back to article Game of Thrones written on brutal medieval word processor and OS

That Game of Thrones author George R R Martin writes his tomes and scripts using WordStar has been common knowledge for a while: he blogged about it back in 2011 . Yesterday the chronicler of the cruel pseudo-medieval Seven Kingdoms popped up on US chat show Conan and explained why. As you'll see in this excerpt from the …

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Boffin

Re: Not worried about viruses?

Oh god, not MSAV !!! That thing could only detect 200 viruses and would not detect a PC infected with Stoner if it booted from the infected drive. Do yourself a favour and try and find one of the later sharewares of Thunderbyte Antivirus... Before everyone moved of to Win95, I believe TBAV's database had between 30 000 and 60 000 signatures...

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Vic
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Re: Not worried about viruses?

If I remember correctly, you cannot boot DOS (or Windows) from a write-protected disk, as the OS needs to write to the boot medium as part of the boot process.

You can boot from a write--protected disk.

You couldn't *install* Windows unless disk 1 was write-enabled, as that's how it made sure you only installed each copy once. Unless you copied disk 1 first and used that one, of course...

Vic.

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Wrong Software?

The problem he seems to have had is that modern word processors are not built or at least not aimed at people who are trying to write a novel.

There are specialist authoring tools out there which are much more suited towards writing a 600+ page epic.

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Re: Wrong Software?

If he were working alone, then yeah, he might want some software to assist him in keeping track of the biographies of his characters etc, for the sake of continuity. But he isn't, he employs an assistant - a 'super fan' - to help with that sort of thing.

It is almost a cliché that fans of an imagined world are more likely to spot plot inconsistencies than its actual author, so it seems a sensible division of labour.

There is every chance that uses squid juice on dead tree to write notes, too.

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Happy

Re: Wrong Software? See any writer's site= they all feature Authoring tools...

Word Perfect and a Superfan Helper still need Authoring tools to timely finish anything...

IMHO= taking 5 years to complete the latest book in a series seems slow...

His Helper could have done the actual Authoring work with current hardware / software...RS.

Q= did WP have any add-on Authoring tools ?? I only saw it used once - for legal briefs...

Comment= Everyone except 1 legal secretary said they used WP and looking at their work showed it to be MS Word / or / did WP make seamless MS Word files ??

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Re: Wrong Software? See any writer's site= they all feature Authoring tools...

IMHO= taking 5 years to complete the latest book in a series seems slow...

You're welcome to fork the series and write your own sequel. It's open source.

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Anonymous Coward

Good for him

If his setup works for him and he's fully aware of newer alternatives (I'm sure he's no dunce), then good for him for not joining the upgrade rat race and making his creativity his first priority... though I've never seen Game of Thrones and have heard that it's just soft medieval porn... but as I said, I've not seen it so can't comment.

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Re: Good for him

>> though I've never seen Game of Thrones and have heard that it's just soft medieval porn.<<

Two things:

* you're saying it like it's a bad thing

* the books do not necessarily convey sex-position as a scene depicting tool

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Re: Good for him

"that it's just soft medieval porn"

'Soft' is one thing it ain't.

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Trollface

Re: Good for him

@stanimir

"you're saying it like it's a bad thing"

I'd also say 'like it's a bad thing' if it was like Changing Rooms or Gardener's Question Time since I'm not into those either. It's not like I was making an objective statement to cover the whole of humanity. If that's your bag for boat-floating fun, go for it.

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Word bad, raw text editor good

Apart from not really needing formatting when writing a novel (apart from chapter headings and occasional blank lines and, if you write like Jonathan Stroud or Susanna Clarke, footnotes), Word takes up a lot of screen estate for menus and similar stuff, so you see relatively less of your text when writing.

A raw text editor (VI, Emacs, gedit, ...) shows more text (and often more legibly) than Word, it loads faster, it scrolls faster and the text files are much smaller, so you can keep every previous version around even on a tiny machine. And raw text files can easily be imported into whatever software the publisher uses for the final typesetting.

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Re: Word bad, raw text editor good

Torben,

of course if you were to customise the menus, switch off unnecessary crud [status bars, horiz scroll bar etc] then there is more screen estate available, fyi I have two rows of icons in mswd/excel/ppt and that's it. Has served me fine for very long time.

Ah, anyone else remember windows 286?

J.

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Joke

Re: Word bad, raw text editor good

> A raw text editor (VI, Emacs, gedit, ...)...

vi, yes. Emacs is a bit shit though.

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Joke

Re: Word bad, raw text editor good

Emacs Makes A Computer Slow

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Coat

Re: Word bad, raw text editor good

Actually, VIM is shit (on windows) but acceptable on Linux (if only because I can turn off all of the useless crud: my .vimrc file is all comments.)

I thought I left my AT&T System V release 3 book in this pocket.

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Re: Word bad, raw text editor good

"Ah, anyone else remember windows 286?"

Yes. in my nightmares.

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Re: Word bad, raw text editor good

Have you ever used Wordstar? A full text interface and menus, the version I had has a single menu bar at the bottom and a line at the top, maybe 1 line more than vi, but the menu system was more user friendly as the menu bar poped up a few lines when needed, otherwise you had a beautifully uncluttered screen. the only advantage of using Works over Wordstar was that Works for DOS supported a mouse...

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Re: Word bad, raw text editor good

My set of System V manuals took up about 3 feet of shelf space, although that doesn't hold a candle to the pallet (literally) of documentation that came with VMS. My alma mater had a room that contained nothing but shelving for VMS manuals.

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Re: Word bad, raw text editor good @theodore

Ah, but if you are using a SVR3 system, you would be using vi, not vim. Vim is over complicated, and that is coming from an Emacs user! Vi IMproved! My ass.

I vote for a return to ed!

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Roo
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Gimp

Re: Word bad, raw text editor good

"Ah, anyone else remember windows 286?"

I don't really remember much about it aside from thinking "Thank goodness I will never use this again." ;)

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Re: Word bad, raw text editor good

Eight Megs And Constantly Swapping

(another vim fan :)

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He has something that works for him, so he keeps using it. Nothing wrong with that.

Given that GRRM's published writing career goes back to the early 1970s, he presumably did originally use typewriters. I'm curious about when exactly he switched to a word processor. Did he use Wordstar on CP/M before on DOS?

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Unhappy

It could have been me

If only Clippy had offered up the right help.

"It looks like you're writing a sprawling multi-volume medieval fantasy epic".

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Nya

He's right!

He makes an interesting point though. If you listen to all the crap about the whole "PC is dying" brigade no one uses them any more. The thing is, like with Martin everyone still uses them, they are just happy using the old one the know good and well and have no intention of spending money on something new if they don't have to. We have machines running all kinds of stuff from DOS, 2k, XP, Vista, 7, and various Linux flavours. But it's the job which they do which matters, not what they run.

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Not upgrading

In the DOS days I had a friend who produced and sold a very specific type of database. At his request I also added a copy of Wordstar (v3 if I remember correctly) to the single floppy disk that was the entire install to act as an editor. The customers loved his product, but eventually the world went Windows and he felt forced to produce a Windows DB.

Cue revolt from customers - none wanted to upgrade, both the DB and Wordstar did exactly what they wanted - tiny footprint, no extraneous garbage, etc. He kept updating the DOS version until really quite recently, but kept the old version of Wordstar, everybody was familiar with it and didn't see any reason to change.

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Meh

Borland Sprint

This might not have been the best suite available at the time but I found it affordable and easy to get on with and it did what I wanted it to do. Perhaps he would like copies of the dozen or so 5.25" disk set and manuals? I think I was won over by the colours, all sixteen of them!, having been brought up on either golf-ball printer terminals or those new-fangled monochrome 'green' screens.

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Happy

Re: Borland Sprint

Oh I had a more newfangled screen than you did. There was a little switch on the back in text mode where you could change the text colour from white, to green to orange - and you could then load up some DOS games like LHX and play in absolutely glorious MCGA at 320x200 pixels and 256 colors!

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Anonymous Coward

Respect to him for a simple approach. Being on an unconnected old machine I wonder what his backup procedures involve? Guessing he won't be able to just plug in a USB drive (or maybe he can and I'm wrong)

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CD-R is a viable approach and they cannot be meddled with as once written they are unmodifiable.

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backups

We did back stuff up in the old days.

We saved it again onto a second floppy disc.

With the occasional extra backup that was out somwhere very safe, offsite.

Getting that second floppy drive was a revolution though.

A disc in each drive and a sequence of backups ( three in rotation).

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Re: backups

Hardcopy?

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Re: backups

A hardcopy would be tricky to restore in the event of a loss of data. As for floppies, they're becoming a dying breed. One possible solution could be a Compact Flash interface, since the pinout of CF actually mimics IDE. Doesn't have to be too big, just large enough to allow a backup to the CF "hard drive", then it can be stashed and swapped for a second CF. Someone mentioned CD-R, and there is a suite of CD-Recording tools. Combined with a CD-RW drive, this is another possible backup avenue, though I think there can be longevity issues with both drive and media.

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Anonymous Coward

well if you're all naming your favourites.....

I used to love EDT on a MicroVAX running VMS (NOT OpenVMS, before those silly marketing days). Best simple text editor ever, and you could script it with macros too.

Go on, upvote, I dare you.....

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Re: well if you're all naming your favourites.....

AC,

i still remem some DCL commands, and how HEAVY the disc packs were for VAXen.

Feel even older now....

J

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Anonymous Coward

Re: well if you're all naming your favourites.....

EDT on a PDP-11....aargh....on a VT-100....fortunately, I had access to a VT-220.

Nostalgia hursts sometimes.

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Re: well if you're all naming your favourites..... @AC

EDT was excellent for sitting a complete computer novice down in front of a DEC compatible terminal with the numeric keypad labelled up with the individual functions (either with one of the latex overlays, or with sticky labels), and get them to enter some text into the computer. I've not come across anything that was picked up quicker.

