From Chisel and Stone to Typing: The Evolution of Word Processors

By April Adams
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Can you imagine living back in the day of Fred Flintstone? Where cars were powered by feet instead of gasoline, and traveling by air consisted of climbing on top of the next available pterodactyl instead of sitting comfortably inside of an airplane. And instead of the ever present email we have today, the Flintstones had to chisel out their notes in stone, which never took more than a few seconds, and then a bird that needed to make a living would grip the stone in its beak and fly it to the proper recipient. Birds must have been smarter back then and their beaks stronger than they are today.

Thank goodness technology has evolved and we don't have to worry about chiseling out a business report or family newsletter anymore. Today we just go to the nearest computer, open up the word processing software and type away. Within a brief period of time we have a nice-looking, completely legible piece of information that we can print out or for faster service, we can email a document anywhere in the world and it shows up in minutes. We have definitely come a long way since the Fred Flintstone days.

So how did word processors evolve?

Wikipedia states that IBM invented the term "word processing" in the 1960s. By 1971 it was officially recognized by the New York Times as a "buzz word." However, back then word processors were much different than they are in today's modern society.

When the term was first used it referred to typing on semi-automatic typewriters and using dictating machines. Information was typed and then stored on magnetic tape or cards that could later be used for corrections and additional copies. However, if you were typing a form letter each one still had to be inserted into the typewriter to change in the variable data such as names and dates.

Later a calculator and word processors were interfaced to come up with an even more modern word processing system. Each time the enter key was pressed the typed data would be stored on a cassette tape. The information could later be viewed and edited.

After realizing what a breakthrough this had become, innovations continued. The next idea was to add a screen. No more printing out page after page to review corrected information and text. This was definitely something that would help companies and individuals alike in their scribing needs. Secretaries became worried that they would lose their jobs because they would have no place in the office workforce. However, just the opposite came true. Faster and more efficient typing on word processors meant more could be done in a short amount of time. Office productivity increased.

Transformation of word processors continued through to the addition of being able to hook up an apparatus to print these now nearly-flawless documents. Adding to the building blocks of the word processing evolution came along the ability to prints drafts using dot matrix printers and on up the line through the laser printers we use today.

During the rise of word processors personal computers were making their way into more and more homes. As the process unfolded, word processors were linked to computers and then eventually morphed into the available software packages we use today.

Can't decide which word processing application is right for you? Check out our word processing software review.

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