A book examining how the interests and ideals of creative authorship came to coexist with the computer revolution. Who were the first adopters? What kind of anxieties did they share? Was word processing perceived as just a better typewriter or something more? How did it change our understanding of writing?
...without more detail, we can’t really know what happens between the (paper) sheets or the revisions of computer screens. There is lots else we can discover, though, in Mr. Kirschenbaum’s survey ... The best part of Track Changes, in fact, is its attempt to recapture the initial encounters with the technology ... One of the satisfactions of Track Changes is the discovery that other writers felt, as I did, that the best word-processing program was one of the first: the now-defunct WordStar from the 1970s and ’80s.
...fine and erudite...[but] in arguing for the literary history of the word processor, Kirschenbaum overstates the ease with which humanities scholars can interpret the political and artistic lives of objects. The invention of the word processor may have changed literary composition for the Updikes of the world, but it also facilitated the destruction of an essential genre of work usually done by women: secretarial labor.
As Kirschenbaum’s history reminds us, the story of personal computers supplanting older systems dedicated to word processing—and writers’ larger commitment to abandoning pens and ink and typewriter ribbons and correction fluid—was hardly the fait accompli that we sometimes think it was. His book attempts a full literary history of this shift. To do so, he ranges across a number of phenomena: the technical and managerial prehistories of the word-processing revolution; the imaginative, sometimes allegorical literary responses to how work was managed...and most prominently, how word processing both tapped into and reflected writers’ anxieties about their whole enterprise.