The end result of Sierra's efforts was HomeWord, released for the Apple II and ported to the IBM PC and PCjr. Sierra's program was not going to compete with WordStar, WordPerfect or even Microsoft Word. In fact, it was marketed toward people who would have been too imtimidated by WordStar's command shortcuts or WordPerfect's brick-thick manuals. Many, many home-market friendly computer companies released word processors. Broderbund's Bank Street Writer was one of the products against which HomeWord would compete. Sierra would later release HomeWord II, which would have full hard drive support. HomeWord came with a tutorial cassette to walk the novice user through his first word processing session.
In this blog entry I am going to take a look at HomeWord for the IBM PCjr., released at the end of 1983. It was sold through IBM for $75.00. This version only ran on a PCjr., it will fail to load if it detects the presence of DMA, which would indicate a PC. It came with an overlay for the PCjr. chicklet keyboard that looked like this :
The disk was formatted for DOS 2.1, but was copy-protected. It required the user to save his files to a formatted floppy disk. It could exit to DOS and contained programs like FORMAT and DISKCOPY to allow the user to do that without needing his DOS disk. The program did not support hard drives. Hard drives were extremely expensive in 1983 and were not intended for the consumer PCjr.
When you boot the HomeWord disk, you will see the following :
|Doesn't this look familiar...|
|I sincerely doubt they sold nine hundred million copies|
The menu is using a tweaked 4-color graphics mode 04h, which requires less RAM than a 16-color mode but more flexibility than the PCjr. text modes.
HomeWord is pretty functional for a basic word processor, and the commands are easy to use. The program is will describe what you need to do, and you can see the results fairly quickly to make sure you have it right. The program will allow you access to most, if not all, of them via the menu. However, learning the shortcuts makes things easier (refer to the overlay in the image above). Instead of going through all its capabilities, let me allow the program to show some of them to you :
|Beginning of the Document|
|Scrolling Down is done by the Cursor Control (Arrow) keys|
|80-column mode, note the use of inverse text to identify functions|
The program supports custom margins, combining documents, headers and footers and page numbers. It does not support automatic footnotes, but that was a function of high-end Word Processors. The resulting files are very small and almost plain-text, so only the formatting would be lost. If you want to show off your mastery of printer escape codes, there is a function which would allow you to insert them into the document. You can also see the raw ASCII for the document.
Most keyboard functions are handled by the Control key, but the Alt key is sometimes required and the Fn key will also be frequently used. Since I don't have the manual, I am not aware of the function that will bring the cursor to the beginning or end of the line. Once you turn a function on, like Bold or Underline, the function will apply to all text until you use the Normal function to turn those attributes off. No support for italics, but that was not a common feature of the printers of the day.
Here is the end result as printed on my IBM Compact Printer. Although this program has explicit support for a serial printer, it refused to print anything more than two lines with that selection. It would stop printing, saying my printer wasn't ready. The hell it was! I believe it was confused because I had an Internal Modem and the Parallel Printer Attachment installed. Instead, I tricked it into thinking it was printing to a parallel printer via the DOS mode command. Using the MODE command found in DOS 2.1, I used the following commands to fool the program (you have to exit the program first, type the commands in DOS, then restart it):
mode com2: 1200,n,8,2,p
With that, the printer printed as well as the Compact Printer can, and here is a scan of the results :
|To Boldly Go, or maybe Not|