Microsoft Word turns 25

A look back at the changes and challenges Microsoft's flagship word-processing program has been through during its first quarter-century
Enter Microsoft -- and Xenix: Simonyi (at left of inset photo), developer of Xerox Bravo, joined up with Microsoft after he received an offer from Bill Gates in 1981.

Enter Microsoft -- and Xenix: Simonyi (at left of inset photo), developer of Xerox Bravo, joined up with Microsoft after he received an offer from Bill Gates in 1981.

  • Enter Microsoft -- and Xenix: Simonyi (at left of inset photo), developer of Xerox Bravo, joined up with Microsoft after he received an offer from Bill Gates in 1981.
  • Welcome to Windows: The company released Word 1.0 for Windows (seen here) in 1989.
  • The version diversion: After launching its Windows Word as Version 1.0, Microsoft naturally followed with Word 2.0 (1991).
  • The early DOS days: Word 1.0 was first released for Xenix and MS-DOS in October 1983.
  • The birth of Clippy
  • From upstart to market king: Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Word: The next generation
  • Drop-down shenanigans: In Word 2000 for Windows, Microsoft included a questionable interface design change.
  • Meanwhile, on the Mac ... At Gates' urging, Jeffery Harbers led a team at Microsoft to port Word to Apple's fledgling Macintosh in 1985.
  • The First WYSIWYG word processor: Xerox Bravo
  • Features overload!
  • Farewell, Clippy: In Word 2002 (released with Office XP in 2001), Microsoft seized the anti-Clippy mania by the horns and turned it into a marketing tool.
  • The other OS: In 1992, Microsoft produced a version of Word for IBM OS/2 (1.1B is seen here)
  • The GUI goes DOS: Word for MS-DOS reached its height with Versions 5.5 (1991, seen here) and 6.0 (1993).

If you've been using Microsoft Word for the past quarter of a century, it can seem like Word has always been the top dog of the word-processing world--and for years, it's been incorporated into Microsoft's Office suite. Today, Microsoft's domination is so complete that, from the public's point of view, there is almost no "word-processor market." (Does anyone remember Lotus Manuscript?)

In fact, Microsoft's word processing program got off to a shaky and awkward start in October 1983, and it didn't become all-consuming until at least five years later. Even as Word adopted the market-leading position, it suffered its share of stinging criticisms and setbacks. This is the story, briefly, of how Microsoft Word evolved on its 25-year journey from obscure upstart to Absolute King of the (Software) World.

The First WYSIWYG Word Processor: Xerox Bravo

Before there was Word, there was Bravo, the world's first WYSIWYG ("what you see is what you get") word processor. Charles Simonyi and Butler Lampson developed the revolutionary program at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in 1974 for an amazing machine called the Xerox Alto. The Alto holds the distinction of being the first computer to use a mouse and a graphical user interface (GUI). Although Xerox never sold the Alto commercially, its long-lasting influence can be felt today in all modern computers and operating systems, including a little application called Microsoft Word.

Enter Microsoft--and Xenix

Charles Simonyi, developer of Xerox Bravo, joined up with Microsoft after he received an offer from Bill Gates in 1981. On day one of his long tenure, Gates, Paul Allen, and Simonyi decided to produce database, spreadsheet, and word processor applications. Simonyi soon hired a former Xerox intern named Richard Brodie and began work on "Multi-Tool Word." With Brodie doing most of the programming, they developed version 1.0 in Microsoft's Xenix (a UNIX-like operating system, now defunct). Not long after, marketing scrapped the "Multi-Tool" part of the name as being too cumbersome, and "Microsoft Word" was born.

The Early DOS Days

Word 1.0 was first released for Xenix and MS-DOS in October 1983. DOS versions 1.0 through 5.0 looked nearly identical to the screen shot seen here. These early versions of Word featured a sometimes confusing "moded" interface (the same keys could perform different tasks in different modes, or submenus) that harkened back to its Bravo roots.

It was a step up from competitor Corel WordPerfect's arcane function-key combinations, but a better interface was on the horizon--although it would take a different computer entirely to bring it to Word.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Benj Edwards

PC World
Topics: microsoft word
Comments are now closed.

Latest News Articles

Most Popular Articles

Follow Us

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Resources

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Compare & Save

Deals powered by WhistleOut
Use WhistleOut's technology to compare:
Mobile phone plans & deals
Mobile phone models
Mobile phone carriers
Broadband plans & deals
Broadband providers
Deals powered by WhistleOut
WhistleOut

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?