The computer program that changed the world

If there is only computer program that changed the world, it would be VisiCalc, the first electronic spreadsheet program. It came from a student at the HBS in 1978-1979.

Previously when companies were planning to do acquisitions or disposals it was a long laborious task. Every time an assumption changed, everyone would have to go back to the calculators and see how that change effected every other factor. At best the process took days if not weeks. And, the assumptions constantly changed.

With VisiCalc, you just plug in the new number and in less than a second, you had all the answers. It was God’s gift to the financial world. Suddenly you could do a thousand “what if” scenarios painlessly. Nothing was the same after that.

And, since the program was run on Apple 11 personal computers, it made the PC an essential business tool rather than something to write letters and store recipes. And for IBM, the sudden appearance of Apple in their backyard, the business world, forced the company to produce its own PC.

 

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David Hanick
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David Hanick

No doubt about the importance of VisiCalc in the revolution/evolution of distributed computing. However, it and it’s successors have a spawned a generation of sloppy thinking technocrats. Suddenly anyone with a PC and half a brain can turn out oceans of data and analysis without thinking what the right question might be or how to judge the answers.

James Naadjie
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good point

alanpatrickryan
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what’s this “good point” crap. How often do you say bad point or bad question. It’s one directional.

alanpatrickryan
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You are right, but stupidity is not a recent event. People have always misused data for their own purposes. No one really checks to see how fair the Congressional Budget Office is wrong. In New York State, the legislature kept agreeing to labor contracts containing cost savings. No one ever checked to see if they actually happened – of course they didn’t. But the real news was the person calculating the supposed savings. He was some clueless guy who made up the numbers.
As they say, the truth is the first casualty.

David Hanick
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David Hanick

When truth is the first casualty we must then ask, “How many lies are too many?”

alanpatrickryan
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You probably listened to Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind too long – How many cannonballs etc.
But to the substance of your comment. The separation between truth and lies is more a blur than a line. It’s not like we just discovered people have been lying to us – My god, There is sin in River City. I guess you just don’t like the lies that affect you.

David Hanick
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David Hanick

We all understand shades of gray. At times, the lies that affect us feel pretty damn good.

alanpatrickryan
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Meglio un bella bugia che una brutta verità

David Hanick
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David Hanick

Così è vero il mio amico!

alanpatrickryan
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A compliment is always appreciated