When giving credit, get it right

January 22, 2008

Mitch Kapor, in Jim Fallow’s blog, has weighed in on who did what back in the early days of spreadsheets.  While I gave him credit for being the first to adapt the spreadsheet to the IBM PC, Mitch points out that both VisiCalc and MultiPlan (Microsoft’s first spreadsheet product) were available for the IBM PC before 1-2-3 shipped in January 1983.  He’s right of course and I should have remembered that. Thanks to Jim for straightening that out.

Dan Bricklin and  Bob Frankston’s distinction stands:  they invented VisiCalc, the original spreadsheet product for personal computers and one hell of a killer app.


Give credit where credit is due

January 20, 2008

In the category of “this really bugs me.”  In his NYT tech column today, G. Pascal Zachary credits Mitch Kapor with inventing the spreadsheet.  Specifically he says: 

While at the Lotus Development Corporation, Mr. Kapor created another such “killer app,” or application: the spreadsheet for the PC.”

He is just plain wrong.

That distinction goes to Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston, the inventors of VisiCalc for the Apple II, which was singlehandedly responsible for moving the Apple II into widespread business use.  Lotus’ 1-2-3 was notable as the first spreadsheet on the IBM PC.  It propelled PCs even more into the mainstream of business and that was a big deal but not close to the level of innovation in the original invention. 

I know this first hand.  I was one of the original editors for Computing Retailing magazine when VisiCalc was introduced (yes I know this dates me).  Much later, Dan, Vern Raburn, Tom Byers and I started Slate Corp., one of the early efforts at software for the pen interface.  Bob Frankston joined us there soon after and I have very fond memories of working with both Dan and Bob.