How I invented Desktop Publishing



It was 1972.

I had just leased a machine from HP, the 9830A. You can see the specs on the web site.

I was studying law at the time and knew I would need to have it do word processing. Perhaps not DTP as it became known but rather an automatic typewriter.

It came with the BASIC programming language and nothing more. Oh, and I got the extra string ROM. Not knowing any better I wrote my own word processing application that had global search and replace, spell checking and an unlimited document size. HP also sold a Facit typewriter with a whole bunch of solenoids for LQP (letter quality print).

It took a well to develop the application but by the time I started to practice law in 1974 it was fully developed. And HP at the time fully supported their system with office calls and the whole bit. At the time IBM only had their MTST machine. It could only print duplicates of what you had typed earlier. And Xerox was just coming out with their machine.

One day my legal secretary went to a product demo for Xerox. After that demo she asked the Xerox guy how to do spell checking and global search and replace. The Xerox salesman told her that no machine did that. So she went back to work in my law office that afternoon totally unimpressed.

When did the Apple I come out? And the IBM PC? Even Wordstar?

If you check the HPMuseum website you will see that the HP 9839A also offered a hard disc (sharable between 4 systems). That was not a toy. It was not until years later that it hooked up to the early spinwriters as they were called. I even remember seeing a Diablo spinwriter prototype. It was twice as fast as the Facit. It was only about 15 cps.

Just shows what a lawyer can do when you do not know any better.

I also wrote a very complete Tax Analysis application. It would spit out some 90 tax return abstracts in order to analysis real estate investments. Oh, and I wrote the accounting applications for my law office as well. Again, I never knew that shrink wrapped software may someday be available for office applications. Of course, they never were for that early machine anyway.

That HP machine also was available with a 250 LPM thermal printer. It only printed in upper case. But, it was very fast and quiet. It was not bested for rough drafts until the laser printers came out. First from HP of course. 250 LPM is almost instant.

But then that was 1972 hardware.


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