The story of this problem begins with a basic design decision made when Richard Brodie was Word’s primary software architect. Brodie came to Microsoft along with Charles Simonyi after working at the Xerox PARC where he’d worked on Bravo—their version of the GUI word processor. A number of the ideas used in Word came from that early effort. Brodie joined Microsoft in 1981, began work on Word in the summer of 1982, and finished version 1.0 in October of 1983. You can read about much of the story in Microsoft First Generation by Cheryl Tsang.
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Word is about 22 years old. It has followed the usual path of software, reaching its apex of power and elegance by age 10 (1993) and then descending into senescence and beastliness. Even unto old age, however, it inherits the consequences of decisions made in its earliest days.