Who Remembers Where Electronic Spreadsheets Came From?

VisiCalc, 1979.

From Quartz:

“Freshen up your formulas and pamper those pivot tables—International Spreadsheet Day is Oct. 17.

On this day in 1979, a computer program called VisiCalc first shipped for the Apple II, marking the birth of the electronic spreadsheet. A few years later, Lotus 1-2-3 for the IBM PC had its moment, and then Microsoft Excel became the dominant spreadsheet program, which it remains today.

The spreadsheet was the original killer app—the thing that convinced many people to buy a computer for the first time. Conceived as a simple scratchpad, the now-ubiquitous tool is used to compile everything from grocery lists to multinational company accounts. Its incredible flexibility makes it both powerful and dangerous, loved and loathed in equal measure.”

Love to know if you were ever a VisiCalc user. 🙂


4 thoughts on “Who Remembers Where Electronic Spreadsheets Came From?

  1. I’ve never heard of isiCal but I did learn Lori’s 1-2-3 in the 90s and later Excel. I. Never mastered the spreadsheet Preferred that someone else did itvamd I read it.

  2. for Katie: I think it’s a function of how old you were when VisiCalc came online and whether you were in a job that required spreadsheets. 🙂 Jerry used it, of course. I didn’t. Have never been very good at developing spread sheets. Like you, I prefer to have someone draft one and then work with what they come up with.

  3. Just catching up on posts now. But yes, I did. I was at Prime at the time, using what was a powerful software package at the time, to do financial projections and modeling. It was called IFPS, from a company in Austin, and was so much easier than programming spreadsheets in Cobol! But I sat down with my boss one day, to hear he would be leaving to become CFO at a Cambridge start-up. They were developing a product whereby one could enter a formula into a cell, replicate it across columns, and use cell values as variables — WOW! it was Lotus, of course. Kind of reminds me of the movie about the black women ‘computers’ in the early days of NASA. The product was about to revolutionize my job as spreadsheet queen and put the skills into the hands of everyone, which also made the thinking part of utilizing a spreadsheet available directly to any decision-maker wanting to think for themselves.

  4. for Jeannie: My readers are obviously not so much a quant crowd from our era — you are the first to remember VisiCalc. Jerry used it, of course. It is a bit like that film Hidden Figures. One of the many things that fascinated me about that film was the use of the word “Computers” to refer to the actual women who did math calculations. Hard to remember a time when we didn’t have readily accessible tools like spreadsheets and word processing.

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