IBM Displaywriter System

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IBM Displaywriter System
IBM Displaywriter.jpg
IBM Displaywriter with keyboard, monitor and dual 8-inch floppy disk drive
Release dateJune 1980 (1980-06)[1]
Introductory priceUS$7,895 (equivalent to $24,800 in 2020) / leased for US$275 (equivalent to $860 in 2020) a month.
Related articlesIBM System/23 Datamaster

The IBM Displaywriter System 6580 was a microcomputer-based dedicated word processor that IBM's Office Products Division introduced in June 1980.[1][2] The system consisted of a central processing unit, based on the Intel 8086, in a desktop case, a monochrome CRT monitor atop the CPU, a detached keyboard, a detached dual disk drive that used 8-inch floppy disks, and a detached daisy wheel printer. The system typically booted using IBM's internally developed word processing software called "Textpack", but UCSD p-System[3][4] operating system, CP/M-86[5] and MS-DOS were also available.

The Textpack operating system came in 6 variants (E, 1, 2, 3, 4, & 6) which sported progressively more features, with E having the fewest and 6 having the most. The features varied all the way from basic text editing with the lowest textpacks (E, 1), to being able to view graphical charts, generate reports, save and recall macros, and emulate a 3270 terminal while editing a document with Textpack six. This tiered approach was an attempt to make the Displaywriter more economical for smaller businesses, who could choose a cheaper software package and then upgrade as their needs required. The operator stored the data files on additional diskettes.

"A basic system — consisting of a display with a typewriter-like keyboard and a logic unit, a printer and a device to record and read diskettes capable of storing more than 100 pages of average text — cost $7,895 and leased for $275 a month."[1] The basic word-processing software was Textpack E, with simple mail merge; Textpack 2 added support for double-sided disks, networking, spellchecking, and print spooling; Textpack 4 added automatic hyphenation, columns, and more sophisticated merging; and Textpack 6 added automatic footnoting and outlining. Other options included multilingual dictionaries, graphics, and reports.[4]

The Displaywriter's features were comparable to other word processors of its era. The features included mail-merge, with fields designated as a01, a02, a03, etc. Elementary arithmetic could be applied to the fields.

The basic Displaywriter was a standalone system. An optional central storage and management unit was available, which permitted multiple Displaywriters to share storage and a printer. Connections to other IBM systems included:

  • IBM 3278 emulation program[4] to attach to IBM 3274/3276 controllers, IBM 4321/4331, or IBM 4701.
  • IBM 3277 emulation program to attach to IBM 3271, 3272 or 3274 controllers.
  • Connection to IBM 8100 systems which use DPCX/DOSF.
  • IBM Displaywriter/PC Attachment program on 8 inch floppies and cable connecting the Magnetic card port of the Displaywriter to the asynchronous communications port of an IBM PC XT allowing the user to transfer data.

Because of Displaywriter's popularity, IBM later produced DisplayWrite software for the IBM Personal Computer, with a similar user interface and equivalent to Textpack 4.[2]


  1. ^ a b c "IBM Displaywriter". IBM Archive. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
  2. ^ a b Dickinson, John (1984-09-18). "IBM's Displaywriter Begets a Family of PC Software". PC. p. 238. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  3. ^ SofTech's new products extend p-System's versatility. Info World. 1982-09-20. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
  4. ^ a b c Dickinson, John (1984-09-18). "The Prototype: Displaywriter". PC Magazine. pp. 242–243. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  5. ^ Libes, Sol (December 1981). "Bytelines". BYTE. pp. 314–318. Retrieved 29 January 2015.

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