Hace ya algún tiempo escribiera una historia sobre la primera hoja de cálculo para ordenador, Visicalc. Ayer, a través de Reddit, me encontré con este artículo Implementing VisiCalc. Es una historia en primera persona de como la primera hoja de cálculo fue diseñada, y lo ambiciosa que era la idea inicial del programa.
As Dan described the product I envisioned a group of people sitting around a table with small devices pointing at a screen. Each had the ability to draw on the shared screen with graphics and formulas. The formulas would be recalculated as needed. This seemed reasonable give the technology of the day such as the Spatial Data Management System developed at MIT Architecture Machine Group, the predecessor of the MIT Media Lab.
The big breakthrough was when Dan put together a simple version in Integer Basic on the Apple ][. It had a grid of rows and columns. While the use of a character grid with rows and columns seems uninteresting compared with a shared graphics screen it was the key to making the product usable because it gave people a framework to work with. It wasn’t necessary to describe the equations since they were easily and implicitly defined by their position on the grid. We also dispensed with a pointing device since game paddle for the machine wasn’t up to the task.
The Apple’s screen was 40 columns and 25 rows. This was a small area and it was easy to move around using the arrow keys on the keyboard. Since everything could be done using the keyboard, proficient users would work very quickly.