Thursday, March 20, 2008

Recreating the wordprocessing environment of the 80s: WhiteRoom, DarkRoom, "distraction free writing"


I do remember my first computer, a Radio Shack TRS-80, a complete console unit for about $3700, that I bought in December 1981. I remember the black and white embedded monitor and the 64 character screen, with white characters on a black oval screen. There was no hard drive, just large floppies.

Rob Pegoraro has a retrospect this morning (March 20, 2008) in The Washington Post Business Section, D1, “Fast Forward: That Green Again,” (link: about a laptop(it seems to have a special operating system, or maybe Linux, or maybe something like the “one laptop per child” initiative) with an application called Whiteroom, that blacks everything on the computer and turns it into a typewriter, with a black screen and light green characters (like the early IBM and compatibles). The software is available from Hogbayroom and offers “distraction free writing.” The Hogbayroom website is not real clear as to system requirements, as far as I could tell. (If someone knows, please comment.) I don’t know whether the freelance writers I met in various Minneapolis forums would. I think it works with wordprocessing, but not with screenwriting software (like FinalDraft). But, remember how writers used to work? (Ad in the 1991 Coen Brothers movie Barton Fink?)

I do recall the advice of the "Writers Digest" crowd in the early 80s, to buy a computer that was specifically designed for writers. How things have changed since then! I remember those times fondly, before the Internet, when it was felt that quick advances in hardcopy desktop publishing could give enterprising writers a competitive advantage -- but there was no efficient way yet to "publish yourself."

There is a competing product for the Windows environment called “Dark Room” at this link.

I don’t think any of these will help me with my big “first novel” (all 42 chapters on my hard drive – and backed up many times – as I write), or my screenplays.

Rob Pegoraro 's tech Q&A column in the Post is here.

Of course, modern computers look like "Darkroom" in safe mode (Dell is white on gray).

No comments: