Even by the standards of the bulbous grey contraption that was the 1980s computer, the Amstrad PCW 8256 was an unlovely thing. The poet Hugo Williams, deciding to stick with his old Adler typewriter, dismissed it as a “grisly gulag of beige plastic”. But while it failed to win over Williams, the Amstrad did manage to convert a vast army of his fellow authors. Its launch 30 years ago, in September 1985, was a significant moment in British literary culture – the tipping point when many writers, published and aspiring, made the trek to Dixons, where it was exclusively sold, and joined the computer age.
PCW stood for “personal computer word processor”, but as a general computer, the Amstrad was limited. It really had one purpose: to process words faster and better than a typewriter. “If you want to update your office, here’s a tip,” went the press adverts, with a picture of a pile of old electric typewriters being dumped in landfill.
Walking round Akihabara, Tokyo’s electronics district, in February 1985, the Amstrad boss Alan Sugar had seen a word processor that had a monitor with a built-in printer, so the whole package had the all-in-one compactness of a typewriter. While flying from Tokyo to Hong Kong, he sketched out a design for the PCW on a Cathay Pacific serviette: a keyboard connected to a monitor that also incorporated a floppy disk drive and printer. This single-box design proved impracticable but the basic idea, of a plug-in-and-go, integrated system, survived.
In 1985, only a small, intrepid minority of writers used word processors. The pioneers tended to be sci-fi writers such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, who were perhaps naturally disposed to new technology, and authors of densely plotted thrillers and historical fiction who needed to incorporate lots of research and move material around without having to hold everything in their short-term memories. Len Deighton, probably the first author to produce a word-processed novel, in the late 1960s, already used scissors and glue to cut and rearrange his paper drafts, so the cut-and-paste facility of his IBM machine was a natural progression.
But those authors who wrote in more sequential mode remained unconvinced. As well as the prohibitive cost of the early word processors, there was a cultural resistance, starting with that ugly word, “processor”. Processing was what a factory did to peas, not what a writer did to words. A word processor sounded both uncreative and like something with a mind of its own that might impose its own android habits on the user.
Writers are fetishistic about their writerly tools. In The Writer and the Word Processor, a guide for authors by Ray Hammond published in 1984, a year before the Amstrad launched, the computer refusenik Fay Weldon was quoted as saying that “there is some mystical connection between the brain and the actual act of writing in longhand”. Iris Murdoch agreed: “Why not use one’s mind in the old way, instead of dazzling one’s eyes staring at a glass square which separates one from one’s thoughts and gives them a premature air of completeness?” Writers either felt that their muse flowed through the natural loops of their handwriting, or they had grown used to the tactile rituals of typewriting: that click of the ratchet as you fed in the paper, the Kalashnikov sound of the keys, the ping of the carriage-return bell and the final whoosh when you pulled out the paper, which by then was smothered with little raised areas of correction fluid so it looked, in Diana Athill’s words, “like a London pavement partly thawed after a snowstorm”. All this gave you a sense of industry, as if you were actually making writing, as tangibly as someone weaving cloth.
The Amstrad changed all this, for the simple reason that it cost £399, word-processing program and dot-matrix printer included, while an Apple Mac or IBM system cost four times as much. The Amstrad’s price lured in those writers who were beginning to realise that, on their Smith Coronas and Olivettis, they were spending as much time retyping as typing. A critical mass formed.
The Amstrad, in other words, was the word processor’s Model T Ford: an entry-level, low-cost machine with all the expensive non-essentials, such as colour, sound and aesthetic flourish, stripped away. It had no mouse, its 12in monitor displayed eye-straining green letters on a black background, and it was snail-slow. From booting itself up each morning to printing out a long document in matrices of dots, it refused to be rushed, which did at least provide little caesuras in the writer’s day, time for guilt-free cigarettes and boil-the-kettle breaks. Its word-processing program, LocoScript, was serviceable but it could take an age to scroll through to the end of a long file. None of the early word processors had writers in mind, in fact. The naming of each file as a “document” was a clue that they were designed for office memos and letters, not writing novels.
