1984 article on VisiCalc lawsuit "How a software winner went sour"

Some nice snippets from the article below. Big lawsuit between the owners and the publishers of VisiCalc, which was astonishingly successful and carried a very high royalty. Meanwhile 1-2-3 is taking over, written by an ex-employee.



In April 1979 the parties signed a contract. Mr. Bricklin and Mr. Frankston, incorporated as Software Arts, would develop the program and would be responsible for developing future enhancements. Mr. Fylstra’s company, then known as Personal Software, would undertake its best efforts to market the program and would pay Software Arts a royalty on each copy sold. The royalty was 35.7 percent of Personal Software’s Visicalc revenues in most cases and 50 percent on certain bulk contracts.

More than 700,000 copies of Visicalc have been sold, making it the most popular program in history with the possible exception of Micropro’s Wordstar word-processing program. Software Arts, the developer, has received more than $22 million in royalty payments.

One person watching the changes was a Visicorp employee named Mitchell Kapor, who had written two programs for the company - Visiplot and Visitrend. In late 1981, Mr. Kapor recalled, he arranged to have Visicorp buy him out for $1.2 million. Part of the agreement was that he could not compete with Visicorp in the future, with one exception - a product he described in a one-page document attached to the buyout agreement.

It is not clear whether Visicorp paid much attention to that document, but perhaps it should have. Mr. Kapor used his $1.2 million to form the Lotus Development Corporation and develop the product - 1-2-3 - that has done more than any product to knock out Visicalc.

Also relevant, this (modern) article on TRS-80 VisiCalc which came out a year after the original AppleII version.

While introducing VisiCalc for the TRS‑80, Radio Shack neglected to mention that it had already been available for Apple II for nearly a year! The period that VisiCalc was exclusive to the Apple II was a very important factor in the popularity of the Apple II. Although the short term impact is often exaggerated, the long term impact was very significant. VisiCalc helped to legitimize the Apple II as a business computer, attracting many businesses that previously would never have considered the Apple II as an option. It’s interesting to speculate (and many people have) about how events might have turned out differently had VisiCalc been released first for the TRS‑80.


I would love to read that

and see how Kapor described what he was going to develop.

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