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posted by Woods on Thursday May 15 2014, @02:02PM   Printer-friendly
from the they-never-make-them-like-they-used-to dept.

Ryan Reed reports that when most Game of Thrones fans imagine George R.R. Martin writing his epic fantasy novels, they probably picture the author working on a futuristic desktop (or possibly carving his words onto massive stones like the Ten Commandments). But the truth is that Martin works on an outdated DOS machine using '80s word processor WordStar 4.0, as he revealed during an interview on Conan. 'I actually like it,' says Martin. 'It does everything I want a word processing program to do, and it doesn't do anything else. I don't want any help. I hate some of these modern systems where you type a lower case letter and it becomes a capital letter. I don't want a capital. If I wanted a capital, I would have typed a capital. I know how to work the shift key.' 'I actually have two computers,' Martin continued. 'I have a computer I browse the Internet with and I get my email on, and I do my taxes on. And then I have my writing computer, which is a DOS machine, not connected to the Internet.'

 
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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Grishnakh on Thursday May 15 2014, @03:20PM

    by Grishnakh (2831) on Thursday May 15 2014, @03:20PM (#43777)

    good luck finding a replacement machine and installing Word Star 4.0 on it.

    You don't need to do any of that. Just get a copy of WS4.0 (you can probably download it somewhere, if you don't already have a copy from your old machine), and load it up on a DOS emulator like DOSbox. It'd be pretty trivial to do, especially in Linux. Then you could use a modern machine with the old word processor, and do proper backups too.

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  • (Score: 2) by egcagrac0 on Thursday May 15 2014, @06:18PM

    by egcagrac0 (2705) on Thursday May 15 2014, @06:18PM (#43847)

    At least up until UEFI came around, it was pretty easy to just install DOS on the bare metal on a "new" machine.

    I haven't looked at it much since then (haven't had a need).

    • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Thursday May 15 2014, @07:15PM

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Thursday May 15 2014, @07:15PM (#43892)

      Yes, but why on earth would you want to install DOS natively? You have to set up a separate partition, then you can't do anything else while you're in DOS, since it's a single-tasking environment. What a PITA. Plus running DOS on a modern 24" widescreen monitor would be painful with the fonts all stretched-out.

      If you use DOSBOX, you don't have this problem. DOS runs in a little window, and you can still do all your other stuff in the background, like checking email, looking up things on the internet, etc.

      • (Score: 2) by FakeBeldin on Thursday May 15 2014, @07:58PM

        by FakeBeldin (3360) on Thursday May 15 2014, @07:58PM (#43927) Journal

        What's this partition thing you're talking about?
        You just run DOS off the floppy in A:, and run Wordstar from B:.
        If WordStar 4.0 is fancy enough to require two disk drives, no problem, you can just pop out the DOS disk once you get the command prompt.

        (Yep, that was my parents' first PC - 720k & no harddisk. Never found out if those 80ks extra were usable.)

      • (Score: 2) by egcagrac0 on Friday May 16 2014, @03:42AM

        by egcagrac0 (2705) on Friday May 16 2014, @03:42AM (#44093)

        Yes, but why on earth would you want to install DOS natively?

        From TFS, it sounds like that's what he's doing already, running DOS natively.

        Personally, I wouldn't consider it unless I was keeping the Model M and the 8514 monitor, but...

        If the air gap is an important design consideration, then a native DOS install is a reasonable thing to do. If I had to guess, money for hardware isn't really a problem, and he can buy whatever he feels will help him do his work, without trying to shoehorn two or three applications onto the same system.

      • (Score: 2) by Foobar Bazbot on Friday May 16 2014, @03:46AM

        by Foobar Bazbot (37) on Friday May 16 2014, @03:46AM (#44096) Journal

        then you can't do anything else while you're in DOS, since it's a single-tasking environment.

        Eh, not really. DR DOS (or one of the various brandings it went through, Novell, Caldera, and back to DR) 6.0 and newer had task switching (to the user, it works something like virtual consoles on *n*x, but with an implicit SIGSTOP/SIGCONT when switching from/to a console), and 7.0 and newer (which includes every version of DOS anyone in their right mind would consider installing these days) have full time-slice multitasking used in the same manner (you switch consoles, stuff on the other consoles keeps running).

        Plus running DOS on a modern 24" widescreen monitor would be painful with the fonts all stretched-out.

        Eh, 132x50 or 132x60 into 16:9 gives a character aspect ratio of 1:1.48 or 1:1.24 -- IMO 1:1.24 is about right, but I hate the ~1:2 aspect ratio of 80x25 on a 4:3 screen, so ymmv... Now 24" might leave you with silly big letters (or not, depending how old one's eyes are), but there's plenty of smaller monitors out there.

        I'm not sure how flexible wordstar is in handling non-standard character counts (i.e. anything other than {80,132}x{25,30,43,50,60,86}, but I think you can set it for any mode, possibly with the help of a hex editor, in which case you can come within a few pixels of exactly matching your monitor's native res.

        If it is restricted to the standard modes, I'd look for a monitor with 1280x800 native resolution, and set up a text mode of 1188x800 (132x50, 9x16 character cells) or 1188x780 (132x60, 9x13), or a 1280x720 screen with 1188x700 (132x50, 9x14) or 1188x720 (132x60, 9x12). Either way, add additional padding to match 1280x800 or 1280x720 timings, and you get pixel-for-pixel output (no LCD interpolation rubbish), a standard screen size, and only a reasonable wasted border. A 1280x1024 monitor is also a reasonable choice, with 1188x1020 (132x60, 9x17 -- a little tall character cell, IMO) or 1188x946 (132x86, 9x11 -- I'd accept it, but most people would find the character cell too short) being suitable. But like I said, I think wordstar supports arbitrary resolutions, so you can pick your preferred character cell, divide it into your LCD's native resolution, and make it work.

        If you use DOSBOX, you don't have this problem. DOS runs in a little window, and you can still do all your other stuff in the background, like checking email, looking up things on the internet, etc.

        And yet, some people would consider that a disadvantage, and given that GRRM is, in 2014, using a dedicated DOS machine for writing, I suspect he's among them. Sure, it's best to choose to not get distracted just because the internet is there, but for those who fall short on internally-imposed discipline (most of us), externally-imposed discipline is better than no discipline at all.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 15 2014, @07:24PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 15 2014, @07:24PM (#43900)

    "It'd be pretty trivial to do, especially in Linux."

    Exactly what makes it any more or less trivial in Linux than in Windows or OSX?