can't write that way with a word processor, even a trendy one with an outline processor. So for all the convenience that word processing offers in editing e job better and more conveniently, then don't use it.

I know full well that there are still other closet non-word-processing writers out there, for I've spoken with many of them, furtively, far from the hum of dot matrix printers. Yet even these last holdouts may surrender once hypertext overtakes personal computing.

The word ``hypertext'' was coined way back in 1965 by Ted Nelson, an early, self-styled visionary and enfant terrible of personal computing, who envisioned, in essense, the computerization of everything ever written and to be written. He called the idea the Xanadu Project, to be released in 1979, then '80, then '81 ...

I remember my own disbelief regarding the scheme. The project as he envisioned it seemed too massive to be undertaken. And even if such a venture were feasible, the complexity of organizing it all into hypertext seemed to me beyond reckoning. In Project Xanadu, all data would be electronically connected to all other related data, so that, for instance, on reading about the caves in Plato's ``Republic,'' one could instantly move to spelunking, stalagmites, isolation-induced psychic moods or Schopenhauer's feelings on the subject - if he had any.

Always one to give credit where credit was due, Nelson invariably began discussions of the Xanadu Project by mentioning of Vannevar Bush, Roosevelt's science advisor, who had first presented the basic idea of hypertext, in an article entitled ``As We May Think.'' The basic premise of his argument was that the books, files and forms constituting the information systems of the time were based on a rigid hierarchical model, the most obvious embodiment of which was the library. …

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