12.2. Additional Material About VisiCalc

In addition to the VisiCalc "story," my web site has a few essays that answer some of the common questions I receive about VisiCalc or clear up some misconceptions. They don't fit well in the narrative, so I include them separately here at the end.

Was VisiCalc the "first" spreadsheet?

It was the combination of many things including its "programming by example" user interface and its influence on others that made VisiCalc special.

Why am I writing this?

Every once in a while Bob Frankston or I get an email discussing something which they claim relates to "spreadsheets before VisiCalc" or saying that "VisiCalc really wasn't first." This article is to address those type of issues and explain what I understand people to mean when they call VisiCalc the "first electronic spreadsheet."

Each of the writers usually has some valid point about a particular program that they or someone else created or proposed. Most of these were not something that Bob or I had seen. However, with the years of experience we had at the time we created VisiCalc, we were familiar with many row/column financial programs. In fact, Bob had worked since the 1960s at Interactive Data Corporation, a major timesharing utility that was used for some of them, and I was exposed to some at Harvard Business School in one of the classes.

First of all, we did not invent the word "spreadsheet." The name "spreadsheet," or more commonly in the early days, "electronic spreadsheet," ...

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