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When what is old is new again

Sometimes, as we look back at developments of the recent past, we realize that things don’t always progress in a linear fashion, but instead in a skewed circle or spiral. That’s what I thought as I got involved in the HTML coding that makes this site work as a web page for you.

Why did I think this? About 20 years ago, a word processing software package called XyWrite was the rage, archive.salon.com/21st/feature/1998/08/25feature.html. It used in-line coding strings to indicate italics , bold , superscript , subscript , and other characters, which the final output device would then interpret and format correctly. The DOS-friendly application was command-line driven, not menu-driven. Although I never got into it or became part of the cult, XyWrite had a devoted following during and even well after its heyday; I still meet senior writers and editors who glow with nostalgia when they hear the word.

Then the Macintosh and WSYIWYG (what you see is what you get) came along, and editing changed forever. The text on screen looked like the final print output. Menus and shortcuts let you format characters and strings. To me, WYSIWYG was a blessing, it let see what I was doing and do what I wanted. Now most people use MS Word with WYSIWYG as their standard.

So what, you say? To make the page you are reading Web friendly, we use HTML coding that brackets the text with special codes. Hmmmm…sounds familiar…..And while HTML coding and presentation is far more powerful and flexible than WYSIWYG, it still strikes me as ironic that we have gone back to a form of text coding that used to be the hottest game in town, only to be pushed aside by WYSIWYG, which in turn is feeling the pressure.

I suppose it’s as they say: never count anything out, and nothing is lasts forever in this business. After all, we wrote off germanium semiconductors as inferior to silicon, only to find out that the former has some very desirable properties—and millions of dollars have been invested in SiGe technology!

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