SUM One Misses VisiCalc?

VisicalcYearning for the simplicity of a spreadsheet that just does the basics?

Think VisiCalc.

Before VisiCalc, MBAs couldn’t come up with crazy financial models. People couldn’t balance their checkbooks at home. Instead, people just had to balance that checkbook on the back of their monthly bank statement. And investment bankers had to add up figures in files to see how much they could invest.

While we can’t trace the current financial mess to that innovative spreadsheet (after all, the Mississsippi Bubble┬á and Holland’s Tulipomania came before the invention of Herman Hollerith’s tabulator), there is no argument that this little program, what was called a “Visible Calculator,” was a great innovation.

First debuting on the Apple II, it was the first spreadsheet program, and predated Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Excel. When Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) started its AppleWorks, it was made even less necessary.

After rousing success, the company floundered, and was was sold to Lotus, which decided not to continue publishing VisiCalc. The software license is apparently owned by IBM’s Lotus division. A great history by Edward Esber can be found at the website www.edesber.com.

Co-founder Dan Bricklin has info about the program, including links to a free download of the program, which still can run on a a Windows PC.

We love the quote from VisiCalc’s Bricklin, who said:

“Imagine if my calculator had a ball in its back, like a mouse…

We can still think of a number of good uses for the VisiCalc brand, which might include:

  • A website of templates for spreadsheets
  • A simpler, more elegant entry level version of a spreadsheet program
  • An actual calculator connects to computers by USB
  • A portable USB-based interface for hardware
  • A free, entry level basic version of Lotus 1-2-3 for home users

Remember the inspiration:

“Imagine if my calculator had a ball in its back, like a mouse…

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