It all started with Visi Calc

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The world's first electronic spreadsheet, VisiCalc, was conjured up by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston back in 1978, when personal computers were pretty much unheard of in the office environment. VisiCalc was written for the Apple II computer, which was an interesting little machine that is something of a toy by today's standards. (But in its day, the Apple II kept me mesmerized for days at a time.) VisiCalc essentially laid the foundation for future spreadsheets, and its row-and-column-based layout and formula syntax are still found in modern spreadsheet products. VisiCalc caught on quickly, and many forward-looking companies purchased the Apple II for the sole purpose of developing their budgets with VisiCalc. Consequently, VisiCalc is often credited for much of the Apple II's initial success.

In the meantime, another class of personal computers was evolving; these PCs ran the CP/M operating system. A company called Sorcim developed SuperCalc, which was a spreadsheet that also attracted a legion of followers.

When the IBM PC arrived on the scene in 1981, legitimizing personal computers, VisiCorp wasted no time porting VisiCalc to this new hardware environment, and Sorcim soon followed with a PC version of SuperCalc.

By current standards, both VisiCalc and SuperCalc were extremely crude. For example, text entered into a cell could not extend beyond the cell - a lengthy title had to be entered into multiple cells. Nevertheless, the ability to automate the budgeting tedium was enough to lure thousands of accountants from paper ledger sheets to floppy disks.

You can download a copy of the original VisiCalc from Dan Bricklin's Web site. And yes, nearly 30 years later, this 27K program still runs on today's PCs (see Figure 1-1). You can find it at



Figure 1-1: VisiCalc, running in a DOS window on a PC running Windows XP.

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