May 15, 2014
Game Of Thrones Scribe Uses DOS Computer
Finally, we have an answer as to why it is taking George R.R. Martin so long to finish writing the sixth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series: he’s using WordStar 4.0 running on DOS! In other words, Martin, whose work serves as the basis of HBO’s Game of Thrones, is using technology that was commonplace in the early 1990s, and anyone who remembers those old computers knows it took (seemingly) forever for it to boot up.
In fairness to Martin, he told talk show host Conan O’Brien that using this antiquated technology actually helps his process. For one thing, it means there aren’t distractions such as email and instant messaging. The other reason is that WordStar 4.0 lacks the spell check and autocorrects – which might seem like a downside until you consider he’s writing about a fictional world with unique spellings, made up places and names.
Certainly it wouldn’t be hard to add all that to the dictionary, but writers have their own processes. Ernest Hemingway was known to stand while writing.
However, there is more to consider. A Game of Thrones, the first novel in the series, was published in 1997 and Martin had been working on it for some time. By 1997, Windows 95 was becoming commonplace, but DOS was still fairly widely used. Bringing that original work to Word wouldn’t have been that difficult, but it likely would have created some formatting issues.
As Martin likely goes back to past novels as he writes, it could be easy just to stick with what he has. Each update to a new program would also mean having to re-add all those names, places, etc. back into the dictionary. That would only slow the writing process, which could make it hard to keep the creative juices flowing.
While using an older word processing program probably does slow the editing process, as his editors and publisher need to bring over the work to a modern word processing program, this in many ways is just a throwback to how it was done just 20 years ago.
This reporter is old enough to remember the days when stories were still typed on a typewriter – double spaced of course – and faxed to the editor, who would have it entered into a computer system by an editorial assistant! Those good old days are fortunately in the past
Martin is currently 65 years old, and while he’s no Luddite by any means, we also have to accept that as technology advances, it can become ever complicated. Again, I can relate. I’ve ranted for years on how software publishers (Microsoft, I’m mostly talking about you!) continue to change (they say “improve”) the user experience. Is Word 2007 really an improvement over Word 2003? And for the record, yes, I typed this rant on a PC running Word 2007 – and for the record I only recently made the jump to Windows 8. This only happened because my Windows 7 computer was having security problems.
For Martin, who is using a DOS machine, he doesn’t worry about security because chances are the computer isn’t connected to the Web. He probably still saves everything to those 3.5-inch floppy disks.
And if it seems that Martin might be stuck in the past, consider too that he writes about a world that likely is little changed after 1,000 years. For those of us in our fast-paced world, technology from just 20 years ago seems ancient. For Martin, he moves at a slower pace, but he has written one truly captivating story – let’s just hope that next book arrives soon!
Image Credit: Team Coco / TBS