Chapter 1: Excel 2010: Where It Came From


Exploring the history of spreadsheets

Discussing Excel's evolution

Analyzing why Excel is a good tool for developers

A Brief History of Spreadsheets

Most people tend to take spreadsheet software for granted. In fact, it may be hard to fathom, but there really was a time when electronic spreadsheets weren't available. Back then, people relied instead on clumsy mainframes or calculators and spent hours doing what now takes minutes.

It all started with VisiCalc

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 you can still find its row-and-column-based layout and formula syntax 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 ...

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