- Written by Michael Petrie
* Potted: Adj. Informal. Summarised or abridged: a potted version of a novel...
In the Beginning...
It all began at IMS Associates Inc., a company founded by William H Millard. Millard employed Seymour Rubinstein as the director of marketing at IMSAI, and an assembly code programmer, John Robbins Barnaby, as a systems programmer. IMSAI was making a computer based on the 8080 CPU and running Digital Research’s CP/M (Control Program/Monitor or Control Program for Microcomputers) operating system. The IMSAI 8080 was a copy of the original 8-bit computer, the MITS Altair. Rob Barnaby worked on enhancements to the CP/M operating system, adding file buffering to allow files that were larger than the computer's memory to be edited, and other useful and much needed functions.
ED Begot NED
Barnaby didn't like CP/M's line editor, ED, so he set to writing a replacement for it called NED, New EDitor. Unlike ED, which had been written PL/M (Programming Language for Microprocessors – a sub-set of PL/I, Programming Language One), Barnaby used assembler for NED. Once most of ED's functionality had been incorporated, Barnaby added a video mode that allowed 2-dimensional cursor movement. NED retained the command mode of ED for non-editing functions.
The Early Days and MicroPro
1976 - 1977
Rubinstein left IMSAI with $8,500 in cash to form his own company, which he called MicroPro International Inc. Rubinstein obtained a report by DataPro on the current state of word processing computers and the features offered by the software they ran (at this time word processors were based on specialist computer hardware). These systems consisted of names such as Lanier, Vydec, Xerox, IBM, and Wang. Based on this information Rubinstein decided that MicroPro should work on a word processor for the CP/M operating system, which wasn't tied to specific computer hardware.
Rubinstein persuaded Barnaby to join the new MicroPro, and to write the editor and also a sorting program. Within a few months Barnaby had completed writing both programs in assembler. They were released as WordMaster (1976) and SuperSort (1977), both running on the CP/M operating system. WordMaster was basically similar to NED in being a simple text editor with no print formatting capabilities of its own.
WordMaster, plus a formatting program called Tex, formed MicroPro's main sales from September 1978 until April 1979, when WordStar was first shown at the West Coast Computer Faire at Brooks Hall in San Francisco. SuperSort only managed limited sales at the time because "CP/M users weren't ready for data processing" - Seymour Rubinstein, June 2002.
Millard's IMSAI in Trouble so Starts ComputerLand
"...IMSAI was in decline by the time MicroPro started shipping products - an informed market had developed, and S-100 users were buying boards made in garages with much lower overhead than IMSAI's. Rather than compete with leaner manufacturing operations, Bill Millard started Computerland, to sell the products of others to business users. IMSAI's products were not kept competitive (and Bill's marketing director and chief programmer were gone) and the company was allowed to go bankrupt. So while WordMaster, SuperSort, and WordStar were developed on IMSAIs (I used mine til I got an IBM PC), few customers used them."
-- Rob Barnaby in email to Mike Petrie 2 May 2000
WordStar is Born
Following the completion of WordMaster and SuperSort, Barnaby set to work on Rubinstein's new word processor that was to become WordStar. The now well-known WordStar commands first appeared in this new program; WordMaster's commands were, in the main, different and split between Command (Control) and Video (Edit) modes. The new program also incorporated a print command and rudimentary text formatting that previously had to be done separately by additional programs.
As Rob Barnaby puts it:
"Seymour was the marketing brains - it was he that said we should address word processing to get a larger market. The defining change was to add margins and word wrap. Additional changes included getting rid of command mode and adding a print function. I was the technical brains - I figured out how to do it, and did it, and documented it. The product's success I think related both to it being the right product (Seymour) and to it being a fairly good implementation given the equipment (me)."
-- Rob Barnaby in email to Mike Petrie 3 May 2000
WordStar 1.0 for CP/M
Once Barnaby had got the program as far as version 0.89 he was joined by Jim Fox who helped to complete the first version's code and also wrote its installer. WordStar version 1 for CP/M was released in September 1978. Barnaby & Fox continued to work on the code and several interim versions were released culminating in version 2. However, version 2 was copy-protected, which proved to be a public relations disaster and led to its almost immediate replacement.
Once MicroPro completed WordStar it sold the program through Millard's ComputerLand managing a trade of half a Million US dollars trade per month through this outlet alone.
Barnaby & MicroPro Part Company
1979 - 1980
Barnaby had been working extremely long hours and was burnt out. He stopped direct work on the program, first acting as an advisor and then taking, in October 1979, long overdue holiday. After four months Rubinstein asked Barnaby to return, but he decided that he needed more time. In January 1980 Rubinstein again asked Barnaby to restart coding and promissed back pay and stock options for all the months he'd been away from work. Barnaby still wasn't ready to resume so Rubinstein gave him one more month to decide. This month-by-month extension continued until March at which point Barnaby and MicroPro parted company.
In 1980 Rubinstein brought in a venture capitalist named Fred Adler.
WordStar for TRS-80 LDOS
Following Barnaby's departure from MicroPro, Fox adapted the code for the new Microsoft CP/M board for the Apple II, and for the Tandy (Radio-Shack) TRS-80's LDOS 5 operating system. WordStar could already be run using CP/M on the TRS-80 and many other CP/M computers of the time. The TRS-80 package included options for mail merge and the earlier WordMaster Editor.
