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Wandering around old word processors produces a beast

Wandering around old word processors produces a beast

The world once relied on paper copies, and when the digital age began to bring new tools and ways of doing things, documents were ripe for change. Today, word processors and digital documents are so ubiquitous that they’re barely worth thinking about, but that didn’t happen all of a sudden. [Cathode Ray Dude] has a soft spot for old word processors and the journey they took over the decades, and tours the Olivetti ETV 2700.

In the era of character displays and multitasking, the WYSIWYG concept was still a long way off.

The ETV 2700 is a monstrous machine; a fusion of old-school word processor, x86-based hardware, and 17-inch-wide electric typewriter.

With it, one could start a word processor that is nothing like today’s WYSIWYG, write and edit a document, and upon receiving a command, the typewriter part could write a page electronically. A bit like a printer, but it’s actually an electric typewriter with a computer interface. The characters were created one at a time with a daisy and an inked ribbon on a manually loaded page using all the usual controls on a typewriter.

While internally the machine has an x86 processor, expects a monitor, and even boots MS-DOS, the keyboard had its own layout (and even proprietary keys and functions), did not support graphical output, and was otherwise unusual even for the standards. of the strange decades during which designers and products experimented to discover what worked best in terms of functionality and usability.

Today, we see projects for AI-enabled typewriters and porting old operating systems to old word processing hardware, but these projects are possible in part because of the durability of these devices. The full video is included below, but you can skip straight to what the inside of the Olivetti ETV 2700 looked like if that’s what interests you most.

Thanks to [Stephen Walters] for the tip!



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