OK, if this doesn’t make you feel old, then I don’t know what will. In a world where there are applications that appear on your favourite app service daily and then quickly lose their functionality and favour with you comes this …
30 years! Doesn’t that speak to longevity! More importantly, I think it’s important to know that it speaks to functionality. It’s not an app like we think of in the current context – tap here and something happens. It’s an environment where the design and functionality is defined by the user. YOU create the actions that you want Excel to do. (and if you’re connected enough, download and use someone else’s creation)
But Excel wasn’t my first spreadsheet.
Back in my TRS-80 days, I bought VisiCalc. Wow, I did pay a lot for it. It was so functional and filled the need I had at the time – finding some way NOT to write a program on my own for a specific purpose. The biggest purpose I had at the time was to have an electronic markbook for all my classes. A spreadsheet was like a dream come true. I even wrote an article for the magazine 80Micro about how to do it. We needed to evangelize about the need to get away from that old red teacher book with the spiral rings and the amber pages for recording numbers. Eventually, you had to do something with those numbers and that took place towards the end of a term. With a spreadsheet, I had the ability to see how a student or class was doing immediately. We used it to keep score during Computer Science competitions and teams knew exactly how they were doing!
In the classroom, we used it as another way to take control of that box and make it do our bidding. We learned the commands, we wrote the scripts, we tested the big selling point for a spreadsheet “What if”. It was a small step from implementing an algorithm in a spreadsheet to implementing algorithms in a programming language. But the best part was the “What if”. You could play with it for hours and there was something special about entering a number in a cell and see the entire screen change as formulae were applied.
As I think about it, I’ve used a lot of spreadsheet programs over the years.
- Lotus 1-2-3
- OpenOffice Calc / LibreOffice Calc / NeoOffice Calc / StarOffice Calc
- Google Sheets
- AppleWorks Spreadsheet / ClarisWorks Spreadsheet
- Microsoft Works Spreadsheet
- Quattro Pro
- O365 Sheets
And there might be more.
The one thing that is so impressive is that it wasn’t a huge learning curve to move from one to the other. Talk about your generic and transferable skills.
I’ve always thought that spreadsheet skills is just one of those things that everyone should have. They apply to so many things from marks in the classroom to budgeting to doing your books to doing income taxes to modeling various things. And, they do allow you to create interesting graphics or infographics of your own.
For us, as the end user, each upgrade and iteration of the spreadsheet concept increases the functionality of it. Excel, along with many other 30 year old programs, really illustrate the growth and functionality available to the home computer user and of course to business. There’s nothing this geeky person enjoys more that surfing menus to see what else a program can do.
I wonder what spreadsheets will look like 30 years from now? If nothing else, people will still have to calculate their taxes!
What’s your history with spreadsheets? Where do you see the future? Did I miss any spreadsheet programs in my walk through calculation lane?