WordStar for Epson Personal Computer
Epson produced a small computer (PX-8?) that used a built-in LCD display. The company wanted a customised version of WordStar that would be ROM based and would run within 48Kb or RAM. The programmers at MicroPro estimated that they'd need six months to complete the conversion. Rubinstein wasn't impressed and told them that Barnaby had written the entire program in less than that time and that this was only a port to a new platform. Rubinstein called Barnaby to see if he'd be interested in doing the port. Barnaby demanded $100 per hour - he was hired again and completed the job within two weeks! after which he departed again.
Osborne 1 Portable Computer
In 1981 Adam Osborne introduced his CP/M based portable computer and bundled around $1,500 worth of software with it, including WordStar and the spreadsheet program SuperCalc. The Osborne computer was an immediate success, quickly achieving sales of over 10,000 units per month. This was a great boost to WordStar and helped establish the progam in the market place.
In September 1981 the first of several influxes of Irish programmers arrived at MicroPro's San Rafael offices. The first group to arrive were tasked with porting WordStar to other operating systems, including the Apple ][, although they ended up completing an 8086 port from CP/M to CP/M-86 that had been started by Diane Hajicek, who later wrote DataStar, instead.
WordStar 3.0 for MS-DOS
In one single all-night session Jim Fox patched the CP/M-86 version of WordStar to make it run under MS-DOS on the IBM PC so that it could be demonstrated to Rubenstein. The actual port was done by a group of Irish programmers using Intel development systems, which ran the ISIS II operating system. The software build was done on 8" floppies and the binary (executable) files were then transferred to the IBM PC by serial cable.
During the early 1980's the company also created and released a spreadsheet called CalcStar and and a database program called DataStar, along with several other supporting programs. WordStar was supported by SpellStar, MailMerge and StarIndex; DataStar by InfoStar, FormGen, ReportStar, FormSort and SuperSort; and CalcStar by PlanStar. The intention was to integrating all of these programs into a single system that was to be called StarBurst - the makings of the first ever 'Office Suite'. Adler killed the project.
By the mid-1980's MS-DOS had gained directories and their attendant paths, but WordStar didn't keep up. This meant that the files being edited still had to be in the same directory as the program. The company had also lost the original documented CP/M code that the DOS version had been ported from. One of the company's programmers, Peter Mierau, regenerated the code base, but only a few months after he completed the task in October 1982, he, and two other programmers, were laid-off. They went and set up a company of their own called NewStar, with the intention of cloning WordStar from scratch.
At some time during the early 1980's AT&T approached MicroPro asking for WordStar to be ported to UNIX. However, as WordStar was written in assembler, had already been ported from the 8080 to the 8086, and consisted of hundreds of thousands of lines of code it was considered impossible. MicroPro development was, at this time, run by a man called Dan Druid, who had a team of 12 programmers preparing to start work on a new release of WordStar.
Rise of [a] NewStar
Meanwhile, Peter Mierau and the other two laid-off programmers, Stan Reynolds and Richard Post, had made a deal with a Z-80 based computer manufacturer, George Morrow. Morrow gave Mierau and co. capital to set up their company, NewStar. NewStar in return would give Morrow a licence to use their WordStar clone on his computers.
In September 1983 NewStar released its word processor, calling it NewWord. The program consisted of an 80% subset of WordStar and MailMerge features.
By August 1984 a second version had been released that included many features that WordStar users had been asking for: un-erase, laser printer support, and built-in spell checking provided by a bought-in program called The Word Plus, among others. The program, like the original WordStar, was written in assembly language, and so was small, and fast. Many WordStar users, in search of new features, switched to NewWord.
A third and final version of NewWord was released in February 1986. Version 3 added macros, maths functions, spell checking while editing, suggested 'correct' words for spelling errors, and the missing DOS directory and path name support. Reviews of NewWord 3 compared it favourably to WordStar 2000 (and 3.3?):
THE REVIEWS... PC Magazine -- January 28, 1986 -- "Some people call NewWord 3 3.0 the product WordStar 2000 should have been. Whatever you call it, NewWord 3 packs a surprising amount of speedy word processing power onto a single floppy disk, and does it at a very reasonable price." The New York Times -- January 7, 1986 -- "NewWord provides the perfect excuse for WordStar users to switch software, as if WordStar users needed an excuse." More favorable reviews are on the way.
Morrow sold most of his stock in NewStar back to the three founders but kept his licence to the program.
MicroPro goes Public
In 1984 MicroPro's sales were booming, so the company decided to go public. However, two months before the public offering, Rubinstein suffered a heart attack. Adler sent Fred Haney to Rubinstein's hospital room to persuade him that if he didn't sign away his stock to non-voting stock the public offering would be killed. Rubinstein signed, Haney became CEO, and Rubinstein went on to regret it as the biggest mistake he ever made in his life.
MicroPro eventually became WordStar International. Rubinstein ceased to have direct control over the company 1986, going on to form Surpass Corporation. Surpass Corp. developed a spreadsheet program that was sold to Borland International in 1988; Borland Int. released it as Quattro Pro.
MicroPro Sued over WordMaster
Unfortunately the friendship between Rubinstein and Millard soured after IMSAI went out of business in a chapter 7 bankruptcy and the previously successful ComputerLand was sold. IMSAI sued MicroPro claiming that Barnaby's work on NED belonged to them, and that WordMaster was also their property because of its similarities to NED. Barnaby wrote WordMaster from scratch and didn't use any of the code from NED.
