For many people, word processing is the computer application they are most familiar with; it is also the main reason for the explosion in popularity of PCs in the 1980s. The descendant of typing, words are written on a "virtual" page which allows the user to make corrections, insert or delete text and reformat it without having to retype the whole. As a data file, the word-processed text can also be copied an infinite number of times if so desired; equally an infinite number of printed copies can be made from one file.
Word-processing programmes (for example Microsoft Word, MacWrite) also contain thesauruses and dictionaries and offer users the ability to check the spelling of words they are uncertain of; this has been of particular benefit to people with problems such as dyslexia and non-native language speakers. Text can also be dictated using voice recognition software, although development is still in its infancy.
These latter aspects of word processing were foretold in Angela Brazil's A Popular Schoolgirl (Blackie & Son, London, 1920, pp35, 76-7):
. . . Fil's spelling was proverbial in the form, and was
often of a purely phonetic character. Miss Strong had periodical crusades
to improve it, but generally gave them up as a bad job, and recommended
constant use of a dictionary instead.
[Later, Fil sighs to Ingred] "I wish . . . that someone would invent a typewriter that would just spell the words ready-made when you press a button."
"There's a fortune waiting for the man who does," agreed Ingred. " 'The Royal-Road-To-Learning Typewriter: spells of itself.' It would sell by the million, I should think."
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