The following was taken from a post on the
Eric Fischer wrote:
> Would you believe me if I told you WordStar started out life as a
> simplified version of TECO?
Well, somewhat. I just look through some old TECO docs and its command
set really doesn't look much like what I remember from
ed/ned/wordmaster/wordstar. But it was a while back. Let me tell you
what I remember about the birth of WordStar. Maybe we can piece it all
I worked at IMSAI when Rob Barnaby (Hi, Rob) started working on his
editor. Rob was guru of system software, improving the stock C/PM
stuff. He added file buffering so you could edit a file larger than
memory and other useful and needed functions. This was all pretty
Now, as I recall, C/PM's _ed_ was a stripped down version of a line
editor whose commands are similar to other editors of the time. I seem
to recall there was a programming book that used an editor a similar
command set as an example. Nothing new or extaordinary.
He dearly hated _ed_, but I think it was more that he really liked
having the resources of something like a TOPS-20 machine and, of
course, TECO. He was, at one time, a system programmer for TOPS-20 and
he showed me what a REAL _list_ program could do by showing me the
thick manual for the 20's _list_ command, which had his name on it.
The man could code.
Anyway, this was just at the time when IMSAI started shipping their
video board. Rob took one of those video boards and since he felt the
video card was broken, (in reverse video the rectangular character
region would switch from black to white but the border would stay
black) he hacked the hardware and we all liked it so much it became an
official engineering change.
Now he had a video board and a line editor. Not a match, so he wrote
an editor which had C/PM _ed_'s command set and added a video mode.
This was also about the time that IMSAI was trying to brand a version
of C/PM which they called IMDOS. So just to be sure, I believe the
_ed_ for IMDOS was rewritten from the ground up so IMSAI could control
the code. He added a visual mode with command sequences he liked. I'm
sure that he used some stuff from TECO, but one of his best
contributions was the visual mode commands. More on that later.
The code was improved on a regular basis but it wasn't clear whether
it was a company project or Rob's own baby. The ownership of the code
changed hands at some point and you'll have to talk to Bill Millard,
founder of IMSAI, and Seymour Rubinstein, one time Marketing Manager
of IMSAI and founder of MicroPro to get the straight poop. At some
point the editor change from _ed_ to _ned_. I have a couple of 8"
floppies with a copy of _ned's_ source. I haven't put in in a drive
for 10-15 years. Nice momento tho.
Well, Rob left IMSAI and helped found MicroPro with Seymour and
Bill Millard was busy with his "Computerland" ne' "Computer Shack"
(guess what happened there ;^). IMSAI sorta wound down and went the
way of all flesh and I lost touch with most of the players. Others
from IMSAI worked for MicroPro, most notable Joe Killian, designer of
the IMSAI cpu board and owner of the ranch next to Skywalker Ranch in
Marin, CA (yes, that skywalker) and Bruce Van Natta, a for real "wild
and crazy" guy (he used duck tape to keep the hood 'attached' to his
Honda 600 car until it died a natural death).
Getting back to WordStar, if you look the command set carefully you'll
notice that the commands are clustered and arranged so that a person
with short fingers could keep their fingers on the home row, push
control with one of your pinkies and issue most of the useful
commands. The visual mode commands were designed to be simple and easy
to use rather than be mnemonic. Cursor movement, for example is, IIRC,
a diamond group of keys on the left side of the keyboard. Move right
by hitting the right key in the diamond, move down by hitting the
lower one. Rob told me he never really liked any screen editor's
command set. So he built his own. Q registers and other stuff may well
have been lifted from TECO. But a lot of WordStar is pure Barnaby.
His on screen context sensitive help (menus) were, to my mind, a great
addition to a great editor.
Boy, am I rambling. Time for a beer.