Created at 19 May 2014 16:54   Last update at 24 Jun 2016 06:02


I was told by my fiend that apparently George R. R. Martin, the author of A Song of Ice and Fire, did his work on an outdated machine, using WordStar 4.0. Feeling that it is highly implausible, I searched the internet and found several articles confirming it. Although people may refer this feat as wonderful, I call this feat a complete nonsense.

The articles are from e-Teknik, CNET, The Verge, TechCrunch, and Slate. Question is: why?

Martin and WordStar 4.0

If you do not know what a WordStar 4.0 is, you can read the article from Wikipedia. The interface is as follow:

Very primitive.
Very primitive.

I remember the program fully during my 90s computer class, thus are very aware of how the program works. This making Martin's response, during interview with Conan O'Brien, weird. Martin said:

I hate spell-check, yes.

WordStar 4.0 did come with spell-checking options. The command is even visible on the UI.

That two.
That two.

So if he hates spellcheck, why he still bother using WordStar 4.0? When he was asked the reason for using WordStar, he said:

I actually like it. It does everything I want a word processing program to do and it doesn't do anything else. I don't want any help, you know? I hate some of these modern systems where you type a lowercase letter and it becomes a capital. 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!

That does not make any sense. If all he does not like is the autocorrect function, why won't he just disable them? Or just use Notepad?

This program. Much cleaner than WordStar 4.0.
This program. Much cleaner than WordStar 4.0.
Argument
Notepad cannot do Bold, Italic, or Underline!
Just use freaking Wordpad.
And this is an included program within Windows.
And this is an included program within Windows.

Although a minimum rich text word processor, Wordpad offers far higher advantage over WordStar 4.0.

Negative Implications of using WordStar 4.0

Let's say that Martin indeed uses WordStar 4.0 to do his works. Doing so will have great negative implications, and believe me, I tried to look for any positive implications.

The risk of Old PC

According to the e-Teknic article, Martin uses a 30 year old PC, which means that he owns it since the 80s. From my knowledge as a PC technician, the older the PC, the higher the appearance of X factor (unknown factor that can make PC not working as intended, such as disk write error). Which means the higher the chance of him losing his entire work. Would a person like him, whose life is from writing stories, can take a risk like that?

Argumen
What if he is just that brave?
I dare you to write your Theses on a 80286 computer. If you're lucky, you can get the 25 MHz model.
Argumen
What if the hard disk is new?
How recent can an 80s PC read a hard disk? Due to the compatibility between file system and the DOS, it's probably a relatively small hard disk around 504 MB - 4 GB tops (depending on BIOS). Theoretically, he can use larger hard disk and let only 2-4GB being used out of the total size, but that sounds really, really wasteful. Also, theoretical.

Writing Aftermath

Martin does not publish A Song of Ice and Fire. Bantam Books did that. If the script really was made using WordStar 4.0, how can the editor edit and print it? To give you a better image, let's see the following comparison:

A bit werid, but otherwise normal.
A bit werid, but otherwise normal.

This is the first paragraph of Hippopotamus article from Wikipedia that I directly type to the program. You can see that the word "Hippopotamus" has a markup that appears as "^B", this is a bold markup. On the top-left of the screen you can see the file name, HIPPO.TXT. To clarify, WordStar does not have a standard file format, I just add the txt for easier opening in Windows.

Next, I open the file on my preferred text editor, Notepad++:

You deserve a prize if you can edit that text without looking at the source text, and without losing your sanity.
You deserve a prize if you can edit that text without looking at the source text, and without losing your sanity.

In other words, files created in WordStar 4.0 are not compatible with standard text file.

Next comparison is using a SHIPPO.TXT file that I created in windows and edited in Notepad. I filled this file with the text from the same article:

Very normal.
Very normal.

Then, I opened the file on WordStar:

Also normal.
Also normal.

Then, I saved the file in WordStar and opened it on Notepad++:

Quite normal.
Quite normal.

There's many unknown character added to the end of file. Take note that each line on these files are created manually using the Enter button, not the result of WordWrap. In case of the first file, HIPPO.TXT, WordStar automatically adds a Newline character, so it appears as a justified text. To better understand it, here's the second file, SHIPPO.TXT, opened in WordPad:

Do I have to reconnect all that line?
Do I have to reconnect all that line?

Can you imagine how many lines that must be fixed so the whole text look tidy and ready to print? This is only one paragraph. What if there's one book worth of text that needs treatment like this. Martin's editor must be very patient.

Closing

There's no logical reason why Martin uses WordStar 4.0, unless he has secret reason, or just want to piss off his editor.