Perhaps the most enduring legacy of Flip Wilson was a catchphrase tossed off occasionally by his character "Geraldine," who wanted you to know that she put on no airs: "What you see," she said, "is what you get."
The phrase took root. In 1971 Ron Banks and his Dramatics got a Top Ten single with "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" (Volt 4058); later in the decade, Arlene and Jose Ramos were putting out a newsletter for the nascent electronic-publishing industry; they called the publication WYSIWYG. By the early 1980s, WYSIWYG was a goal for computer software, and was no longer being read as a string of letters, but as an actual word. John Seybold apparently said it out loud first, and Jeff Jarvis was there when he did.
I was at an early publishing-industry seminar in California run by Seybold and he kept hearing us say we didn't want to have to enter all kinds of codes and not know what became of them until type spat out of a big photocompositor (now there's a word you don't hear every decade). We wanted to see it on our screens. The gentle and brilliant Mr. Seybold got up and said that what he heard everybody demanding was "what you see is what you get." He looked skyward as he calculated the acronym. W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G. He smiled an impish smile. And then he carefully prounounced it: "whiz-zee-wig."
In 1986, the term (in lower case, for some reason) made it into a supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary, ensuring its survival for many years to come.
Oddly, while everything is WYSIWYG these days, hardly anything really is WYSIWYG these days: content for the Web is text-editor stuff marked up with tags, and screen resolution seldom if ever translates exactly into print resolution. In 1984, MacWrite and MacPaint used resolution of 72 dots per inch, and the dot-matrix printer sold with the original Macintosh offered resolution of 144 dpi, a simple 1:2 scale which made translation from screen to print far easier than with other contemporary print applications; since that time, inkjet and laser printers have vastly improved print resolution, but screens haven't caught up.
Still, WYSIWYG is the goal. What you see, to the greatest extent possible, should be what you get. And t