Friday, July 5, 2024

Bruce Bastian, RIP

Thomas Claburn:

Bastian helped create the word processing application that became WordPerfect while still a graduate student at Brigham Young University, working with Alan Ashton, his computer science professor.

They formed Satellite Software International (SSI) in 1979 and released an initial version of the software in March 1980 under the name SSI*WP for the Data General minicomputer. It cost $5,500 at the time, according to W. E. Pete Peterson, who wrote a history of the WordPerfect Corporation in the book Almost Perfect.


Microsoft Windows also debuted in 1985 and its rapid adoption in the years that followed meant WordPerfect had to compete on a new platform. By July 1991, WordPerfect’s share had started to slip and within a few years, Windows and Word had taken over.


As The Washington Post noted at the time, WordPerfect lost significant market share during the first half of the 1990s due to Microsoft’s strategy of bundling its Word application with other office software and selling them as a suite of applications.

There was a period in the mid-90s when WordPerfect was my favorite Mac word processor. It was not particularly Mac-like; it just worked really well. At the time, one of my issues with Microsoft Word was that the formatting would get all screwed up, and it was really hard to debug it. You couldn’t see which styling and spacing commands were attached to which bits of text. Most of the time, the problem was within a run of whitespace, so everything was invisible and it wasn’t clear where to click. Sometimes you’d have to just delete the whole section and start over. WordPerfect had a mode where you could show all the formatting codes. You could see—and edit—them like pseudo–HTML tags mixed in with the text. This made it easy to see exactly where to put the insertion point. You could even put it between “tags” and start typing to separate two regions that would seem glued together when Reveal Codes was off.

Michael S. Rosenwald:

Highly customizable, with a free customer support line, WordPerfect emerged from a crowded market of upstart word processors as the go-to choice of new personal computer users. (Among its fans was Philip Roth, who used it until he retired in 2012, long after the program was supplanted in popularity by Microsoft Word.)

Curtis Booker (via Hacker News):

Bastian stepped down from his role as chairman of WordPerfect in 1994 and the company was sold to Novell a short time later.

Bastian would go on to focus his time on charitable causes and philanthropy. In 1997, he started the B.W. Bastian Foundation, whose commitment is to only support organizations that fully embrace equality.


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My family got WordPerfect with our first Mac in 1992, I think because it's what my dad's company used on their DOS/Windows machines at work. I remember really liking it more than Word 5.1 for Mac (also a beloved app) and used it through my later years of high school and into college. It came with a honkin' big manual and a keyboard layover for the function keys on the Apple Extended II keyboard. I don't think WordPerfect for Mac was surpassed until a few releases into the Mac BU era of Word.

I've got fond memories of WordPerfect, long my preference over Word back when they were still competing. "Reveal codes" was fantastic, and made it so much easier to work with than Word.

Terry Alyn Maraccini

We used the word perfect in our publishing company for many many years in the early 1990s. It was simply the best reveal codes made it very easy to debug before sending text over to the infamous quark express.

I remember a guy I knew who used WordPerfect for Mac in Classic for as many years as he could. He swore by it! Would write everything he could in it.

For anyone with an older PowerPC Mac running Tiger or lower, this site has some stuff prebuilt for just that purpose:

And for those who want to run the old Mac version on MacOS, Windows, or technically even Linux:

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