"I was told that when the financial resources of IMSAI were invested to create ComputerLand, Joe Killian and Bruce Van Natta [employees of IMSAI] were promissed stock options in ComputerLand equal to those they had held in IMSAI. IMSAI went out of business in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but ComputerLand went on to become quite successful.
"When ComputerLand was sold around 1985 the stock options weren't given to the two ex-employees [of IMSAI], so they sued Millard. Millard thought that I funded their court action - I didn't, but he sued MicroPro to recover his losses."
-- Seymour Rubinstein in conversation with Mike Petrie, June 2002
The court ordered a defense discovery (a common procedure in civil court cases) during which a note was found in one of Millard's notebooks that said "Sue Rubinstein". The note was dated over five years earlier and due to the US Statute of Limitations' five-year limit between the discovery of the alleged code infringement and the action being taken to court the case was dismissed. The case never got far enough to look at whether the two programs were based on the same code, a fact that both Rubinstein and Barnaby denied.
WordStar 2000 for DOS
Friends of a programmer named Edward de Jong approached Rubinstein about a WordStar clone that de Jong had written using the C programming language. The program had been written via a 1200-baud modem on a VAX machine running UNIX. The program was small compared to the original WordStar, consisting of only around 12,000 lines of code. It did most of what WordStar did, lacking only mail merge, spelling and a few other advanced features. Rubinstein persuaded Druid, against his will, to buy the clone as the basis for the new version of WordStar, and as de Jong had a head start on the project Druid brought him in as the lead programmer. The team worked on the program for a year, eventually releasing WordStar 2000 in 1985.
The first version of WordStar 2000 was released during the height of paranoia over software piracy and was heavily copy protected. This wasn’t well received and the protection was removed from later versions. The program used a completely different file format to that in earlier WordStar versions, it added support for a mouse, and a more mnemonic set of keyboard commands. It also had better printer support than previous versions of WordStar. These interface changes were an attempt to overcome the negative press reports that WordStar was difficult to learn because its commands weren't mnemonic.
WordStar 2000 also faced competition from NewWord - and more so from WordPerfect. WordPerfect was faster than the first version of WordStar 2000, although this was corrected later in WordStar 2000 Releases 2 and 3. WordPerfect also had a better customer support program, and it was heavily pushed as easier to use. The loss of the familiar WordStar commands in the attempt to counteract WordPerfect’s claim at being easier to use saw traditional WordStar users shun the program – it didn’t sell well.
A special version of WordStar 2000 was produced for the Japanese market. This was called TwinStar and could write Japanese and Latin characters next to each other, which was advanced for the time.
WordStar for AT&T UNIX PC
AT&T finally added an early release of WordStar 2000 to its UNIX PC productivity software series. This was a native UNIX version consisting only of the core WordStar 2000 program. Neither WordStar 2000 for AT&T UNIX PC or the UNIX PC itself survived for long.
Dan Druid died of AIDS and Dave Cannon took over as Project Manager, followed a year or so later by Patty Gilbert. Leigh Marriner, the product manager for WordStar 2000 left soon after. De Jong, who had by now left MicroPro along with two other employees set up a new company with the intention of writing a next generation word processor cum desktop publishing (DTP) program. To help with this they head-hunted the top programmers from MicroPro. De Jong's new program relied on the hope that word processor users would migrate to DTP programs, which never happened. De Jong tried several times to get MicroPro interested in the new program, but they weren't really interested in new products, concentrating instead on just surviving for another financial quarter. The project's final blow was the release of Windows 2, which made the DOS based program look dated, killing it off when it was 90% complete.
By 1985 a growing trend toward ease of use resulted in the appearance of a new category of word processor focussed less on features and more on usability. While MicroPro was developing its ‘next generation’ word processor, WordStar 2000, it felt obliged to add something in this easy-to-use class to its product line. The effort focussed around a modularly designed interface written using Modula 2 (programming language). This new interface was bolted onto the existing WordStar 3.3 text-processing engine. The result was released as MicroPro Easy.
The MicroPro Easy user interface didn’t support any of the commands from the original WordStar, or from WordStar 2000 – it provided only a menu driven interface! This DOS-based product, released in 1985, was targeted to compete with the likes of PFS: Professional Write and VolksWriter.
MicroPro Easy Extra
MicroPro Easy was updated and released as microPro Easy Extra 1.5 in August 1985. Easy Extra was generally compared unfavourably to its competition in the same category. InfoWorld also giving it a mediocre review in its August 25th 1986 issue.
1 Apr 1986
On 1st April 1986 Rubinstein resigned from the management of MicroPro, but remained as a board member until 1992.
In September 1986 John Stofberg, the director of word processing products, was fired, and the entire MicroPro Easy development team were laid off. MicroPro determined to focus on its ‘flagship’ next-generation product, WordStar 2000.
WordStar Express & WordStar 1512
MicroPro Easy was also released as WordStar Express. It also saw light of day in an OEM version called WordStar 1512, sold to the British computer company Amstrad (Alan M Sugar Trading) to use on its low-cost 1512 PC. This IBM PC clone, which cost a fraction of the price of its competitors, and used only around a tenth of the component count of its IBM equivalent, single-handedly kick-started the PC revolution in Britain and much of the rest of Europe.
