What is a word processor?

  • Peter Flewitt


A word processor may be many things to many people. One might as well ask the question, ‘What is a typewriter?’ or ‘What is a photocopier?’ There are many levels of typewriter, from the humble portable to the sophisticated electronic proportional-spacing office machine. There are also many grades of photocopier, from the slow, one-off heat process, semi-domestic machines to the multi-collating, plain-paper copier-duplicators of the huge corporations. One might also ask the question, ‘When does a typewriter become a word processor?’ because the line of demarcation somewhere around the level of electronic and memory typewriters is very hazy indeed! A manufacturer whose main concern is typewriters, but who introduces, at the top of his range, an electronic machine performing some of the functions of editing and memory, might be tempted to call it a word processor. A similar machine, marketed by a company which also produced powerful word and data processing equipment at the top of the range, would to them perhaps only merit the description ‘memory typewriter’. It is probably best to leave definitions aside and look at the full range, trying to allot to each broad type its proper place in the hierarchy of use.


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© Peter Flewitt 1980

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  • Peter Flewitt

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