Early Word Processing: IBM Mag Card II and Displaywriter 6

LoriAnne HancockStarred Page By LoriAnne Hancock, 13th Aug 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1of-lvg6/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Technology>Computer Hardware

International Business Machines (IBM), didn't see the potential of the personal computer and lost out BIG TIME. But they DID see the vision of word processing in the business world and made bank. Here's the point of view from an 'operator'.

Typewriter to Word Processor

Jettison back to 1975 - or if you weren't born yet, imagine phones hooked to the wall, cars that looked and drove like boats, dewey decimal systems, rotary dials, and snail mail. The information highway was a dirt country backroad. But in the business world, a new and reliable method of shooting words out through a metal ball that had every letter of the alphabet onto paper was burgeoning. All you had to do to change the font was switch out the ball. Any business that had forms which needed to be filled out, used the same language with fill-in-the blank potential, and legal offices in particular swarmed for the IBM Mag Card II which was introduced in April of 1973.

IBM Mag Card II

They still called the IBM Mag Card II a 'typewriter' and that ball flew across the page. Here is how a form letter might be constructed and then produced and reproduced. Since the internal memory held up to 8,000 typewritten characters, you could put a piece of paper into the typewriter and type in the body of the letter. In every place that an alternative piece of information is needed, a 'stop code' would be programmed in. That document was recorded on a magnetic card the size of a medium envelope. Basically, the thing sounded like R2D2 on speed when it recorded or read a card. There was no screen, the screen was your paper - but there were buttons to help you get around faster during an edit: paragraph: line: word....to help get to the correction spot.

Everyone into the Game

It wasn't long before about six different companies, including IBM came out with the modern word processors which were mostly green lettering on a black background using 8", (yes, eight inch) floppy disks into a processor/reader that looked like a sideways toaster, in fact, the IBM Displaywriter's was affectionately called a 'toaster'. IBM was a business machine leader and their version of word processing with a screen, the IBM Displaywriter 6 introduced in 1980, won out over WANG, Lexitron and eventually all of the others.

Being a Displaywriter Operator

Learning this skill launched me into the world of Temp Agencies, where adventure awaited behind every six a.m. phone call. I was dispatched to law offices, banks, penthouse suites, county offices, city offices, the underground bellies of word processing rooms, assigned personal secretary temporary, legislative gigs, ad agencies. The lease price on a machine was $275/mo, and could be purchased for around $8,000.

In 1990, a friend had a 'dusty' IBM Displaywriter 6, including a PRINTER in her garage. I was in heaven! Set the whole nine yards up in my home office and wrote on it for years - started a business and used it daily for more years. Then, I got a laptop.


Displaywriter 6, History Of Technology, History Of Word Processing, Ibm, Mag Card Ii, Word Processing

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author avatar LoriAnne Hancock
Avid student of the human condition who believes we will triumph in the end by caring for ourselves, all life and our planet as if all were precious.

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author avatar LoriAnne Hancock
13th Aug 2013 (#)

Steve, thank you for your encouragement by awarding my page a star!

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
14th Aug 2013 (#)

Technology is growing by leaps and bounds and is bound to increase its pace - look at cell phones what a marvel nowadays! I remember simple calculators costing $200! siva

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author avatar LoriAnne Hancock
14th Aug 2013 (#)

Siva, you would have found the HUGE technology interesting. The printer alone on the Displaywriter took up a half a desk 8 feet long!

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author avatar Tranquilpen
15th Aug 2013 (#)

Hi LoriAnne, your article sure brings back memories. Thank for sharing.

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author avatar LoriAnne Hancock
15th Aug 2013 (#)

Thank you Tranquilpen; Yes, the days gone by of electronics. Wonder what the next 30 years will bring. :) Thanks for your read and comment.

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