The first text editors were invented only from the second half of the 20th century, IBM used the term itself only in the late 1960s. From the 1980s onwards we are actually witnessing an explosion in the use of word processing software. During this period, WordPerfect, which was based on DOS, dominated the market and moved far from Microsoft Word for DOS.
The situation began to change abruptly with the introduction of Microsoft Word for Windows in 1989. In a few years, the latter has crushed the competition by taking 90% of the market share of word processing software.
This phenomenal success of Word for Windows can be explained by various reasons of different orders. Undoubtedly, the genius of the marketing of Microsoft contributed significantly, but we must not neglect the technical innovation that the firm has brought. Indeed, Word for Windows was able to run on conventional machines, popularizing to the general public the graphic interfaces of word processing.
It should be remembered that during this time, a computer had an 8 MHz processor, a megabyte of RAM, 20 megabytes of storage and a floppy drive. With this minimal configuration, it is hard to understand Word prowess during its debut without throwing a glance at the source code.
Arrival of Microsoft Word
The first word processing programs were entirely different from those that exist today. For simplicity, what the user typed and could see on screen was composed of formatting commands included with the text.
After the compilation and printing of this text, the user could see the result which was almost always not in conformity with the expectations, and it was necessary to return to change the controls.
The emergence of WYSIWYG has radically revolutionized text processing. The user was finally able to view the final result directly on the screen. The keyboard commands became the preferred way to change the text formatting, and it was no longer necessary to use a cumbersome script to complete this task.
One of the first programs (called BRAVO) to date highlight these advances processing was created in 1974 by Butler Lampson, Charles Simonyi and many others in the XEROX PARC, the Palo Alto Research Center. It was clear that an attractive editor could be designed for Alto. Remember that Alto had a black and white bitmap screen. They had a mouse and an undecoded keyboard. They had all the ingredients that are needed for the WYSIWYG. And of course, the network was there, the arrival of the laser printer was close. So, all these components were there, but without the software.
Like other software and hardware innovations, BRAVO was never marketed. After nine years, Simonyi was frustrated by Xerox’s inability to turn its innovations into real products. In 1981, he left the firm to join Microsoft and lead a team responsible for the development of application programs. The first application on which he worked was the Multiplan spreadsheet, a direct competitor of VisiCalc at the time.
Simonyi, on the strength of his experience at Xerox, did not find it tough to carry out his mission within Microsoft. In order to reverse the dominance of WordStart, he recruited Richard Brodie, a brilliant programmer whom he had already hired in 1979 at PARC. Brodie had not received a university education and therefore did not have a degree, but that did not stop Simonyi from trusting him. Brodie later informed that he had just answered a few questions about the programming and that Simonyi liked his way of answering.
During the summer of 1982, Brodie began working with Microsoft on a mouse-controlled word processing software. It was finalized a year later in October 1983. He had his hands free, it was a small program, and he was familiar with word processing after working at Xerox PARC with Charles.
It was certainly a small program, but it was with sophisticated features, including support for style sheets, multiple windows, notes, merging with email, cancel the function and the arrival of fonts that new laser printers market could use. The founder and CEO of Microsoft at the time Bill Gates was dazzled by the new program.
One thing that impressed Bill is an optimization related to the speed of on-screen display. The formatting was in real-time, each time you insert a character, the content of the screen updates to show exactly what will be printed.
In 1983, free copies of Microsoft Word had been delivered with PC World magazine, and the public responses were mixed. This was due in large part to the radical evolution of the software that was different from all other programs used by people at the time.
After testing the software in 1984, BYTE magazine concluded that it was “smart, achieving extraordinary feats,” but it was “extremely difficult to master and use efficiently. It appears that Word developers want to reinvent the word processor.
And that’s exactly what they wanted; Microsoft Word has popularized the concept of WYSIWYG to the masses. Over the next few years, Word has been steadily improved. The first version was launched in 1989 and cost $495 for a single user. This price did not prevent the software from beginning its ascent and crush the competition during the following years and control 90% of the market share today.