History of Spreadsheet

929 words 4 pages
A Brief History of Spreadsheets

by D. J. Power
Editor, DSSResources.COM

Spreadsheets have been used by accountants for hundreds of years. Computerized or electronic spreadsheets are of much more recent origin. Information Systems oral history and some published newspaper and magazine stories celebrate Dan Bricklin as the "father" of the electronic spreadsheet. In 1978, Harvard Business School student, Daniel Bricklin, came up with the idea for an interactive visible calculator (see email from Frankston, 4/15/1999a). Bricklin and Bob Frankston then co-invented or co-created the software program VisiCalc. We can look back and recognize that VisiCalc was the first "killer" application for personal computers.

What is a spreadsheet?

In the
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Fylstra was also an MIT/HBS graduate. Fylstra was "marketing-oriented" and suggested that the product would be viable if it could run on an Apple micro-computer. Bricklin and Frankston formed Software Arts Corporation on January 2, 1979. In May 1979, Fylstra and his firm Personal Software (later renamed VisiCorp) began marketing "VisiCalc" with a teaser ad in Byte Magazine. The name "VisiCalc" is a compressed form of the phrase "visible calculator" (see email from Frankston, 4/15/1999b).
VisiCalc became an almost instant success and provided many business people with an incentive to purchase a personal computer or an H-P 85 or 87 calculator from Hewlett-Packard (cf., Jim Ho, 1999). About 1 million copies of the spreadsheet program were sold during VisiCalc's product lifetime. Dan Bricklin has his version of the history of Software Arts and VisiCalc on the web at www.bricklin.com/history/sai.htm. Bricklin includes early ads and reviews and pictures of the VisiCalc packaging and screenshots.

What came after VisiCalc?

The market for electronic spreadsheet software was growing rapidly in the early 1980s and VisiCalc stakeholders were slow to respond to the introduction of the IBM PC that used an Intel computer chip. Beginning in September 1983, legal conflicts between VisiCorp and Software Arts distracted the VisiCalc developers, Bricklin and Frankston. During this period, Mitch Kapor developed Lotus and his

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