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The secret history of VisiCalc

SakushaPerson was signed in when posted
08:39 PM ET (US)
I used to demo Visicalc way back in the olden days. I had a "portable" Apple II kit with a huge 3x3x1ft folding case, I could lift off the lid and it revealed a sled with a strapped-down AII, 2 floppies, and a 9in B&W monitor (maybe a graphics tablet for special demos). It was a heavy kit, I felt like the anvil salesman in The Music Man.
I'll never forget demoing Visicalc to the engineering SIG at John Deere Tractor Works in Dubuque IA. I just popped in a few calculations and they went nuts. They peppered me with questions and we ran a few trig equations & etc.. They loved it and saw immediate applications, especially when they learned that a little Apple cost less than their expensive Hazeltine and Textronix dumb terminals. These machines were built for that niche, the early PCs were largely targeted at engineering geeks, since they were designed and made BY engineers who wanted to build machines to solve their own numeric computation tasks.
There were a lot of people who just immediately grokked how great Visicalc was. My Dad was one of em, he ran huge businesses on an Apple/// with Visicalc for many years. He used it until the floppy disks were so worn down and translucent he was afraid they'd be unreadable.
PapayaSFPerson was signed in when posted
02:10 PM ET (US)
My favorite VisiCalc story happened at a trade show where they had a booth to demonstrate it. Some accountant watched in amazement at what they could do on their Apple ][, then burst into tears and said something like: "My God, I spend all day adding and re-adding columns of numbers!" Realizing how much work it would save just overwhelmed him.

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