Originally uploaded by Camera Wences
I read a very interesting article last week about Al Rogers' Apple II word processor, FrEdWriter, or Free Education Writer. Created in 1985, this word processor was a de facto standard for years in classrooms. Mr. Rogers designed the program around a not-so-popular public domain program called FreeWriter and re-marketed with an extremely easy-to-use interface, Spanish support, and the ability for teachers to leave on-screen prompts to guide student writing. Additionally, FrEdWriter was free: users had to pay a small charge for the software on a disk, but the splash-screen tells users to feel free to make as many copies as they want and to distribute FrEdWriter freely.
I wanted to give FrEdWriter a try, so I downloaded the file. It came compressed as a bin file, as often is the case with some of this old software. The problem was that I did not have a program that would properly decode binary files on the Apple II. I did my research and decided BinSCII looked like the best program for my needs. Of course BinSCII came as an "exec" file, essentially a text file that the Apple II is able to execute to build a compressed copy of the program. Transferring the file from my Mac to the Apple IIgs ended up creating on the IIgs a document without the proper creator code, indicated in a catalog by a "$00" designation. I tried using ProTYPE on the Mac with no luck. I was able to use ResEdit, however, to change the creator code and have the file recognized as ASCII text, an encouraging sign. However, when I exec'd the file, it would throw syntax errors. Listing the program showed that the line breaks were munged. Back on the Mac I opened the exec file with SubEthaEdit. In the Remarks at the beginning of the file it specifies line endings need to be Carriage Feeds, not Line Feeds. SubEthaEdit allows you to convert all line endings to the proper Carriage Feed setting. After moving the file back to the IIgs I was finally able to exec it!
Success! FrEdWriter is a nice little word processor. It supports 80 columns, which is nice, and it comes with an on-board tutorial that walks you through using it. Although it was a challenge to get the toolset in place, it was rewarding and interesting to take a walk down memory lane and see the word processor that dominated in the education market.