The Electric Pencil

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File Format
Name The Electric Pencil
Released 1976

The Electric Pencil was the first home computer word processor, first released by author Michael Shrayer in 1976 for the Altair, and soon brought out in many different versions for various 8080 and Z-80-based computers such as the SOL-20, North Star Horizon, and TRS-80. Eventually, in 1983, an IBM PC version was released. However, by that time other word processors had eclipsed it in popularity, and it faded away.

Early versions used cassette tape as their document storage method, but it eventually adapted to those newfangled "disk drives" as they began to appear.

Description of format

This description is based on a version documented in a manual dated 1977; it's possible other versions varied.

Documents were in plain ASCII text, using the linefeed character for hard line breaks and the formfeed character for hard page breaks, and otherwise doing "soft breaks" with word-wrap on display or printout.

The first line of the document could set a page header by using "$" as the first character, followed by the header text (ending with a linefeed).

Underlines were done by either following or preceding the line containing text to be underlined with a line containing only underscore characters at the appropriate points; the two lines would be combined on printout to create an underline. If the document was to be printed out on a Diablo printer, the underlines had to follow the text line, while other devices required the underlines to precede the text line.


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