VisiCalc

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VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet program available for personal computers. It is often considered the application that turned the microcomputer from a hobby for computer enthusiasts into a serious business tool.[1] VisiCalc sold over 700,000 copies in six years.[2]

Contents

Origins

Conceived by Dan Bricklin, refined by Bob Frankston, developed by their company Software Arts,[1] and distributed by Personal Software in 1979 (later named VisiCorp) for the Apple II computer, it propelled the Apple from being a hobbyist's toy to a useful tool for business.[1] After the Apple II version, VisiCalc was also released for the Atari 8-bit family, the Commodore PET, TRS-80, and the IBM PC.[1]

According to Bricklin, he was watching a professor at Harvard Business School create a financial model on a blackboard. When the professor found an error or wanted to change a parameter, he had to erase and rewrite a number of sequential entries in the table. Bricklin realized that he could replicate the process on a computer using an "electronic spreadsheet" to view results of underlying formulae.[3]

Successors

Charles Babcock of InformationWeek wrote that, in retrospect, "VisiCalc was flawed and clunky, and couldn't do many things users wanted it to do."[4] Soon, more powerful spreadsheet programs were released, including SuperCalc (1980), Microsoft's MultiPlan (1982), Lotus 1-2-3 (1983), the spreadsheet module in AppleWorks (1984), and Microsoft Excel, which was introduced for the Macintosh in 1985 and for Windows 2.0 in 1987.

Reception

Antic reviewer Joseph Kattan wrote "VisiCalc isn't as easy to use as prepackaged home accounting programs, because you're required to design both the layout and the formulas used by the program. Because it is not pre-packaged, however, it's infinitely more powerful and flexible than such programs. You can use VisiCalc to balance your checkbook, keep track of credit card purchases, calculate your net worth, do your taxes - the possibilities are practically limitless."[5]

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