The year of the Amstrad: how writers learned to love the computer

Much of this writing presumably never found a reader. And since the Amstrad had no easy way of connecting with another machine, these half-written memoirs and abandoned novels must now lie trapped in unreadable 3in floppy disks, binned or hidden at the backs of drawers. These losses are the price we pay for the elusiveness of a digital world that stores information not in material traces but in ethereal forms like binary ones and zeros. A book can now go from word file to email attachment to PDF proof to ebook, with no intervening encounter with paper and ink. The Amstrad did its bit to make this new world possible: it was the grisly beige gulag that gave birth to billions of words.

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