Electric Pencil

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Electric Pencil
Developer(s) Michael Shrayer
Initial release 1976
Operating system originally MITS Altair,
later also Sol-20, TRS-80, and IBM PC
Type Word processor

Electric Pencil, released in December 1976 by Michael Shrayer, was the first word processor for home computers.

History[edit]

In 1975, Michael Shrayer had moved to California after 20 years as a New York filmmaker. Enjoying assembling electronic kits, he purchased and assembled a MITS Altair 8800 computer, then modified a public-domain assembler program for the Processor Technology Sol-20. Fellow computer hobbyists wanted to buy the improved program, giving Shrayer an unexpected and lucrative new business.[1][2][3]

Having never heard of a "word processor", Shrayer nonetheless believed that he should be able to use his computer, instead of a typewriter, to write documentation for his program, and thus wrote another program—the first word processor for a microcomputer—to do so with. Electric Pencil for the Altair appeared in December 1976, and the version for the Sol-20 became especially popular. As no large network of computer stores existed, Shrayer formed Michael Shrayer Software Inc.—a decision he regretted, as naming the company after himself cost him his privacy—advertised in computer magazines such as BYTE, and sold the program via mail order. Electric Pencil required 8K of memory and an Intel 8080 or Zilog Z-80 processor. As customers requested the program for their specific computers and operating systems he ported the word processor to each, resulting in 78 versions including the NorthStar Horizon and TRS-80.[1][2][3][4]

Electric Pencil might have continued to dominate the market had Shrayer continued to update it. Many imitators appeared, however, including WordStar and Magic Wand, both of which surpassed the original's popularity as Shrayer became bored with programming and sold its rights to others. Electric Pencil remained on the market into the 1980s, including a version for the IBM PC in 1983.[1][4][5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Freiberger, Paul (1982-05-10). "Electric Pencil, first micro word processor". InfoWorld. p. 12. Retrieved March 5, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Freiberger, Paul; Swaine, Michael (2000). Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill. pp. 186–187. ISBN 0-07-135892-7. 
  3. ^ a b Bergin, Thomas J. (Oct–Dec 2006). "The Origins of Word Processing Software for Personal Computers: 1976-1985". IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 28 (4): 32–47. doi:10.1109/MAHC.2006.76. 
  4. ^ a b Reed, Matthew. "Electric Pencil". trs-80.org. Retrieved March 5, 2011. 
  5. ^ Freiberger, Paul (1983-10-03). "A new release of Electric Pencil uses all IBM PC's function keys". InfoWorld. p. 7. Retrieved March 5, 2011.