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26-May-2019 16:50

Steve Jobs said that an Excel forerunner, Visi Calc, was: “What propelled the Apple II to the success it achieved,” and made Apple the company into the monster that it became, in spite of spreadsheets being the least cool app ever.

Compare and contrast with 1987's real cool tech such as the boombox, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and the T800 Transputer.

Note to both of you Apple-non-fanbois out there, there was no V1.x for Windows: Excel was first released for the Mac.

When ported to Windows 2.x the versions for both OSes were synced at 2.0.

Microsoft's Multiplan (1981) improved on Visi Calc in some ways, but did not gain much traction against it.

Though Lotus 1-2-3 was still heavily in use on trading desks when I arrived in the City in the '90s, and had quickly overtaken Visi Calc sales on release in 1983, all was not well.

(One of my well-known City clients took their analysts' spreadsheet creations for tradeable indexes, and turned them into C for production speed and manageability.) Adam tells me that SQL is underrated in the consulting/data science industry. However, a database-driven approach has to be done well, else it can be just as bad as the worst Excel and VBA morass.

But at least when tackling C and C , people realise that l33t hackorz skilz might be important.Even for those of you for whom Excel is a spring chicken, how many applications or even operating systems are you still using of a similar age outside the Office suite? Is that still your grandfather's axe, now that you have replaced the head and your father replaced the handle?Microsoft's legendary spreadsheet software was born in November 1987.For a while, an essential measure of PC compatibility was how well it dealt with 1-2-3 rather than some abstract technical spec: but a series of technical stumbles passed the crown to the new Excel by the turn of the '90s. The grey-haired amongst us may remember Lotus's partly successful legal defence of its "look and feel", aiming to ban any application with a similar command and menu structure (not that I was a fan of 1-2-3's UI as it happens).

A couple of years before Excel's 2.0 debut, the First Circuit had found command menus to be an uncopyrightable "method of operation".

With speadsheets the Dunning-Kruger effect looms large and people don't realise what coding skills they don't and should have, even before adding in (say) the horrors of VBA.