Wednesday, January 9, 2013
History of Spreadsheet Software
Prior to electronic spreadsheets calculations were done with pencil and paper, perhaps also using a slide rule, or if one had access to it, an adding machine. Prior to the use of computers and spreadsheet technology one can only imagine the manual math calculations that allowed Neil Armstrong to walk on the moon and return to earth in 1969, much less to run large city hospitals efficiently. There were no electronic communication or barcode systems to keep up with inventory supply and demand needs in healthcare settings.
Electronic spreadsheets originated with Richard Mattessich in 1961. Mattessich, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, developed the concept for business accounting (Mattessich, n.d.). His research served as a foundation for microcomputer spreadsheet programs, such as VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3, developed in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. In 1978, Dan Bricklin, a graduate student at Harvard Business School, developed a spreadsheet prototype for VisiCalc for a case study report. After designing the prototype, Bricklin engaged the assistance of Bob Frankston, a graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with computer science graduate degrees, to create the production code (Bellis, 2012; Fleming, 1997; Frankston, 2012). Later Bricklin and Frankston created a business to market their VisiCalc product.
During 1970’s and 1980’s personal computer (PC) science continued to develop. In 1983, the Lotus Development Corporation released Lotus 1-2-3, a precursor to the many spreadsheet software products we use today. The founders of Lotus 1-2-3 were Mitch Kapor and Jonathan Sachs (High Tech History, 2010). Kapor had left VisiCalc and Sachs had worked with a company that created spreadsheet software for Data General. The popularity of Lotus 1-2-3 was highest in the 1980’s, but it ebbed sharply in 1988 a year after the release of Excel. Soon afterwards, other competitors began to develop other spreadsheet software applications. IBM bought Lotus 1-2-3 in 1995. Lotus 1-2-3 is still available as a commercial product from IBM.
The first iteration of Microsoft Excel was called Multiplan and released in 1982. Multiplan was redesigned to accommodate additional operating systems and renamed Excel when first released for the Mac in 1985 (Haresoftware, 2008; Peter, 2010; Power, 2004). Microsoft Excel was released for Windows PCs in 1987 with the sales promotion of “doing everything Lotus 1-2-3 does and better.” By 1988, Excel was outselling Lotus 1-2-3. Excel was the first software that allowed the user to customize the spreadsheet using fonts, character attributes, and cell appearance. It offered auto-calculating and provided the graphical capabilities that are still popular today.
It was not until 2008 that iWork Numbers, the Apple spreadsheet app, was released. Numbers was a part of the iWork office suite (Apple, 2007). iWork Numbers is now a competitor with Microsoft Excel because of the introduction of the flexible canvas concept that allows a user to arrange more than one spreadsheet and chart in a single layout. Numbers also introduced the contextual format bar, which hides the column letters and row numbers unless the spreadsheet is edited. Apple released iWork Numbers as a mobile app with the introduction of the iPad in 2010.
Today, there are numerous spreadsheet applications available for a variety of platforms. Standalone programs are available for desktop, laptop, and mobile computers, such as the iPhone, iPad, and Android phone. Online cloud spreadsheet software is available for any of the multiple platforms that allow for Internet access.
Apple. (2007, August 7). Apple introduces iWork '08 Retrieved November 25, 2012, from http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2007/08/07Apple-Introduces-iWork-08.html
Bellis, M. (2012). The first spreadsheet - VisiCalc - Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston Retrieved November 25, 2012, from http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa010199.htm
Fleming, A. M. (1997, February 16). Daniel Bricklin Retrieved November 25, 2012, from http://ei.cs.vt.edu/~history/BRICKLIN.Fleming.HTML
Frankston, B. (2012). Bob Frankston bio Retrieved November 25, 2012, from http://www.frankston.com/public/?name=bio
Haresoftware. (2008). History of Microsoft Excel Retrieved November 25, 2012, from http://www.haresoftware.com/ExcelHistory.htm
High Tech History. (2010, January 26). History of Lotus 1-2-3 Retrieved November 25, 2012, from http://hightechhistory.com/2010/01/26/history-of-lotus-1-2-3/
Mattessich, R. (n.d.). Spreadsheet: Its first computerization (1961-1964) Retrieved November 25, 2012, from http://www.j-walk.com/ss/history/spreadsh.htm
Peter, R. (2010, December 25). The history of Excel Retrieved November 25, 2012, from http://excelhours.blogspot.com/2010/12/history-of-excel.html
Power, D. J. (2004, August 30). A brief history of spreadsheets Retrieved November 25, 2012, from http://dssresources.com/history/sshistory.html