Say Thank You to Your Word Processing Software

Today Lee was unpacking stuff from our old Austin house, you know, the stuff I just couldn’t get to in all the time we lived at the Bobcat Lair, now officially known as Anita’s House of 300 Boxes. (She is ready to move out soon as she can.)

Anyway, Lee found a true gem, a takeaway notebook from a seminar in 1988.

Blast from the past.

Oh wow. I forgot how much effort it used to be to make newsletters and such back then! Or write dissertations (footnotes on a typewriter, hell). This really helpful (back then) guide even came with tools. Let me explain to you lucky people only slightly younger than me.

A ruler

So this ruler is for figuring out how many characters you can fit in a space. I’d completely forgotten that typewriter balls came in Pica or Elite. That’s if you were lucky enough to have an IBM Selectric, the dream typewriter with an eraser key and interchangeable heads. I’m eternally grateful to High School Boyfriend for sharing his with me.

We made money typing papers for others in college and I even typed a whole book on Basque for pay. That typewriter was beloved, even though we sure typed a lot of pages over and over, especially when we had to use footnotes. No wonder I love end notes today.

This tool was a mystery.

The other tool that came with the notebook was this crazy wheel that tells you how much you have to reduce your text to fit in a certain space. I imagine this was very handy. It also makes me really glad I didn’t make newsletters until personal computers were available. I never had to paste up anything. Yay.

I think this is too much math for words.

I thumbed through the notebook as it showed how to make monospaced text interesting, as it went over how to get photographs (real ones) and put them in, and extolled the virtues of typesetting. Then I remembered the date. 1988.

Scary

I got my first PC in 1985. The people one year ahead of me had to write dissertations on a mainframe line editor. I got to use WordPerfect in beautiful Times Roman. By the time I got my first real job in 1987, page layout software existed. I just gave my graphic designer my words and she poured them into the software. The typesetter at work saw their career path dwindling to a footpath.

Good advice.

Things changed so fast around this time. It was fun, though. Soon I could make my own documents.

Soon after that, I was making web pages, all words, no pictures. Monospaced. Then there were digital images! You could make text blink! Be green! Have moving backgrounds! Play an insipid song in a loop! Ah, times were so simple then. I’m so grateful for word processing and page design software!

But the course on how to make newsletters on a typewriter didn’t help Lee for long. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t given much longer. But I sure like that ruler and reduction wheel!

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