Bruce Bastian, WordPerfect's Co-Creator
Written by Lucy Black   
Friday, 05 July 2024

Bruce Bastian, co-creator of WordPerfect, has died aged 76. Bastion created the word processing software as a graduate student at Brigham Young University, together with Alan Ashton, his computer science professor.

Turn the clock back to the 1970's and we didn't have any easy way to write a letter, let alone a report or a book-length manuscript using a computer. When the word processor did arrive there were competing products at different levels of sophistication. One of the most widely used was Word Perfect and this is a product with a long and interesting history, which is still ongoing.

wordperfect logo, credit RetroJunk

While Bastian is credited as a co-creator of WordPerfect, the main concept for the software was invented by Dr. Alan Ashton. He wanted to create a word processor that didn't need users to learn control-key combinations or function codes, and to have the software display the text with the correct line endings and page breaks. Having worked out the design specifications in his summer vacation, he approached Bruce Bastian to work on the coding. This led to an early prototype, P-Edit. Ashton then brought in Don Owens, a marketing executive, and the three men incorporated a company called Satellite Software International. The company released an initial version of the word processor for Data General minicomputers under the name SSI*WP at a cost of $5,500 a throw. It was updated for CP/M by 1979 and renamed as WordPerfect, and released for the IBM PC in 1982, running under MS-DOS. Satellite Software International changed its name to WordPerfect Corporation in 1985.

What differentiated WordPerfect was that, unlike rival software such as WordStar and SuperWriter, it had a graphical user interface. People either wanted the ease of use (but slowness) of WordPerfect, or the speed of WordStar with a willingness to learn key combinations and acceptance that you didn't see how the finished document would look unless you requested a print preview. 

WordPerfect, like WordStar which had been the market leader, then suffered from the increasing popularity of operating systems such as Windows and Mac that had their own graphical user interface, and their own in-house word processors in the shape of MacWrite and Microsoft Word.

Standalone word processors suffered a heavy blow when bundled Office Software packages, such as Lotus Smart Suite and Microsoft Office combined word processing with spreadsheets, databases and more into a single product. WordPerfect had been late in transitioning from DOS to Windows and threw in its lot with Borland, bundling Word Perfect for Windows with the Quattro Pro spreadsheet and the, little-known Paradox database. After Borland collapsed WordPerfect was sold to Novell in 1994, which in turn sold it to Corel in 1996, since when WordPerfect for Windows has officially been known as Corel WordPerfect. Corel, which rebranded to Alludo in 2022, continued to bring out new releases WordPerfect Office, an all-in-one office suite comprising WordPerfect, Quattro Pro and applications for presentations and information gathering that claims compatibility with Microsoft Office, has continued to be updated the latest stable release of is WordPerfect 2021.

By selling the WordPerfect Corporation for $1.4 billion in 1994, Bastian and Ashton became very wealthy.  Around that time, Bastian (part of the Mormon community) came out as gay and left his wife and the church. From that point onwards, he became an activist for LGBT rights, married a man, and still managed to maintain his family relationships, even though his ex-wife and sons remained members of the Mormon church. In an interview in 2010, he described his life as falling into three parts:

"the pre-WordPerfect life, the WordPerfect years, and now the LGBT years."


 Bruce W Bastian
March 23, 1948 - June 16 2044

As a philanthropist, Bastian supported the LGBT community and the performing arts in Utah. In 2010, President Obama appointed him to the Presidential Advisory Committee of the Arts in honor of Bastian's long-term commitment to the arts. Bastian died on June 16, 2024, succumbing to complications associated with Pulmonary Fibrosis, a disease he had battled for several years. 

More Information

B W Bastian Foundation

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Last Updated ( Friday, 05 July 2024 )