Still, the Amstrad offered the delights of novelty, as its new owners marvelled at the way you could amend the middle of a document and the whole thing would reshape itself like flowing water, or the way the last word of each line “wrapped” – jumped down automatically to the start of the next one – so you didn’t have to press return as with a typewriter. And, with none of the overengineering of its higher-spec successors, the Amstrad was reliable, rarely suffering from bugs or freezes, and reassuring. Computer virgins worried that the words they had just tapped out were evanescent and might vanish at any moment into the electronic abyss. But if you pressed the wrong key, the Amstrad would tell you decisively to “abandon”, and if you managed to delete files it kept them in a place called “limbo”, only overwriting them when the disk was full. No doubt some words were lost to the ether in those early days, but surely no more than all those typewritten pages lost in the post or absentmindedly left on trains.
In October 1986, the Observer’s Michael Davie announced that, with sales of half a million, it had been the year of the Amstrad, and he interviewed authors and editors about its impact. Alan Hollinghurst, then deputy editor of the Times Literary Supplement, worried that “style deteriorates … people write more laxly”, because, on a computer, writing was “almost like talking”. Susannah Clapp of the London Review of Books agreed that word-processed prose was often “baggy”, and she also regretted that one could no longer glance at a typescript and know at once from the purple ribbon or the jumping “b” that it was from a certain author. Now, she said, it was “as if all the copy springs from one giant brain”. Clapp was certainly right about the sameyness of Amstrad typescripts: they had the same font, the same “near-letter quality” of the printing and the same paper with those giveaway rough edges where the perforated strips of the concertina sheets had been torn away.
Writers felt that their muse flowed through the natural loops of their handwriting
While some fretted that the word–processor encouraged logorrhoea because words on a screen already seemed polished, others feared the opposite, that the PCW’s invitation to tinker and overcorrect would scramble the author’s intuitive sense of the feel and rhythm of sentences and result in stale, unflowing prose. In the end, both these fears were exaggerated. Apart from its saving of time, there was nothing inherently revolutionary about writing on a word processor, which simply returned the author to the easy navigability of writing with pen and paper. Compared with the frustratingly linear typewriter, on which you could only ever think about the next sentence, scrolling through a word-processed document was rather like flicking through a notebook or shuffling pages, allowing you to see how a piece was shaping as a whole.
In his 1991 book Writer’s Block, Zachary Leader argued that the word processor had helped authors because it offered them “an endlessly malleable sentence” and created a sense of dialogue with an audience, for screens “resembled human faces” and “were more responsive and animated than written or typed pages”. Well, perhaps. The Amstrad may have allowed writers to move beyond the crushing search for that killer opening line. But its huge, rectangular, winking cursor could seem as reproving and guilt-inducing as any blank page of A4. “The cursor blinks its non-stop invitations,” wrote Michael O’Neill in a 1987 poem that is surely about the Amstrad, “green secrets plotted against a black ground.” In Kate Clanchy’s novel Meeting the English, set in 1989, the Amstrad is a “ponderous machine with its bright green script”, which reduces one character’s life to “an endless series of tiny adjustments … hundreds of intricate crossword puzzles with surreal, baffling, luminous green answers”. The word processor made the self-obliterating, circular process of writing – typing, cutting, retyping, moving text, moving it back – peculiarly conspicuous. After all, the biggest advantage it had over a typewriter was its delete key. Writing on a screen could feel like building a sandcastle and then kicking it over yourself.
The Amstrad went the way of all computers, junked and left to die in lofts and rubbish tips like the typewriters it once mocked. The last PCW model, launched in 1995, was a flop, unable to compete with the falling prices and greater sophistication of IBM-compatible PCs. But by the time the Amstrad stopped being produced in 1998, 8 million had been sold. Given the sheer numbers, this rudimentary computer must have spewed out a huge amount of writing – books, articles, family histories, parish newsletters, Sunday sermons – from the studies and spare bedrooms of Britain.