The Amstrad PC 1512 SD and DD (with 512Kb of RAM and Single or Dual 5.25" floppy Disk drives) and the PC 1640 (with 640Kb of RAM) were launched in 1986. The Amstrad PCs had an Enhanced CGA graphics mode and colour or monochrome monitors (which housed the power supply). The operating system was either MS-DOS 3.2 or Digital Research’s DR-DOS Plus 1.2 (an MS-DOS clone). It also came with the Digital Research GUI (Graphical User Interface) called GEM (Graphical Environment Manager, which was also used by Atari computers), and GEMPAINT and GEM BASIC - GEM didn’t survive for long once Microsoft’s Windows 3.0 hit the marketplace. Amstrad WordStar Express and Amstrad WordStar 1512 were not included in the basic package.
WordStar 2000 Plus Release 3.5
Because reviews of WordStar 2000 panned it as too slow to be used, Doug St. John, VP of development at MicroPro in early 1987, decided to focus Release 3 primarily on performance. WordStar 2000 Release 3 advanced further on the speed improvements made in Release 2.
WordStar 2000 Release 3 also included improvements in the printer drivers, the Star Exchange file format conversion program, new operating modes, and some other minor feature additions. WordStar 2000 Release 3 was a milestone for WordStar 2000 in that it was transformed into one of the fastest products in its category.
From the What’s New Guide for WordStar 2000 Plus, Release 3:
Lightning speed You can move between menus and through docu
ments at a speed that will amaze you. Take a look at these perform
ance comparisons of WordStar 2000, Release 1.01, release 2, and
the new Release 3. These tasks were performed on an 8-page file,
using an IBM XT with 640K RAM
|Task||Time in minutes:seconds||% faster than Rel. 2|
|Rel. 1.01||Rel. 2||Rel. 3|
|Locate text at end of file||1:56.4||0:37.9||0:08||+ 370%|
|Scroll to end of file with down arrow key||2:30.4||1:51.7||0:34.9||+ 220|
|Move block from top to bottom of file||1:12.9||0:43.7||0:03.1||+ 1300|
|Move cursor to end of file||0:57.2||0:15.1||0:01.3||+ 1060|
Mid - 1988
WordStar 2000 release 3 hit the streets in November 1987. A review in InfoWorld, dated January 11, 1988 (pp 59-61), ranked WordStar 2000 Release 3 as being among the best. It was too late; WordPerfect had a vastly superior marketing strategy and Microsoft’s Word was rising quickly. By mid-1988 MicroPro threw in the towel on WordStar 2000 (despite continuing development of a version for OS/2 that lasted until Microsoft and IBM parted ways). The last version of WordStar 2000 sold was WordStar 2000 Plus Release 3.5.
WordStar 4 for DOS & CP/M
In 1986 NewStar approached MicroPro with the intention of either buying the company or selling NewWord to them. MicroPro offered $3 million for NewWord and a one-year employment contract for the programmers. The deal was done.
The original WordStar code was scrapped and all future work went in to adding features to NewWord. February 1987 saw the release of WordStar 4, which was basically NewWord 3 with bits of WordStar 3.3 added. This version was released for MS-DOS first, followed by a version for CP/M. It proved to be a very popular upgrade. WordStar 4 was to be the last version made for the venerable CP/M operating system, which had dramatically declined in popularity following the introduction of the IBM PC and its MS-DOS operating system.
WordStar 5 & 6 for DOS
Building on the success of WordStar 4, several WordStar 2000 features were added to make WordStar versions 5, 6, and 7. These versions had an expanded file format to allow the use of 'text styles', pull-down menus, background printing, graphic support through the Inset program, and a new printer driver system. They also included the Star Exchange file format conversion system.
The Dark Ages
1988 - 1993
The failures of MicroPro Easy and WordStar 2000, as well as the general neglect of the formerly successful original WordStar, heralded the beginning of a very dark period for MicroPro International. This was marked by the shift away from a focus on competitive technologies and intelligent marketing to one on short-sighted revenue-generating schemes. Having failed to branch out into other software categories, and having lost its competitive edge against the likes of WordPerfect and the rising Microsoft Word, MicroPro spent the better part of the next five years, between 1988 and 1993, struggling to find creative ways to continue selling WordStar and WordStar clones into its existing customer base in the US and Europe as it frantically searched for a new word processing strategy.
By early 1988, an inevitable shift toward graphical user interfaces was beginning to manifest itself in early versions of Windows and in the IBM/Microsoft joint venture into OS/2 (Operating System 2) and Presentation Manager (the OS/2 GUI). The transition from a character-based DOS software platform to a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) graphical interface was a difficult road for MicroPro. While a host of software companies saw the writing on the wall and were developing in anticipation of Windows (for example: Describe, Ami Pro, and Word), MicroPro buried its head in the sand and persisted in betting the future of the company on the DOS platform, and the notion that the original WordStar could be revived in order to recapture significant market share.
MicroPro becomes WordStar International
18 June 1989
During the bleak years at the end of the 1980s MicroPro needed a way to maintain name recognition with the WordStar product line. To help acheive this the company was renamed under the leadership of its CEO, Gary Grimm, as WordStar International on 18th June 1989.
