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Revisionist History of Microsoft Word

Microsoft noted the 40th anniversary of Microsoft Word with a typically glossy and highly selective history plus some vague platitudes about the future of Word.

Their graphic does show how far Word has come from its early days.

Source: Microsoft

Of course, plenty has been skipped over in this sanitized history.

Like the, literally, thick book of bugs and workarounds for Word macros in the days before VBA. 

Long time Word users (there are millions of us) will remember the countless patches including the many faulty ones that caused more bugs in Word.

Long, endless path to a secure Word

Let’s not forget Microsoft willful blindness to the dangers of infected documents with dangerous macros.  Originally Microsoft dismissed them as ‘prank macros’ (their term to downplay the problem).  Only when the problem was widespread did Microsoft suddenly ‘discover’ the risk and start to act.

At the time, one very senior Redmond executive said publicly that security problems were the fault of customers because they didn’t tell Microsoft about the problem!  Total bollocks of course, plenty of customers and Microsoft staff were complaining but management didn’t want to listen.

They’ve been playing ‘catch up’ ever since with fixes for security bugs in Word and Office still being released almost every month.

Plenty to appreciate and pay for

Certainly Word has improved a lot in forty years. Spelling checking was clumsy, grammar and style checks didn’t exist at all.  Sharing documents meant carrying on floppy disks since email was rare and could not cope with larger attachments. 

Word documents, pre-2007, were a lot larger, less reliable and less secure.

Microsoft sometimes acts as if they are being generous ignoring the fact that we’re all paying customers who have poured untold billions into the company and are sometimes let down.

The future – Microsoft style

Finally here’s Microsoft’s view of the future.  You just knew that “carrying the torch” would appear in the clichés.  How much of this was written in AI?

As we look to the future, we are committed to carrying the torch and building on the foundation that was put in place in 1983. Our unwavering focus is on ensuring that Word scales to support users as they complete any writing and reading tasks – anything from straightforward to complex – as efficiently as possible.

To that end, we’re investing in several areas and are excited to share an overview of our plans with you!

  • Shepherding in the age of AI: Copilot provides a fundamental shift in writing & reading experiences. Our goal is to continuously iterate on feedback we get from you, our users, as you create and read content, while leveraging Copilot across platforms and devices.
  • Make your words shine with Word for the web: We’re continuing to invest and innovate in Word for the web to make it a great creation and consumption tool. This includes using your feedback to prioritize our areas of investment.
  • Write better together: Word has been at the center of collaborative content creation since its inception. Over the years, we’ve made it easier to co-create with others, provide feedback, exchange ideas, and produce quality content. We’re committed to providing a consisted experience and ensuring that Word remains THE place to efficiently create, edit, and review content, matter where you are, who you are working with, or what device you’re using.
  • Extensibility as a customization driver: We are committed to giving Word developers the tools and capabilities they need to build amazing experiences and support custom workflows.
  • Word as your favorite consumption app: It’s not just about content creation. Word is a great place to read the documents that matter to you, on any device, wherever you are.

Happy Birthday, Microsoft Word

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