December 3, 2023

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Wandering through ancient word processors yields a monster

Wandering through ancient word processors yields a monster

The world was once reliant on paper copies, and when the digital age began to bring new tools and ways of doing things, documents were ready to change. Today, word processors and digital documents have become so ubiquitous that they’re hardly worth thinking about, but it didn’t happen all at once. [Cathode Ray Dude] He has a soft spot for older word processors and the decades-long journey they took, and Walks through Olivetti ETV 2700.

In the days of character displays and no multitasking, WYSIWYG as a concept was still a long way off.

The ETV 2700 is a massive machine. A combination of an old word processor, x86-based hardware, and a 17-inch-wide electric typewriter.

With it one could run a word processor that looked nothing like today’s WYSIWYG, write and edit a document, and on command the typewriter part could type a page electronically. It looks a bit like a printer, but is actually an electric typewriter with a computer interface. The letters were drafted one by one using a daisy wheel and ink ribbon on a hand-loaded page using all the usual typewriter controls.

While internally the machine has an x86 processor, expects a screen and even runs MS-DOS, the keyboard has its own layout (and even special keys and functions), does not support graphical output, and in other ways was unusual even by the standards of the strange decades during which it was experimented with. Product designers discover what works best in terms of functionality and ease of use.

Nowadays, we see AI-enabled typewriter projects porting legacy operating systems to older word processing devices, but such projects are made possible in part by the robustness of these devices. The entire video is embedded below, but you can Jump straight to what the Olivetti ETV 2700 looks like on the inside If that’s what matters most to you.

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thanks for the [Stephen Walters] For the party!