When people talk about their ZX Spectrums, they tend to talk about games. In fact the spectrum was seen mostly as a games machine and, compared to its main rivals, the Commodore 64 and the Amstrad CPC, it seemed to be lacking in more serious software. Some of us, however, wanted to use those rubber keyboards to cushion our fingers as we churned out pages of natural language text to be printed out on noisy dot matrix printers, or burned on to zx thermal paper. For this task, we needed a word processor.

And so, in steps Tasman Software with their Tasword product. There were other word processors available of course -- I wrote one myself once as a young Z80 coder (although it was crap) -- but Tasword was the one everyone used. It wasn't without its bugs either. Actually, it was swimming with bugs and was not unknown to lose your work with an alarming regularity.

Tasword seems to have been mainly available in three versions. Tasword Two seems to be the original; I can find no references to a Tasword One -- which presumably existed at some point. Tasword 128 was a slightly updated version of Tasword two, taking advantage of some of the new features of the Spectrum 128+. Then there was Tasword three. Unlike the previous versions, which were available on cassette tape, Tasword was only available on Microdrive and +3 Disk, as well as a version for the Sinclair QL.

One of the problems for word processing on the Spectrum was the screen resolution. As standard, a speccy will only place 32 characters across the screen, nowhere near enough to look good when printed out on A4 (although plenty enough to fill up a ZX Printer). Tasword Two squeezed extra use of the pixels to get 64 characters across, but people wanted the 80 columns that most printers would produce. Tasword Three reached this goal by using a scrolling-window to fit 128 characters on a line. Tasword Three also was the first spectrum word processor to include a keyboard buffer; no more losing whole words because the speccy got busy for a moment.

Towards the end of the 8-bit era, Tasword faced competition. On the Sinclair QL, The Quill was the word processor of choice, and The Writer was an effort to bring some of its features the the Spectrum. Writer had drop-down menus, which were easier to use than Tasword's combination of confusing key-combinations and separate full screen menus for file functions. Still, Tasword remained the essential spectrum word processor for most of its life, and deserves a place in home computer history.

Packaged in a nice shiny silver box with manual, I had a copy of Tasword Two on Microdrive and used it with a daisy-wheel typewriter and a parrelel interface for all my word processing needs until somewhere around 1995. In fact, I'd probably still be using it if I hadn't have lost my Interface One a couple of years ago, at least until I discovered LaTeX.

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