Codes revealed

I’ve never been a playwright, and probably never should aspire to be one, but I definitely relate to this:

I started using computers in 1984 at the computer lab at my college when I realized that I could actually use them as a way to write, save and edit the plays I was writing without having to actually re-type all 120 pages every time I made a change to bit of dialogue. For me this was nirvana. What you should know, though, is that I never took a course or had anyone actually teach me how to use those computers. I just walked in to the lab, asked for an account, sat down at one of the terminals, and sorted out that if I used a few commands like Center and Bold and JustifyLEFT I could format the entire document to print on the dot-matrix printer to look exactly the way I wanted it to look and if I remembered to actually SAVE everything, I could then go back and just edit the small bits that needed to be changed. For a playwright in 1984 who was writing lots of plays this was, well, revolutionary.

Of course, once you get in the habit of taking care of business at this level, something like this happens thirty years later:

I had no idea, none at all, that text actually wraps and formats for you. No clue. In my world, it has always been my responsibility to create a line break, a paragraph break, a page break, to justify things, to format the entire page of text on every single page of the Internet (no matter where I am, mind you) to look exactly the way I want it to appear before I hit publish. Do you know, really know, how freeing it is to just let the words flow and not to have to think at all about format?

I shook up a WordPress guru rather badly the other day when I said that no, I’d never used the WP Media Library for any of the three-thousand-odd graphics on this site: I size and resize manually, upload via SFTP, and code it in the HTML — not the visual — editor. The nature of Twitter is such that I couldn’t see her facial expression, but I imagine that it would have been the same one she would have given me had I told her that my lawn maintenance is performed by goats.

Note: It occurs to me, now that I think about it, that my lawn maintenance might be better if it were performed by goats.



  1. Roger Green »

    7 May 2014 · 10:06 am

    I would have never graduated from library school without word processing. I had a 50 page final paper. When I first wrote it, it was 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, 2a, 2b, et al. But once I looked at it all, I realized it needed to be 1a, 2a, 3a, 4a, 1b, 2b, and so on..

  2. fillyjonk »

    7 May 2014 · 10:25 am

    I do a hybrid form of editing. I write longhand, do some of the editing on my handwritten ms., and then enter it to the wordprocessor.

    Some of the editing I do on-screen but I admit for papers that turn out to just be a big mess, sometimes it’s easier to print them out and cut and paste them manually (scissors and tape) like I used to back in my undergrad days when all I had was a typewriter.

    A lot of my students seem not to edit their writing, which makes me crazy. Because now it’s so much easier for them than it was for me.

  3. jsallison »

    9 May 2014 · 6:01 pm

    I blame learning to type on Underwood 5’s in high school for being utterly unable to get past a misspelled word until I’ve corrected it. And a typing cadence that allows time for the striker in use to get out of the way of the next letter.

    I’ve found a combination of guinea fowl, ducks, geese and chickens do a fine job of keeping grass (bugs too, for that matter) in check.

  4. May Rambling #2: New Zealand music | Ramblin' with Roger »

    31 May 2014 · 1:16 pm

    […] Dustbury reminds me why I love word processing, and wish I had a goat. […]

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