Electronic writing tools – a memoir

When I moved from more than a decade as a journalist and public affairs guy for a governor to freelance writing in 1980, I needed an automated writing tool for my work. The typewriter was no longer cutting it. Even the famed IBM Selectric would not meet my requirements.

I bussed it to the downtown Denver Xerox Store and bought a massive mag-card machine for $3,000 – a lot of dough for a start-up freelancer with four kids. It consisted of an electric daisywheel typewriter/printer on steroids connected via an inch-thick cable to a 140-pound console that sat on the floor. Two magnetic  tape cartridge drives recorded every keystroke, correction, and changes I made on used fan-fold computer paper that I fed through the typewriter; copy was hand edited on successive printouts; when the piece was done the machine printed out a final copy.

I have since owned and used many electronic writing tools, including a Kaypro II “portable” (like lugging around a sewing machine), many IBM PCs, a number of laptops, mostly PCs but one Mac, the wonder of the ages-Tandy/Radio Shack’s innovative TRS-80 Model 100 portable computer, a tiny HP Palmtop, a few netbooks (which I liked because of their small size), and, now, a $200 Winbook tablet computer with a wireless mouse and a case with a built in keyboard. I send articles, book drafts, news releases, short stories, scripts, and other stuff to my printer wirelessly or directly to clients or publishers via the internet – about two pounds of gear now in my writer’s toolbag – roughly one per cent the weight of my first electronic writing tool.