The only thing that the students with whom I worked had problems with was the fact that you could not move into the 'blank' parts of the screen without adding some spaces at the end of a line. The concept of the 'end of the line' was difficult for them to comprehend. But everything else, including cut and paste, was picked up very quickly.

If you think using a VT100 was difficult, it was luxury compared to using a VT52! Remember the Gold (and Blue - although not used in EDT IIRC) key.

This was when people used to come to higher education having never seen a computer before.

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Re: well if you're all naming your favourites.....

xedit running on an IBM s/370 with VM/CMS..

Tried the PC version recently and it made me realise how limited it was.

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Re: well if you're all naming your favourites.....

For my VAX-based courses (assembly language and Fortran, if memory serves) at university I used EDT/TPU over a 1200bps dialup connection. I was very glad to have its replay feature at hand more than once when my call was dropped in the middle of an editing session. Not my favorite editor, but not bad at all.

(Does TPU count when we're reminiscing about EDT? If not, please ignore this post.)

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Re: well if you're all naming your favourites.....

xedit running on an IBM s/370 with VM/CMS..

XEDIT's OK, but it's no ISPF.

Tried the PC version recently and it made me realise how limited it was.

Yeah, but not as limited as the original AS/400 PDM's Source Entry Utility. Of the IBM big-iron editor family, that has to be the feeblest, I think. At least among the ones I've used.

The IBM big-iron editors do have some handy features, like "folding" (hiding sections of the source). Useful when you're working on terminals with drastically-limited screen real estate.

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after reading this

I dug my old P5 out of the storeroom. I had installed DOS6.2, WP5.1 and SPF-PC ( to give the "mainframe experience") & I have a few old DCF documents, and PL1 code saved to show my year 11's how we wrote code and documentation in the "good old days" (and to demo cli vs gui) - I kept a M series keyboard & an old CRT monitor as well . No mouse :-)

I must have great muscle memory because I knocked up a formatted document in WP pretty quickly and never reached for the (non existant) mouse once. To be honest after playing with WP for 10 minutes I was seriously tempted to keep the old box out for creating the "guts" of my my classroom materials, using the W7 and mac mini for browsing , finishing & printing only.

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well...

I agree with him on every point.

At least with magic you cannot be blamed for holding the wand wrong when it don't work.

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Wordstar and New Word

I liked it. But it didn't run well in NTVDM on NT4.0

So I updated a clone in Modula-2 (on DOS, written maybe 1991) to run native in Win32 in a console in 1996. I added ability to use a mouse and double click on a word, and have split screen or single screen and list of open files. If a file of same name existed it opened it, or if not offered to create it. Each file normally a chapter.

I used 3rd party spelling checker on Files.

But by 2002 was using Windows Word for all editing with all the stupid options turned off. I guess no-one showed him the Preferences / Options / Tools menus. I'd wonder what options his Web Browser on separate PC uses. To day I might use Libre Office to write a book.

Perhaps Word Processors should have "Profiles". (Novel, Text to upload to Blog, Flier etc).

I think it shows a great lack of curiosity as he can achieve exactly what he wants on Linux, OS X or any Windows version.

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Re: Wordstar and New Word

An upvote for Modula-2 on DOS. For sheer productivity and code quality, nothing could beat TopSpeed Modula-2 back then (IMHO, YMMV).

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Specialist tools

Every now and then I read about specialist programs for writers (novelists) which have no WYSIWYG whatsoever but provide other tools for writers than include minimising distractions. If Wordstar works for George then good luck to him.

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Who remembers GML?

:h1. Best ever word processing software.

:p.Generalised Markup Language, from IBM.

:ol.

:li.Simple.

:li.Fast.

:li.Even ran nicely on an IBM XT.

:eol.

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Re: Who remembers GML?

And at that time in the land of CTSS did Saltzer create RUNOFF,

And RUNOFF came also to the land of Multics, and the people there saw it was good;

And RUNOFF begat ROFF and GML,

And GML begat SGML,

And SGML begat HTML and XML,

And the descendants of XML were a multitude upon the land,

So that from every corner of the earth arose the cries and lamentations of the people,

And those cries were "Is this really necessary?" and "What's the advantage of a baroque, barely-readable structured language over, say, a nice normalized rational database schema, for this application?",

And so there arose diverse challengers who contested with XML,

And their names were YAML and MARKDOWN and sundry others,

But their victories were limited and their followers were few.

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Ahhh

MS DOS 1.17 and Wordstar 2 was what I started on. those were the days. Everything run and stored on a single sided 180k 5.25 diskette (no folders, not supported under that version of DOS), There was a spellcheck for Wordstar, but you had to run it from it's second diskette...

Ah the days when your operating system came with a 400 page manual (including the BASIC reference) and your word processor had 2x 400 page binders with all the options documented. Those where the days!

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Coffee/keyboard

illustrations for the latest (3rd) edition of Introduction to Algorithms have still been produced using MacDraw Pro, so what?

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Childcatcher

Oi GRRM get on with it..

Great to hear that GRRM is writing - don't care what technology is being used.. FFS stop giving interviews and get on with it !!

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Pfft kindwords II and an extra floppy drive for the Amiga ought to be enough for anyone!

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