I clapped my tiny, overworked copywriter hands together in delight after reading that uber fantasy writer George RR Martin writes on a DOS-only computer that’s not connected to the Internet — using 1980s-vintage Wordstar 4.0 software (yes, it’s a slow day).
“I actually have two computers: I have the computer that I browse the Internet with that I get my email on, that I do my taxes on,” he said, trailing off. “And then I have my writing computer, which is a DOS machine not connected to the Internet.”
The program he uses to churn out thousands of pages of prose is WordStar 4.0, an ultra-minimal word processing application from the ’80s. Unlike some of today’s intentionally bare-bones writing applications, it is minimal due to technological constraints, not by design.
I’m willing to admit (to all three readers) I have devoted precious brainpower to the idea of building a basic writing computer — one equipped with only a command line interface and a disco-era text editor like Emacs.
It would lack the ability access the bright, shiny cat toy that is the Internet. Connectivity would be provided courtesy a basic, human-transported flash drive.
Simple. Clean. No distractions.
In fact, with a longer writing project on the horizon, last week found me almost starting work converting an older desktop PC.
In the end — like the Washington press corps — I enjoy distraction. And because I’m writing copy instead of novels or screenplays, I’m often online while writing. I tell myself it’s research.
Still, instead of searching for the Ultimate Word Processor, maybe writers should focus on creating viable time travel.
Keep writing, Tom Chandler.