WordStar 7 for DOS
WordStar for DOS version 7 added expanded memory support, support for a mouse, a macro programming language, and the ability to transfer data to and from the Microsoft Windows 3 clipboard. However, it was too late. The delays in improving on the early versions and the disasters of WordStar Easy and 2000 meant that WordPerfect took over as the most popular word processor. WordStar's fate was sealed.
The final version of WordStar for DOS, version 7.0d, was released in North America in December 1992 - other countries didn't get past 7.0c. WordStar for DOS had lost its market share to WordPerfect 5, and with the move away from DOS to Microsoft Windows its time was up.
WordStar for Windows
WordStar Legacy for Windows
In a delayed attempt to stay in the market, WordStar International licensed a legal word processor called Legacy from a company called NBI and released this as WordStar Legacy in early 1991; the idea of developing a Windows based word processor from scratch having been deemed impractical. Legacy was more of a DTP program than a plain word processor, which caught out many WordStar users that upgraded.
WordStar for Windows 1.0
Around this time NBI found itself in dire financial trouble, so WordStar International bought all rights to the Legacy word processor and its code, which after minor tweaking was released on October 1st 1991 as WordStar for Windows 1.0. WordStar International had hoped to buy Ami Pro from Samna, a much better word processor and DTP program than NBI's Legacy, but the asking price was too high. Ami Pro was eventually bought by Lotus in 1992 and released first as Ami Pro and in later versions as Lotus Word pro.
WordStar for Windows was too late to make a mark on the growing Windows word processor competition, and being basically a DTP program and not a Windows hosted version of WordStar for DOS, many WordStar users that tried it rejected it out of hand.
WordStar for Windows 1.1
WordStar International quickly introduced a relatively minor upgrade to WordStar for Windows to create version 1.1. This upgrade was provided as a temporary bug fixing release to tide users over until version 1.5 could be made ready.
WordStar for Windows 1.5
Wordstar for Windows 1.1 was followed on 23rd June 1992 by version 1.5. Version 1.5 improved support for tables and added support for OLE, newly introduced common file (New, Open, and Save As) dialogs, and TrueType font support, all new to Microsoft's Windows 3.1. There was then a long delay, as the next version, hints of which were leaked on CompuServe, seemed to be on the brink of oblivion.
WordStar International becomes SoftKey International
4 Feb 1994
On the 4th of February 1994 WordStar International completed a merger with two other companies: Spinnaker Software Corporation, who specialised in consumer priced office productivity software; and SoftKey Software Products Inc., who had a large range of budget software CDs, to form SoftKey International.
The Company was created through a recent combination of three corporations. On February 4, 1994 the Company (which was then known as WordStar International Incorporated), completed a three-way business combination transaction (the "Three-Party Combination") with SoftKey Software Products Inc. and Spinnaker Software Corporation. The Three-Party Combination was accounted for as a pooling-of-interests. Effective February 4, 1994, the Company changed its name to SoftKey International Inc.
The merger was undertaken because the three struggling companies decided the only way to compete was to form a much larger entity and to use SoftKey International's marketing strategy. To consolidate its new direction SoftKey International started on an acquisition spree, taking over control of several small multimedia companies, leading to a combined range of around 300 software titles (See: SoftKey International Plays Hardball).
WordStar for Windows 2.0
WordStar for Windows 2.0 eventually saw light of day in 1994 at a fraction of the price of previous versions. When, in 1993, WordStar for Windows 2.0 was around 90% complete, SoftKey International tried to cancel further work. SoftKey International didn't see itself as a developer, but as a purchaser of complete software that could be sold in bulk at low prices:
"[...] we're a software publisher in the same way that most of the books you read are not actually written by the companies that sell them to you. We find the best programmers and publish their independent works."
Alexander Hoag, SoftKey International http://www.computeruser.com/magazine/texas/0510/intv0510.html
To enable the program to be completed, four of the lead programmers took voluntary redundancy, and, in early 1993, set up a company called Coyote Software, which completed enough of the code under contract to enable the program to be released. The programmers had wanted to do further work to tidy up loose ends and minor bugs in the program, and there was talk of replacing the file format, but no further work was sponsored by SoftKey. The reason for allowing the development to continue up to release of the program has been put down to pressure from the European parts of SoftKey International (and the surviving WordStar International in some countries).
WordStar for Windows 2.0 was a major rewrite of the NBI Legacy code. WordStar for Windows 2.0 introduced 'drag and drop' editing, a macro programming language called StarBASIC, which was based on BASIC with added commands to allow interaction with WordStar for Windows and the files being edited. WordStar for Windows 2.0 also added right-click pop-up 'context' menus, customisable toolbars that could be docked at the edges of the window (as normal) or be dragged off and allowed to 'float' within the window, support for multi-document interface (MDI) and up to 16 open documents at any one time, and a completely re-worked user interface with more colourful buttons and special cursors. The result was a smaller and faster program than much of the competition of the time.
Originally, SoftKey International had stated that development of WordStar for Windows would continue. However, the company focus moved away from productivity software as this market was by now well and truly owned by Microsoft Word, WordPerfect for Windows and Lotus Word Pro. SoftKey International continued selling WordStar for Windows 2.0 although no further development work was done following its release save for some repackaging.
WordStar Personal Writer
WordStar for Windows 2.0 was available in several guises, including one called WordStar Personal Writer. WordStar Personal Writer wasn't supplied with a paper manual, having an Adobe Acrobat version instead. The Acrobat manuals also found their way onto some versions of the 'standard' WordStar for Windows CDs in place of the normal manual as well.
