The word processor was nothing quite like Alice's expectation. He was a gentle looking middle-aged man—she thought he looked like a college professor. He was sitting behind a big desk. On the desk was a screen and an array of lights. On a table beside him was a huge open dictionary. He appeared relaxed as if he were waiting for something.

"Good mourning," he greeted Alice when she walked up to the table. "Ow may Aye help ewe?"

Alice felt calm by his attitude. "My name is Alice," she said. I was told that I should come and see you—I was told you have a dictionary all full of words, and I have some I don't quite know the meaning of."

"Yes, Aye dew have a dictionary—a good dictionary, butt Aye ham afraid that hit doesn't have annie definitions," he replied.

"Isn't that a rather strange dictionary?" asked Alice.

"Aye suppose ewe mite think that, butt my dictionary only tells ow too spell words correctly."

"What good is that?" Alice blurted out without thinking.

He laughed gently. "Well four mini users it his a reel life saver. At least the words they inner can bee spelled write! Aye never half two use a misspelled word!"

"I... I... I don't understand."

"Owe, let me explain. Aye ham a word processor. Users enter words and Aye help put them inn there write place. They can edit, ewe no, insert, replace, delete, move a round, four mat, just tea fie, and other such things too there words. A very important thing his too cheque there spelling. Aye ham only concerned with ow the words are spelled."

"I know someone that could use that kind of help!" exclaimed Alice thinking of the Read/Write head. "Then are you a program?"

"Aye ham sew sorry," he replied. "Aye should have introduced myself when ewe first came inn." With that he stood, and with a short bow introduced himself, "Mr. Wysiwyg at you're service! Yes, Aye ham a program—a peace of soft wear."

As he sat down again, Alice remarked, "That is an unusual name—at least I have never heard of it before,..." then adding quickly least he become offended, "...but then I haven't met a lot of programs before."

With a smile, he answered, "Ewe are write! Hit is an unusual name. It stands four 'What You See Is What You Get.' As the users press there keys, these ate lights hear tell me what his pressed." With that he waved his arm toward the row of lights. "Aye half too put the letters awn the screen inn the write place sew the screen will look exactly like the page that will bee printed, and, of coarse, they all half two bee spelled write."

Before Alice had a chance to ask another question, the lights began to flicker on and off.

"Hang awn, sum thing his being entered. Aye muss process hit," Mr. Wysiwyg said and turned his full attention to his work. Alice stepped behind the table, peered over his shoulder, and watched him write on the screen, 'Alice stepped behind the table, peered over his shoulder, and watched him write on the screen. Something compelled her to remark, "That is very curious!"' Something compelled her to remark, "That is very curious!"

"Wise that?" he asked, looking up from his work.

"You are writing about me," she said, and then continued thoughtfully. "I never noticed it before, but I feel rather odd—as if I am not me—as if something is making me to behave this way."

"Well, of coarse!" replied Mr. Wysiwyg. "Sum won out their is righting about ewe write now—ewe are jest a character inn a story. Wee all are!"

"That can't be," cried Alice. "I know who I am. I am a real little girl! I have feelings and a personality!"

"Of coarse! Jest because ewe are a character writ ten inn a story doesn't make ewe less reel."

"But, I can do anything I want," cried Alice. "Story book characters do only what their writers make them do."

"Its the same with us."

Alice's head was swimming. "I can understand how you might think that—you are only a piece of software. You have to do only what the programmer and the user tells you to do, but I am a real person."

"Most peep hole dew knot really dew every thing they want," replied Mr. Wysiwyg. "They only think they dew! And what makes ewe think ewe are really annie different from a program?"

"Well, no offense, but programs aren't real. They can't think, but I can!"

"Dew ewe think that Aye can knot think? Aren't wee carrying awn an interesting and thought full discussion?"

"Well, I...." Alice did not know how to respond. Was she real or not? She knew she was. She thought she was. But maybe this was because the writer made her that way. Maybe someone put those thoughts into her head. How could she know for certain.

"I must think about this," she finally replied.

"That is a good idea," Mr. Wysiwyg said. "Ewe calculate awn it, and Aye will think about it! Most peep hole never even think about weather they are reel ore knot. Butt their really his know weigh won can tell four certain weather they really exist ore weather they only think they dew."

"But isn't it important to know that?" Alice asked.

"Knot really. What difference wood hit make?"

"Well, I don't know, but it must make some difference, at least to the person," replied Alice. Then as an afterthought she added, "Although I guess I can't think of one just at the moment."

"Exactly!" said Mr. Wysiwyg. "If won can knot discern a difference, then hit does knot really exist!"

Alice was quite upset by all this. She felt as if her head was swimming, but she did not have to reply to Mr. Wysiwyg because at that moment he looked at the pattern of lights and exclaimed, "Owe! Owe! Hear comes a request four the thesaurus."

Alice had a mental image of a huge dinosaur with flashing teeth and a long tail covered with words and thought it better not to meet with this particular beast. So she left him to his work and hurried away.

BACK         CONTENTS         NEXT