Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing review – did tech change literary style?

Frank Herbert on his Boeing, Stephen King on his Wang, and Philip Roth worrying that writing would become too easy … Matthew Kirschenbaum’s account of literature in the digital ageIn a photograph taken in his high-tech home office at 29 Merrick Square, London, in 1968, thriller writer Len Deighton is hard at work on his next novel, Bomber. An electric typewriter is perched atop a desk, a huge telex machine extrudes paper coils on to the florid carpet, and a video camera on a tripod is pointed at the author’s face. In the foreground is another, bulkier, typewriter connected by a fat cable to a cabinet or console. The author of Billion Dollar Brain had lately taken delivery of a magnetic tape selectric typewriter (MT/ST) (marketed in Britain as the IBM 72 IV). It was first posited at IBM’s main offices in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1957; the finished product weighed 200lb and cost $10,000. And with it Deighton was about to compose the first novel ever written on a word processor.In fact, as Matthew Kirschenbaum points out in his unexpectedly engaging history of word processing, it was Deighton’s sedulous assistant Ellenor Handley who did most of the typing (until 1968 she’d had to redraft each novel dozens of times). As she typed, her keystrokes were saved to tape, and corrections could be made before a final printout. It was a vexing process in which writing happened both on paper and in the typist’s harried imagination; IBM’s literature commanded the user to “visualise... Continue reading at 'The Guardian'

[ The Guardian | 2016-06-30 00:00:00 UTC ]
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