Writing on the Apple II

Jeff Pack, Brown University '99 (English 112, 1996)

I've only used a typewriter twice in my life: when visiting my father's office (I played with everything electronic there that anyone would let me get my hands on), and when filling out college applications (as a compromise between the ugliness of handwriting and the tedium of figuring out how many inches down the page a given box was). Almost all of my writing, for all my life, has been done on a computer. (I carry notebooks around on occasion, but only to jot down ideas so that I can type them up at a later date. I wouldn't even do that if I had a laptop computer...)

Most of my early essays were written Apple II with a program called Magic Slate. This was just your basic, no-frills word processing program: I think it had cut and paste capabilities, and several "fonts" (boldface, italics, and fancier styles like outline and shadow). On the attached dot-matrix printer, the text didn't look like much (it wouldn't be "near-letter quality" until I switched to an MS-DOS word processor), and the paper had the annoying tendency to jam (though the printer wouldn't detect this, and would still try to print, leaving interesting text-based Rorshach blots on the crushed pages), but the ease of composing on the computer more than made up for these headaches.

Despite urging from my teachers, I rarely write multiple drafts of any papers. Actually, this statement is somewhat misleading; I'll write multiple drafts, but on a word-by-word or sentence-by-sentence basis, going back and modifying a bit if I think of a better word or a point I forgot to make. (In-class essays, where I was forced to handwrite, clearly show this writing habit; there's usually as much crossed-out material as essay, since they haven't invented a delete key for the ballpoint pen.)

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