Other WordStar for Windows Versions
WordStar for Windows 2.0 was also bundled with PhotoFinish and KeyCAD Complete for Windows as 'The Complete Designer's Toolkit For Windows'. Whilst the UK saw a cut down evaluation version (less spelling dictionary and templates) given away free on a cover mounted CD on the September 1995 issue of PC Answers magazine, and again on the December 1995 issue of PC Plus magazine.
Corel licences WordStar for Windows code
In early 1994 Corel Corporation acquired the rights to the WordStar for Windows code with the intention of basing the word processor of a planned office suite on it. SoftKey International retained the right to develop WordStar for Windows independently of Corel - in much the same way that Corel had licensed code for Publishers Paintbrush and based the original Corel PhotoPaint 3 on it, and subsequently licensed XaraStudio from UK company Xara and based many of Corel Draw 7 and later's features on that product.
Corel's plan was to use a development of WordStar for Windows, alongside a licensed spreadsheet program, the Alpha V database they had licensed from Alpha Software, and a bundle of clip art in a low cost office suite. Coyote Software completed a port of WordStar for Windows from 16-bit to 32-bit code that would have been ready for Microsoft's Windows 95 that was in development at the time, and they apparently still have rights to the resulting code. However, press reports of the Office Suite project were scathing about its quality. Corel changed direction and repositioned the suite as a companion product to the other suites (by Microsoft, WordPerfect, and Lotus), releasing it in early 1995 as the 'Corel CD Office Companion'. It now contained only a few graphics utilities, a PIM, a Web browser, and some reference titles - WordStar for Windows was not included. Corel reported that it had shipped 500,000 copies, but after a bad reception it was quickly withdrawn. Corel then rebundled some of the elements from the doomed suite and released them again under the banner of the 'Corel Home' series of CDs.
At the time that Corel abandoned its attempt to compete with the main office suites, Novell was struggling with its own attempt. They were getting nowhere trying to knock their recently acquired WordPerfect for Windows into any form of reasonable shape, and decided to cut their losses and go back to doing what they knew about - networking. Corel snapped up WordPerfect, and that was the end of Corel's interest in WordStar.
Xoom Word Pro
Corel may still have rights to WordStar for Windows code, the licence terms aren't known. However, a start-up company called Xoom, which, it's believed, was formed by some of the ex-SoftKey WordStar programmers, acquired its version of WordStar for Windows from Corel. Xoom WordPro was released in 1997 as part of the Xoom "Home Office Suite '97" - was this the fated Corel Office Suite?
Xoom Word pro was still a 16-bit version of WordStar for Windows but with a Microsoft Word 6 compatible file format, modified user interface with menus more closely matching those of Microsoft Word, and a number of other minor changes. Some releases were supplied with a 32-bit installation program so couldn't easily be installed on Windows 3.1 even though Xoom Word Pro was still basically a Windows 3.1 program!
The spreadsheet part of Xoom Home Office Suite '97 also came from Corel. The whole suite was available for free download from the Internat, and was also given away as shareware on a cover mounted CD on the October 1997 issue of PC Answers magazine. It disappeared without trace after little over a year, Xoom changing its focus to the Internet.
SoftKey International becomes The Learning Company
Following its acquisition of the small multimedia companies, SoftKey International looked for other areas for expansion. Their range now covered budget office productivity, reference, and multimedia. The company had already tried to break into entertainment, but failed, so when the educational software specialist Broderbund announced that it was intending to merge with The Learning Company (TLC) SoftKey International saw an opportunity to get a foothold in that market. SoftKey International launched a hostile bid for TLC, acquiring Compton's NewMedia in the process. TLC agreed to the all cash bid of $606 million, and the deal was signed on December the 7th 1995 (See: SoftKey International Plays Hardball).
SoftKey International decided that it needed to change its image from that of down-market low quality software supplier, to one of quality. This led, in October 1996, to the company changing its name to The Learning Company. This would also reflect its expanding emphasis on educational software. The Learning Company then went on to acquire several other companies, including Mindscape, and Broderbund, on 21st June 1998, who had already acquired Parsons Technology from Intuit. As in the earlier merger that had formed SoftKey International, many more software titles were to disappear.
TLC allowed WordStar 7.0d to become available again for a short while from 1998. The availability was advertised in a low key fashion on CompuServe's WordStar forum. This was a disks only set, and available only if you spoke to the right person at TLC on-line support. If you called SoftKey International or TLC and tried to order WordStar 7, all you got was either "it's not in the catalogue", or "what's that?" The disk sets ran out in late 1999. WordStar for Windows 2.0 could also be obtained in this way as spare disks came to light. WordStar for Windows finally disappeared off the shelves in Europe about a year or so after it had first vanished in the USA.
Mattel buys The Learning Company
In December 1998 The Learning Company agreed to an acquisition offer from Mattel. Mattel wanted to expand its computer offerings and e-commerce, features that TLC could provide. Since WordStar's demise, Mattel had regular approaches from people attempting to purchase the code, or the WordStar name. Although Mattel had no intention of re-releasing WordStar into a market dominated by Microsoft, they couldn't sell it to anyone else either, because licenses to parts of the code had expired, and it wasn't financially viable to re-license them.
