Bank Street Writer was a word processor for Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Commodore, Macintosh, and IBM PC computers.
It was designed in 1981 by Jeff Nilson, software manager at Intentional Educations in Watertown, MA and Gene Kuzmiak, then a senior at Harvard College. Nilson and Kuzmiak, over lunch at a local Chinese restaurant, designed the interface for the Bank Street Writer on some paper napkins. The interface featured menus listing the operations the word processor could perform, such as "cut and paste," and brief directions for how to perform each function. The design addressed the need for a word processor that would enable elementary school children to use a computer to write stories and essays.
Over Christmas break, Kuzmiak developed a prototype for the Bank Street Writer in 6502 assembler, the native code for the Apple II.
Prior to the advent of the Bank Street Writer, most word processors ran on networked minicomputers. The most popular word processor for the personal computer was Apple Writer, which (prior to the version II release) operated in Apple's text mode where all text consisted of uppercase letters. Apple Writer used a black-on-white character to represent an actual capital letter.
Microcomputer word processors of the early 1980s typically had no menus; so to perform basic functions such as copying and pasting, a writer had to type a series of keystrokes. The Bank Street Writer operated in graphics mode, where characters were displayed normally with lower and upper case letters. The text displayed in a document written with the Bank Street Writer more closely resembled the actual printed page than any other word processor on the market.
The published version of the Bank Street Writer was developed by a team from Intentional Educations including Peter Dublin, Peter Kelman, Franklin Thomas, Nilson, and Kuzmiak working with a group from the Bank Street College of Education in New York City.
Broderbund Software published the Bank Street Writer, which became the leading word processor used in schools through most of the 1980s.
With the advent of Microsoft Windows, the Bank Street Writer was superseded by word processors such as WordPerfect and Microsoft Word.