The bean-counters’ sword

This morning’s Observer column

In the summer of 1978, a Harvard student named Dan Bricklin was cycling along a path in Martha’s Vineyard, when he had a big idea. As an MBA student, he was being taught to do financial planning using a large sheet of paper ruled into a grid pattern. One entered numbers corresponding to sales, costs, revenues and so on, into cells on the grid, did some calculations and entered the result in another cell. This was called ‘spreadsheet analysis’ and it was unutterably tedious because the moment any of the numbers in the sheet changed, everything else that depended on it had to be recalculated – manually.

Bricklin’s big idea was that all this could be done by a computer program…

Footnotes:

John Dvorak’s engaging rant is here.

Dan Bricklin maintains some enthralling pages about the background to VisiCalc.

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