Gores Technology buys The Learning Company
By late 2000 The Learning Company and Mattel separated, with The Learning Company being bought by Gores Technology and the TLC name being resurrected.
Gores Technology and The Learning Company Separate
1 Aug 2002
On the 1st of August 2002 Gores Technology and The Learning Company seperated. WordStar moved again with the split, now being owned by the Irish company Riverdeep, which absorbed The Learning Company. There was some uncertanty as to whether Gores Technology Group or Riverdeep now owned WordStar, but the concensus is that it is Riverdeep. Following the split some of The Learning Company offices relocated, including the WordStar archives. In the process the unlabelled archives were mislaid in off-site storage and at the time of writing still hadn't been rediscovered. The difficulties of resurecting WordStar have been compounded by these changes which add to all the original licencing issues. WordStar has reached a dead end, or has it?
Although WordStar 7.0d for DOS and WordStar for Windows 2.0 are no longer available from TLC, a company called Trio Consulting continues to announce that it still has manufacturing rights to versions of WordStar up to version 4.0 for both DOS and CP/M.
Other WordStar Clones
Due to WordStar's success in the early years there were many other editors that incorporated the WordStar style keyboard command set. Some of the most notable being VDE, JED, and JOE. DR-DOS, a successful alternative to Microsoft's MS-DOS, used a number of WordStar commands in its Editor program. Borland, now called Inprise, also made the command set the heart of its programming language's editors.
With the decline of WordStar itself, may users tried to hold on to the efficient WordStar keyboard command set as they moved, by choice or otherwise, to other word processors. These efforts have led to a number of 'WordStar-isers' appearing for both Microsoft Word for Windows and WordPerfect 5 (DOS). Science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer produced the best known of the Microsoft Word WordStar-isers for Word 6; Ken Muldrew produced another. These gave back the basic WordStar navigation 'diamond' of CTRL-E (UP), CTRL-X (DOWN), CTRL-S (LEFT), and CTRL-D (RIGHT), plus a few other fundamental commands.
In 1999 a company called Coltronix announced that it wanted to write a WordStar clone, that was to be called WorthStar; Coltronix had approached TLC to try to buy the WordStar name and code, but were refused. Coltronix were going to using Borland's Delphi programming language and make the source code available. It canvassed opinion on the WordStar Mail List and was due to release the program in December 1999 - but it never appeared and Coltronix itself vanished without a trace.
WordStar Command Emulator for Word 97/2000/2002 (XP)/2007/2010
Another attempt to replicate WordStar for DOS commands in other word processors was instigated in mid-1999. Mike Petrie was contacted through the WordStar Mail List for assistance on getting one of the WordStar-isers working, and adding some extra commands to it. It was clear that a new approach would be needed if more than the few keyboard commands of previous attempts were to be possible, so the program moved away from a handful of macros and key-reassignments to being written directly in VBA.
Following suggestions from several people who were aware of the project, the WordStar Command Emulator was released as shareware in December 1999 with over 100 of WordStar's commands available. Various updates were issued in early 2000 adding extra commands and the previously missing block highlighting.
In April 2000, Martin Vieregg released a new, free, 32-bit clone of WordStar 4 called Wsedit. The program was intended for OS/2 but was soon followed by Windows 9x, NT, and 2000 versions. A native Linux version was also planned. The program doesn't support printing, that being assigned to an earlier, DOS program of Vieregg's called StarExtender, a print formatting utility. This combination reflects the very early days with WordMaster, which had no printing support.
WordStar rapidly declined following WordPerfect's appearance. MicroPro had failed to improve on the early WordStar, leaving it outdated. Their attempt to rectify the situation with WordStar 2000 was a complete disaster and only alienated the user base further - some of whom migrated to NewWord. WordStar 4 (NewWord plus minor additions) was too late, WordPerfect had already overtaken WordStar on the premise of easier use, and by providing better customer support (see: A Brief Personal History of PC Bugs).
[...] Although individuals would buy more WordStar in 1985, and large businesses would buy more MultiMate, government offices and agencies would buy more WordPerfect.
-- Pete Peterson, in _Almost Perfect_ http://www.fitnesoft.com/AlmostPerfect/ap_chap06.html
In 12 months a team of 12 people produced WordStar 2000, a great improvement over WordStar in terms of ease of use and feature set. However Dan died, and the marketing dept. head, Leigh Marriner was given control over the future of WordStar. Needless to say, the marketing dept., once it got total control of the product went and destroyed the company. I think one can conclude that MicroPro destroyed itself. It had millions of loyal users, and if it had continued evolving WordStar it could have stayed #1 or #2 indefinitely.
