Story 2014-05-14 3KM WordStar and Old Software Too Good to Stop Using

WordStar and Old Software Too Good to Stop Using

in linux on (#3KM)
story imageEvery day tech news is rife with stories about the latest and greatest, but some people don't want the latest and greatest; they want their old faves. The blogosphere is buzzing this week with the revelation that George R.R. Martin , the much-admired author of the A Game of Thrones and more, actually does his writing on a DOS machine running the old, 1970s word processor, WordStar .

Should that matter? I don't think so . Not one bit. In fact, WordStar and DOS have a couple of advantages over more modern hardware and software: probably no Internet connection, no icons, nothing buzzing or beeping or flashing at you. In sum, the perfect environment for focusing on your writing. Judging by the success of GRRM's books, it's working!

What old software do you use? Which old technologies do you hang onto even as the rest of the world chases the newest update?
Reply 19 comments

Amstrad PCW (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-14 09:37 (#1K2)

I don't use one, but every so often someone in one of the retro forums I frequent will find an Amstrad PCW that someone still uses every day. (Amstrad made these in the 1980s as basically wordprocessor appliances - they were inexpensive all-in-one machines supplied with a daisywheel printer and word processing/spreadsheet software. The screens are green phosphor monochrome, and capable of MDA-resolution mono graphics but the word processor software was entirely text mode. They were Z80 based and also ran CP/M, and people even wrote some games for the system).

Probably for the same reason. They are straightforward, robust, free of distractions and if all you need to do is type letters and perhaps do the odd spreadsheet and other things that a small business might need to do, they may still be enough.

Re: Amstrad PCW (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-14 10:05 (#1K3)

I had to look that one up:

Pretty sweet looking old 8 bit machine. I could put one of these things in front of at least some of my staff and their productivity would rise, that's for sure. Screw always-on internet connections in modern offices: it's a joke. I'm posting this from work, for example, instead of actually doing my job :)

I heard somewhere about a guy running a database and his billing off a Commodore64. It was a small mechanic/garage or something, and the guy said, "it does what I need and there's no reason to change it." Awesome.

vim (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-14 10:09 (#1K5)

I am happy to have learned vim and use it to this day for many scripting and general writing tasks.

Re: vim (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2014-05-14 13:55 (#1KG)

I actually enjoy using vim, so when it came to writing I stuck with the tried and true. It's convinient that I can use it locally, or remotely. Setting up custom syntax highlighting is something I've taken to as well. I'm a very weak writer, and I've tried to avoid certain words I'm prone to overusing by highlighting them. Word completion is a surprisingly useful feature too.

You need to use what you're comfortable with - which could even be a typewriter. Clippy offering to fix your purple prose does you no favors in staying focused and immersed. I find it really sad how so much software has become fustrating to use. I see so much productivity lost compared to many of those old school DOS applications focused on getting things done.

Although sometimes you just need to let go and move on. I still use Paint Shop Pro 5, but I realize some tasks take a huge amount of effort when they really shouldn't (if I used something more advanced).

Re: vim (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-14 14:17 (#1KK)

I enjoy using vim too, I especially enjoy the powerful copy and paste functionality, multi-file split screens, accessible regular expression searching, and so on. I actually haven't invested in learning custom syntax highlighting though, probably because I tend to script/write in languages that appear to come with builtin highlighting (Python, Perl, Bash, Latex, ...), but your post has got me intrigued... that's the other thing about vim, every three years or so I bother to learn something new that adds to the fun...

Re: vim (Score: 3, Interesting)

by on 2014-05-14 16:14 (#1KT)

Soylent just linked to an interesting article published at Slate: the emacs vs vim flamewar, 40 years on. Interesting to think how old both pieces of software are, at this point!

Re: vim (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-14 19:05 (#1M3)

Awesome article from Slate, I laughed out loud reading parts of that... the only depressing part was learning I might be older than two of the oldest still used pieces of software out there...

viva wordstar (Score: 1, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-14 12:21 (#1KD)

apt-get install joe

The keybindings embedded in my muscle memory still work!

Re: viva wordstar (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-14 16:13 (#1KS)

Ha ha - I use that one too. I only wish it didn't default to hardwrap. You can get to it fastest by running it as jstar (jstar, jmacs, and joe all run the same binary but with different menu and keystroke configurations - a very cool idea).

Re: viva wordstar (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-14 16:41 (#1KX)

Yep. No mouse, no postural splinting, no pain.

civ3 and pacman (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2014-05-14 14:14 (#1KJ)

Civilization 3 is not that old, but this is still my go to game of choice, at least when circumstances allow my wife to "tolerate" a game play session (which always lasts too long), otherwise I still get a kick out of pacman for the 2-minute game play sessions that popup once in a while.

Re: civ3 and pacman (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-14 20:26 (#1M7)

Any rogue/moria/angband love out there?

When I'm feeling "modern", I occasionally play a Freedom/PrBoom (doom clone).

Re: civ3 and pacman (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-14 22:00 (#1MA)

Roguelikes are great to help me meet my productivity goals. My boss only sees symbols on a black background and thinks I'm working on "the codes".

Re: civ3 and pacman (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-14 22:55 (#1MD)

I have fond memories of mudding using telnet with teachers walking behind me baffled by all of the text and thinking I was Doing Computer Stuff

Re: civ3 and pacman (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-15 13:56 (#1MT)

I'm addicted to an ancient DOS shareware game called Conquest, basically a Risk-alike, that I've had on every computer I've owned since 1992. On my current machine, a MBP running OS X 10.8, I run it on the curent version of Dosbox, but on my previous machine running 10.6, I ran it on an old PowerPC version of Dosbox (which I actually liked better than the current version, sigh) and it amused me that I was using an Intel machine to run a PowerPC emulator to run an Intel emulator.

As far as productivity software goes, if I could use either WordPerfect 5 for DOS or WP 3 for Mac on my current machine in a way that would integrate nicely with the rest of the OS (printers, copying and pasting, etc.) I'd be really happy.

XP! (Score: 2, Funny)

by on 2014-05-14 14:19 (#1KM)

It must be said: Windows XP! :D

Okay, not for me personally, but a large portion of the Windows-using world is apparently still enamored of it.

Kill Clippy! (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-14 20:54 (#1M9)


GRRM explains it himself (Score: 2, Funny)

by on 2014-05-15 11:31 (#1MN)

Awesome quote at
Martin the says he uses WordStar 4.0 as his word processor, which elicits laughs from the studio audience, but justifies his choice by saying "I actually like it.""It does everything I want a word processing program to do and it doesn't do anything else. I don't want any help. I hate these modern systems where you type a lower case letter and it becomes a capital. I don't want a capital. If I'd wanted a capital I would have typed a capital!"Martin says he also hates spell check, because the made-up words he uses in his work is often corrected for him.There's a certain symmetry to the choice of WordStar and DOS. Martin's work depicts a brutal time in which the available technology is clunky and unreliable and magic is still in limited use. WordStar and DOS come from a time in which PCs were brutal and digital technology was clunky and unreliable, but Macintoshes were in limited use. ®