A retrospective on VisiCalc

The BBC has a retrospective on VisiCalc (and then on automation) that is interesting:

Including a nice shot of a VisiCalc advertisement:


There’s an inside story on VisiCalc by its creators:

Detail of Dan Bricklin's state diagram
(Detail of Dan Bricklin’s state diagram)

That’s from Dan’s site - here’s a telling from Bob’s site.

And here’s the 1984 article referenced at the end of the 50things podcast:

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Anecdotally I have two notable encounters with VisiCalc.

My first time using it was with a friend where we were using it to build out armies for the board game Squad Leader. There’s just something very 80’s about laying out armies for Squad Leader, using an innovative computer tool, on an Apple II, in an Agriculture Lab.

The simple truth was that the first group to get Apples at the university was, of all things, the Agriculture department. They were using some planning software written for it. It was sometime later before a Apple made it down in to the general computer labs.

Later, I was at a demo with my father of the Osborne 1 and a selling point of it was the bundled software. One of which was a spreadsheet, which I assume is VisiCalc, but I can’t be sure. I THINK so.


Sales guy “So, do any of you have something that you could use this software for?”

And I, alone, raised my hand. “Yes, I think it would be a great way to design starship for a game I play.”

I don’t think I was quite the demographic he was looking for. My father looked at me funny.


Well, using a spreadsheet to design a starship, even for a game, is MUCH better than most of the uses I’ve seen them put to!