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In the movie, Stand by me, at the end, Gordon is finishing his book on a computer and using some kind of text editor.

The text editor is extremely basic and has no formatting options visible.

I am wondering if this is a real computer back then, 1986, and it is a real text editor.

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  • There were no visible formatting options in 1986 in any IBM-compatible word processor. Word Perfect was notable for being a word processor that had a markup layer, shown using the "reveal codes" command. The markup would determine whether the actual printout was bold, italics, what font would be used, etc. A little bit like the markdown for text on this site, for example *italics* for italics. But in the 80s, the only time you saw the actual rendering of the markup was when you printed. This is one thing that the original Macintosh innovated on. Jul 15, 2023 at 0:17
  • How did they film that and why's there no screen door on the pixels?
    – Mazura
    Jul 15, 2023 at 15:06
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    I doubt that it's actually a real editor. The typing sound doesn't match the pace that the letters appears on screen so the sound is obviously added in post, and the timing of the letters are too uniform, as if someone wrote a script to print letters one by one in a simple loop and delay rather than actually recording someone actually typing something.
    – Lie Ryan
    Jul 15, 2023 at 17:04
  • Real computer (IBM PC or XT) with IBM monochrome monitor. 100% FAKE IMAGE. One of the wonderful things about the IBM MDA and matching monitor was the 80 column, 25 row high-resolution (9x14 character cell) screen. The images in the movie show a 40-character line length. That was likely to make it easily readable to viewers. And 40-character lines were quite common on more home-oriented computers (e.g., standard Apple ][), but not in monochrome (MDA) on an IBM PC or XT. Fake! So "what text editor or word processor" is meaningless as it was all fake for the movie. Jul 16, 2023 at 4:42

2 Answers 2

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That's an IBM PC XT with a Model F keyboard. The text editor appears to be nonsense, noting that he doesn't save his screenplay at the end, and only turns off the monitor anyway.

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    Turning off the monitor made some sense back then because they could burn. So maybe he didn't want to have to boot the computer later so he left that on and turned the monitor off to keep it from burning in. Jul 15, 2023 at 0:14
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    @ToddWilcox - It's certainly fun to imagine that's what the director actually had in mind.
    – Valorum
    Jul 15, 2023 at 0:35
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    @nobody - I'm fast coming to the opinion that the "power button" on the side of Gordon's monitor is actually stuck on with glue.
    – Valorum
    Jul 15, 2023 at 15:04
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    @ToddWilcox In theory, sure. In practice, the 5151 display did not have its own power switch. Its power cord plugged in to a receptacle on the back of the PC power supply that was controlled by the big red toggle switch on the right-hand side of the case.
    – nobody
    Jul 15, 2023 at 20:12
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    It has always been very common in TV and movies to conflate the display power with the computer power. Most TV/movie actors and directors were not very computer literate. The scene reminds me of the end scenes of Doogie Houser, when he was writing in his diary.
    – Barmar
    Jul 16, 2023 at 3:19
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That looks a lot like an IBM-5150 (1981-1987) or maybe its successor the XT (1983-1987). Although it was priced at $1600, I wouldn't be surprised that a successful author would have one of those to work on.

As for the software - software UI was very basic in 1985 - practically no GUI, and commands were accessed with your keyboard's Fn buttons and key combinations (like in Vi or Nano in a terminal). Word processors were very very basic.

It's also likely the author isn't even using a word processor - manuscripts don't usually need a lot of formatting other than indentation, and could be written in an ordinary text editor.

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  • Seems like even a basic text editor would have a visible cursor, at least. Jul 16, 2023 at 2:04
  • Maybe, maybe not... It could be the cursor only shows if it's not at the end of the current text.
    – HorusKol
    Jul 16, 2023 at 7:54

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