Celebrating CATalyst’s 25th Birthday!

What were you doing 25 years ago? If you were already in this field, you were probably trying to figure out how you would use your DOS-based CAT software on these newfangled Windows computers with those mouse things, which you were certain would be a lot slower than using your keyboard! If you were one of those super-advanced people already using the “World Wide Web,” your data may have been traveling at the outrageously fast speed of 28.8 Kbps, so much better than the old, 1200- or 2400-baud modems! But, of course, there was no such thing as Google yet, so you still mostly looked things up the old-fashioned way: in heavy, expensive dictionaries and phonebooks. And somehow, we managed to get our jobs done!

Twenty-five years ago, I helped introduce “Case CATalyst” at the 1997 NCRA Convention. It was built to be run with the Windows operating system and contained several “revolutionary” new concepts and capabilities. For the first time, rather than having to start translation in one window and then open a second, separate window to multitask and start editing, you could both translate and edit in the same window and begin editing the moment you started translating! You could organize related files into cases and have a single case dictionary rather than dozens of different job dictionaries. The software could help figure out conflicts during translation! So much of what we now take for granted didn’t exist!

Many features have evolved, sometimes in a dramatic fashion. From CATalyst 1 through 12, the software license was protected with a physical hardware key connected via a button holder (first to the parallel port and then to a USB port). No one who lived through that transition will forget the tremendous joy experienced by all when smooth “keyless” software operation became the norm! When AudioSync was first introduced, many reporters were aghast at the suggestion that they might not get a perfect record when writing, and a significant percentage of reporters indignantly refused to purchase it! So, at first, AudioSync was offered as an optional extra, but in short order, everyone demanded that it be automatically included with software purchases and updates! I also remember the huge uproar when EZ Keys (an Edit tool that recorded and played back keypresses) were replaced by macros. I recall more than a few angry calls and messages about how that change would destroy productivity and efficiency – but soon after that, Edit macros and AccelerWriters were universally acknowledged as the best thing since sliced bread.

Each time technology makes a big jump, there have been periods of intense worry, followed by education, relaxation, and then an intense demand for more, better, now! I have enjoyed teaching countless seminars and workshops all over the English-speaking world. In every class I’ve ever taught, there are always oohs, aahs, gasps, or squeals as someone discovers a feature or an option in CATalyst, has an “Aha!” moment, and recognizes that their work is about to become faster, easier, and more efficient.

What I’m happiest about as I celebrate the milestone of CATalyst’s 25th Birthday is that CATalyst continues to evolve and grow. In the not-too-distant future, Check It™, and then CATalyst 22 will arrive. I can’t wait to teach what’s coming next and continue to help the amazing people of this profession learn how to adapt to change, gain new skills, and succeed using this wonderful product.

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