PC-WRITE: Quality Word Processing at a Price That's Hard to Beat
If you are planning to incorporate word processing into your writing courses, and if your school already has or is planning to get IBM PC's or PC-compatibles, you should definitely consider PC-WRITE when you choose your software.
In October of 1984, I attended the Microcomputers and the Learning Process Conference at Clarkson University. Since I was searching for a word-processing program to use in my Rhetoric and Writing class, I was particularly interested in Stewart Brand's keynote address, "Software: Access to the New Tools." Brand, who gained fame during the 1970's as the editor of the Whole Earth Catalog(s), had just finished work on his new Whole Earth Software Catalog. This catalog, which reviews 362 programs, includes a substantial section on software for writing (word processors, spelling and style checkers, and
typing tutors). During the reception following his address, I asked Brand what word processing software he recommended. Without hesitation or qualification, he responded, "PC-WRITE."
Given the conviction and authority of Brand's recommendation, I added PC-WRITE to my list of programs to investigate. Fortunately, another attendant at the conference had a copy of PC-WRITE with her, so I was able to make a free and, more importantly, legal diskcopy of the program. That's right, free and legal: for one of the unique advantages of PC-WRITE is that, although it is copyrighted and, hence, not public-domain software, the author has permitted users to freely copy the program.
Bob Wallace, the author of PC-WRITE, has been designing text-processors since 1969. In 1978, he joined Microsoft (the company that wrote MS DOS for IBM) when the company had only ten employees. Five years later, Bob decided to break with Microsoft (which by then had grown to company of over 300 employees) and establish his own company: Quicksoft.
Among Quicksoft's innovative approaches to software design and marketing is the "shareware" concept. In accordance with this concept, Quicksoft allows users to freely copy the PC-WRITE diskette (which includes both the programs and the manual), but provides incentives to encourage them to register their copies for $75. Users who pay this $75 fee receive a registered copy of PC-WRITE, a bound copy of the manual, telephone and mail support for questions, Pascal and assembly source files, a copy of the next
updated version of PC-WRITE, and a $25 commission every time someone else registers a copy of their diskette.
There are many advantages to Quicksoft's innovative approach to software design and marketing. First, since the PC-WRITE manual is included on the program disk, any user can print out his or her own copy of the 120-page document. If you prefer bound copies of the manual, they are available from Quicksoft at $20 apiece in quantities of one to four, $15 apiece in quantities of five to ninety-nine, and $10 apiece in quantities of one hundred or more.
Second, given the $25 commission registered users receive when new users register a copy of their diskette, PC-WRITE could potentially provide a modest source of income for a department or university (at least, I would think, enough to pay for the initial registration).
Third, since PC-WRITE can be copied freely, there is no need to worry about licensing multiple copies or policing your microlab to prevent pirating.
A fourth advantage of Ouicksoft's marketing approach is that if you are unable to find a friendly user from whom you can get a copy of PC-WRITE and you don't want to pay $75 for a registered copy, Quicksoft will sell you an unregistered copy for only $10.
Finally, unlike many word-processing programs, which have tended to rest on their laurels, PC-WRITE is continually undergoing significant improvement. Quicksoft now plans to
release two new versions of PC-WRITE per year. In addition to such standard word-processing features as wordwrap, find and replace, block movements, boldface, paragraph reform, and right justification, recent versions of PC-WRITE have added more sophisticated features such as footnotes, endnotes, and split-screen editing.
The students in my class were impressed with these features, but as I suspect would be the case with any word processor, they were a bit intimidated at first by the documentation. In addition to the PC-WRITE manual, computer novices had also to concern themselves with documentation for the IBM PC, MS DOS, the printer, and (if they wanted to interface with it) the school's mainframe. I tried, I believe successfully, to alleviate these anxieties by producing a fourteen-page tutorial, which provided my students with the essential information they needed to get started. I think such a tutorial is crucial to the successful integration of word processing into any one-semester writing course that includes computer or word-processing novices. Otherwise, the course is in danger of becoming a course in word processing rather than one in writing.
Toward the end of the semester, I asked my students to write about their experience in using PC-WRITE, so I'd like to close by letting a few of these students speak for themselves:
Since PC-WRITE's revision features enabled me to rewrite and reprint my papers in such an incredibly short time, I revised more often to strive for that A-paper.
PC-WRITE is both convenient and helpful; most significantly, it has helped me improve my writing. I think a writing course that includes word processing could be the single most important step in a student's writing career.
PC-WRITE runs on the IBM PC, XT, AT portable, and PCJr and the following compatible computers: AT&T 6300, Attaché 8/16, Canon Athena, Chameleon, Columbia, Compaq/Deskpro, Corona, Data
General One, Eagles (some), Epson QX-10 PLUS, Ottrona, Panasonic SR Partner, PC Apricot, Pivot/Osborne, Rana Systems, Sperry/Leading Edge, Tandy 1000/1200, Televedo, Visual Commuter and Zenith/Heath 150.
PC-WRITE does not run on the following computers. If someone out there modifies PC-WRITE for one of these computers and sends it to us, we'll pass it along: DEC Rainbow, 100 Tandy 2000, TI Professional and Zenith/Heath 100.
PC-WRITE 2.4 currently supports the following printers: Anderson Jacobson 830, 832, Brother HR-l, Centronics 351, 739, C. Ito Prowriterr 8510, Starwriter F10-40/50, Comrex CRl/CR2, Daisywriter 2000, Datasouth 180, 220, Diablo1610/620, Diablo 630; Diablo Compatibles list: Brother/Dynax DX-15, HR-35, Morrow MP100/200, NEC Spinwriters 3515-25 and 7715-25, Juki 6100; also likely Data Products DP-35, DP-55, HP 2600-01, Xerox 1650, Siemons Blue Chip, Epson MX, FX, RX series, LQ-1500; also foreign characters for RX series. HP LaserJet, ThinkJet, IBM 5216, 5218, IBM Color Printer, with six special color fonts, IBM Matrix Printer, Old and New IDS Prism P132, 460, NECS 8023; Pinwriter; Spinwriter list: 2050, 3510/20/30/, 3550, 5530, 3515/25, 7710/20/30, 7715/25, Okidata 82A, 83A, 84, 92, 93; Pacemark 2350, 2410; IBM Plug-n-Play ROM upgrade, Olympia Comp2, Panasonic KX P1091, Printek 910-20, Qume Sprint, Letterpro 20, SilverReed EXP 550, Smith Corona D-100, StarMicronics Gemini-10/15X, Radix-10/15, Delta 10/15, Tally 160/180, Tally Spirit, Tandy Daisy Printer II, Teletex TTX-1014, Texas Instruments
855, Toshiba 1340, 1350/51, Transtar 120/130, Transtar 315 with color fonts.
We will be adding more with version 2.5.
CRAIG WADDELL teaches at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York in the Department of Language, Literature, and Communication.