Much of this writing presumably never found a reader. And since the Amstrad had no easy way of connecting with another machine, these half-written memoirs and abandoned novels must now lie trapped in unreadable 3in floppy disks, binned or hidden at the backs of drawers. These losses are the price we pay for the elusiveness of a digital world that stores information not in material traces but in ethereal forms like binary ones and zeros. A book can now go from word file to email attachment to PDF proof to ebook, with no intervening encounter with paper and ink. The Amstrad did its bit to make this new world possible: it was the grisly beige gulag that gave birth to billions of words.
Typing vs. Computers
Today many people use a computer to do work for their business, home, and school. I am writing a report outlining the differences between using a typewriter and a computer to do work. I will also explain why one machine is better than the other. Hopefully this report will help you discover the advantages your employees will gain from the use of computers.
Computers are machines of the future. People use computers more than the typewriters in the office, at school and at home. One of the main reasons is a computer has more features than a typewriter. A typewriter is very limited in it s use, for example, you have to use correction fluid every time you make a mistake. There is the advantage of Manual typewriters being more mobile (since they don't depend on electricity), but are often bulkier and heavier than electric or electronic typewriters Computers process work faster than typewriters on mass of products. Software such as Microsoft Office 2000 can practically run the office for you. The most common word processing program is Microsoft Word 2000 s Word 2000 program. Word 2000 can bold, underline, copy, paste, and highlight the letters on computers. It can also change fonts and sizes for the letters. Word 2000 has all these special features for the computer, which typewriters don t have.
Computers can save the word processing on hard disk or floppy disk, which means it can be accessed and edited over, and over again, and printed out when needed. Typewriters can t save or change once typing done.
There are some special features of Word 2000 such as the ability of inserting clipart and WordArt. Clipart is a feature that provides arts, pictures, video, and sound. WordArt is also a feature provide styles and colours for words. Computers can make word processing outcome ten times better than typewriter. Typewriters only had spaces, capital letters and other simple features.
Computer Word Processors are very convenient for writing. You can correct mistakes, check your spelling, format your paper, and often do other fancy things quite easily. However, you are tied to a power supply, and you will usually need some unusual sort of adapter in another country. Ribbons for many word processor machines are unique to the company that makes them, and are often hard to find outside of large cities in post-industrial countries.
Laptop computers are the ultimate in convenience. You can do almost anything with a modern word-processing/design application that you could in the best of print shops. However, you are again tied to an electrical outlet (limiting your choice of location and project) and most portable computers do not have their own printer. It is not too difficult to put your material on a floppy disk and print it out at the Center with a computer printer compatible with your computer.
Be aware of typing and writing health. Use posture that won't break your back in ten years. Hold your wrists right so you don't get carpal tunnel syndrome (especially for electronic keyboards). Remember to rest your eyes regularly if your have to stare at a computer screen for long periods of time.
As technology continues to expand in offices across the Nation, the role of the secretary has greatly evolved. Office automation and organizational restructuring have led secretaries to assume a wide range of new responsibilities once reserved for managerial and professional staff. Many secretaries now provide training and orientation to new staff, conduct research on the Internet, and learn to operate new office technologies. In the midst of these changes, however, their core responsibilities have remained much the same performing and coordinating an office s administrative activities and ensuring that information is disseminated to staff and clients.
Secretaries are responsible for a variety of administrative and clerical duties necessary to run an organization efficiently. They serve as an information clearinghouse for an office, schedule appointments, provide information to callers, organize and maintain paper and electronic files, manage projects, and produce correspondence. They may also prepare correspondence, handle travel arrangements, and contact clients.
Secretaries are aided in these tasks by a variety of office equipment, such as filing systems, photocopiers, and telephone systems. In addition, secretaries increasingly use personal computers to run spreadsheet, word processing, database management, desktop publishing, and graphics programs tasks previously handled by managers and other professionals. At the same time, these other workers have assumed many tasks traditionally assigned to secretaries, such as word processing and answering the telephone. Because secretaries are often relieved from dictation and typing, they can support several members of the professional staff. In a number of organizations, secretaries work in teams in order to work flexibly and share their expertise.