Rhodri Marsden: Believe it or not, the author of Game of Thrones likes to keep it simple

 

I'm typing this on a blank screen. If we disregard the pigeon outside my window and the movement of my fingers on the keyboard, there are no other visual distractions. No menus, no toolbars, no bouncing alerts, no wavy lines to help with my speling (sic) or opportunities to change the way that the words look. It's got to be that way.

My capacity for distraction eclipses my capacity for knuckling down; thankfully, the software I use recognises this and I thank the developers for it, otherwise I'd be typing this at 8pm rather than 3pm. I'm barely using five per cent of the features of the software, and less than one per cent of the computer's processor power, but I have to forget about that unused capacity. It's like using an industrial-strength hydraulic plate compactor to crack a nut, but I have to pretend otherwise.

Some solidarity on this issue comes in the formidable shape of George R R Martin, writer of the novels that were adapted into the TV series Game Of Thrones. A few days ago, he explained on an American chat show that he does all his writing on a DOS-based PC running WordStar 4.1, a word processor that's more than 20 years old and that was probably deemed obsolete until he casually mentioned that it's the power behind a publishing phenomenon. Martin's gripe was the same as mine; if the technology you're using is more powerful than the technology you need to get the job done, the resulting gap inevitably gets filled with activities that have nothing to do with that job – making things look nice, reorganising filing systems and, worst of all, idly looking for videos of feats of strength on YouTube.

Phrases such as "feature creep" and "bloatware" are commonly used to describe the way applications become heftier, rapidly growing in size and eventually busting their zip. Whether it's software manufacturers desperately trying to satisfy the insatiable hunger of ever-larger processors, or simply trying to give their developers something to do every day, applications can become grotesque distortions of their earlier, simpler iterations.

I remember the horror that greeted the release of the monstrous version 6.0 of Microsoft Word in the mid 1990s; it was enough to prompt the company to offer customers a free downgrade back to the simpler, more straightforward version 5.1. Word processors don't need to be complicated, and yet... if you fancy a laugh, try opening all the toolbars in Microsoft Word at once and see if you have any room on the screen for a document. As Martin said in the interview, "I don't want any help". He just wants to write.

The audience laughed at Martin's revelation, and the reaction online was also one of condescending amusement, a kind of "no no, George, give it here... you should really have asked my advice before you started". It's perfectly possible that if Martin had said that he'd used quill and parchment, there would have been nods of admiration – but it really doesn't matter; creativity sometimes has only a tangential relationship to the tools that enable it, and they'd never have known what he'd been using if he hadn't told them.

Wordstar 4.1, on an computer with no internet access? Are you mad, George? Where's your backup strategy? Why don't you get a brand new Chromebook? Are you aware of its astonishing power? George is aware, of course. He knows that computers are great enablers. Problem is, they sometimes enable the wrong things.

twitter.com/rhodri

ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

    Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power