-- Edward de Jong, in message to Mike Petrie 18 Apr 2000
Then with the advent of Microsoft's Windows 3.0 and its wholesale adoption, WordStar was doomed. WordStar for Windows arrived too late and its updates from version 1.0, to 1.1, 1.5, and finally 2.0 were too slow to appear - it didn't stand a chance, which saw its price slashed to around 10-20% of its original price within two short years. It also didn't work in a way familiar to WordStar for DOS users, who had hoped for a Windows version of the original DOS program, and so saw little sales advantage from their switching to Windows.
|1978||WordStar 2.x||CP/M||Possibly 1979?|
|1982||WordStar 3.x||CP/M &
|Also the CP/M-86 version?|
|1983||NewWord 1.0||MS-DOS||WordStar clone released by NewStar|
|1984||NewWord 2.0||MS-DOS||Added many missing features that WordStar users had been asking for.|
|1985||WordStar 2000 Release 1||MS-DOS||A new software engine which began the use of separate printer definition files (PDF). New pull-down menus and mnemonic keyboard command system.|
|1985||WordStar 2000 1.01||AT&T UNIX||Part of the Office Productivity Series software for the AT&T UNIX PC.|
|1985||MicroPro Easy 1.x
|MS-DOS||WordStar 3.3 software engine, with menus and PDF files from WordStar 2000 1-2. It also was sold under the name WordStar Express and WordStar 1512 (for the Amstrad 1512 PC).|
|1986||NewWord 3.0||MS-DOS||Added macros, maths, spelling during editing, and DOS directory and path support, which was still missing from the genuine WordStar.|
|1986?||WordStar 2000 Release 2||MS-DOS||Speed improvements.|
|1987||WordStar 4.x||CP/M &
|A merger of the NewWord WordStar clone, and WordStar 3.3 around the NewWord software engine.|
|1987||WordStar 2000 Plus Release 3||MS-DOS||Speed and efficiency improvements. Star Exchange file conversion program added. Increased printer support.|
|1988||WordStar 5.x||MS-DOS||Step by step upgrades started, beginning with a new software engine in WordStar 5. New file format introduced to allow 'text styles'.|
|1991||WordStar Legacy||Windows 3.0||Remarketed NBI Legacy for Windows, a legal word processor with DTP capability.|
|1991 - 1992||WordStar for Windows 1.0 & 1.1||Windows 3.0||Based on the NBI Legacy code, purchased by WordStar International and given the option of using WordStar key mapping.|
|1992||WordStar 7.0c TextBook Edition||MS-DOS||Cut down training version bundled with the tutorial book 'WordStar Included'.|
|1992||WordStar 7.0d||MS-DOS||The last release. Version 7 added mouse and Windows clipboard support and a macro programming language.|
|1992||WordStar for Windows 1.5||Windows 3.1||Major update to improve reliability and incorporate new Windows 3.1 features.|
|1994||WordStar for Windows 2.0||Windows 3.1||Added macro programming, major interface overhaul, MDI support, and much needed bug fixes.|
|1995||WordStar for Windows 2.0
|Windows 3.1||Trial version without macro editor and spelling check dictionary. Free with UK computer magazines (Sept) PC Answers & (Dec) PC Plus.|
|1997||Xoom Word Pro 1.0||Windows 9x||Win3x program but with Win9x installer. WordStar for Windows 2.0 with a buggy 1995 Houghton Speller and Thesaurus and a menu reworking intended to be more familiar to users of Microsoft Word. MS Word 6 default file format. Shareware.|
|1998 - 1999||WordStar 7.0d||MS-DOS||WordStar 7.0d, disks only, available again - TLC Customer Support spares?|
From the People Involved:
|1||emails Barnaby - Petrie||Rob Barnaby||NED
WordStar 1 for CP/M
|2||Rubenstein - Petrie||Seymour Rubinstein||Micropro International
WordStar for CP/M
WordStar for DOS
|3||Jim Fox's Résumé &
emails Fox - Petrie
|Jim Fox||WordStar 2 for DOS
WordStar 2 for CP/M
|4||emails de Jong - Petrie||Edward de Jong||WordStar 2000 for DOS|
|5||emails Fried - Petrie||Robin Fried||WordStar 2000 for DOS
WordStar for Windows
|6||emails Williams - Petrie||Corbett Williams||WordStar 7 for DOS,
WordStar for Windows
|5||Whatever Happened to WordStar?||John Dvorak|
|6||The NewWord Era||John Dvorak|
|7||SoftKey International Plays Hardball - SoftKey's hostile acquisition of The Learning Co.||Karen Southwick (UpsideToday)|
|8||Corel Bites The Big One - Corel CD Office||Paul Kedrosky (UpsideToday)|
|9||Cash Me If You Can - WordStar Legacy||See second para of page.|
|10||Brief Personal History of PC Bugs||Stephen Manes|
|11||WordStar, The First Word Processors - Inventors||Mary Bellis|
|12||ComputerUser Industry Interview - SoftKey International Inc.||interview with Alexander Hoag, SoftKey International's vice president of development|
|13||Prompt Software (Seymour Rubinstein)||Seymour Rubinstein|
|14||Merger of WordStar International, Spinnaker Software Corporation, and SoftKey Software Products Inc.||Securities and Exchange Commission Qurterly Report for qurterly period ending April 1, 1995|
|15||TECO and WordStar||TECO; ED; NED; WordMaster and WordStar|
From the WordStar Mail List Archives:
|16||RE: Good Speed||3/9/1997||Mike Petrie|
|17||Re: Wordstar Express ...||20/2/1999||Philip Griffin-Allwood|
|18||Re: [WS][HISTORY]||24/3/1999||Mark P. Fishman|
|19||Re: [WS][HISTORY] Subject Prefixes||24/3/1999||Philip Griffin-Allwood|
|20||WordStar 3x upgrade||2/7/1999||Philip Griffin-Allwood|
|21||Questions on WS 7.0a for DOS||3/12/1999||Judith Miner|
Copyright © 1999-2011 Michael Petrie, United Kingdom.