Published in The Voice, Bloomsburg University's student newspaper,
on September 10, 1987.
Word Processing Mojo
Things change. Time passes. Progress marches on. There are lots of similar cliches, none of which are particularly original, but they all convey the same feeling: if you don’t keep up with life, you get covered with this disgusting moss-like growth.
I’m typing this article on a new word processor. My previous tirades had been done using an older word processing program, “Word Muncher”, which was adequate but not quite as powerful as the newer models.
I had grown quite attached to the old system. We had been through a lot together, my old word processor and I. Term papers, outlines, articles for the newspaper, charts for numerous wargames, even shopping lists were all created with the aid of my binary buddy.
“Word Muncher” was a big improvement over my first word processor, called “HackWriter”. The “Hack” was only capable of keeping my words in some sort of order and printing them out on my home printer, “DeathMatrix”. What was shown on the screen was not necessarily what was printed on paper, since the screen was only 51 characters wide while paper tends to be 80 characters wide. “HackWriter” was a big improvement over a conventional typewriter, but the headaches caused by roving margins and misplaced carriage returns made the effort questionable.
“Word Muncher”, on the other hand, displayed on the screen exactly what would appear on the paper. It checked my spelling, centered titles, and allowed page headings and footings. Using “Word Muncher” was like… like some analogy involving breaths of fresh air, but relating to computers.
This new word processor program is something even more powerful. Called “WordBelch 3.0 Professional”, it corrects my spelling, hunts for synonyms, checks my syntax, berates my use of dangling participles, chides my verbiage and annotates my alliteration. It organizes footnotes, checks for plagiarism, cautions against cliches, and automatically mails anonymous letters to various publishing firms recommending my latest works.
I’m not sure I like all this new technology. It represents an author’s dream, a machine that can display the relevant dictionary entry on-screen in seconds and allows extensive text modifications with a minimum of effort. Still, I feel as if I’m losing much of the control I once had over my writing. For one thing, the computer insists on being called “Hal”.
I can recall (he said, regressing) ten years ago when I was in high school a close friend of mine (a Trekkie down to his green blood) was excited about the newest innovations in computer technology. At that time, Radio Shack and Apple had just released the first home computers. My friend, Dan, had decided that the first thing he would do as soon as he could scrape up enough money would be to purchase a home computer. I laughed at him, as I could see no practical use for the things, certainly nothing that justified the expense.
Today I have five of the beasts in my apartment. Dan would be proud of me. I can no longer write a note to myself without the aid of a computer, I can’t go a day without checking the messages on all the local computer bulletin board systems, I can’t even address envelopes by hand anymore.
This is to be expected, though, if we are to advance our civilization. Time passes on. The world marches by. Progress does something or other. We must learn to live with, and control, this new techno– open the disk drive door, Hal. Hal, open the drive door. Hal…
The content on this page was written in 1987
Last updated: June 11, 2016