This episode features VisiCalc, originally released in 1980 by Personal Software and later in 1982 released by VisiCorp. It was written by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston under Software Arts, Inc. This program for the Atari 8 bit line of computers was the first commercial spreadsheet for the Atari. There is a very interesting relationship with the company names, see the show links at the bottom for full details.
Box and Manual Scans
I provided these scans to AtariMania as well to replace the scans of the tattered box that was found there.
Scan of the front and back of the box sleeve:
Scan of the front of the box (the back is the same):
Scan of the Manual Cover and the License Agreement Insert:
Scan of the original manual cover and first manual page as developed by Software Arts, Inc, and published by Personal Software, Inc:
The very first ad was a teaser and placed in Byte Magazine’s May 1979 issue:
Byte May 1979 Cover:
From Compute! November 1980:
Here is a full page ad from Atari in 1980 for VisiCalc:
VisiCalc in Action
No splash screens, no menus, boot right into the application and start working – very productive:
Boot failure with a cartridge in:
Press / to bring up the menu:
Forward Referencing example:
Circular Reference example. Each recalculation causes the value to be further incorrectly calculated:
Cell replication in several steps, two displayed (range selection, and reference updates):
Lookup function in use. Value in A13 is looked up in range B1 to B11, which lands at B5. The value to be returned is immediately to the right at C5. Had the lookup range been in a row, the value returned would need to be immediately below the matching cell:
The column widths being demonstrated at 9 characters. Column width effects all columns. A1 contains .0000007, A2 contains .00000008, A3 contains 88888888, A4 contains 888888888 (one more significant digit than A3).
A6 contains ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ, B6 contains JKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ, C6 contains STUVWXYZ. All strings terminated at 9 characters:
Example of complete spreadsheet (from the lessons in the manual):
Using split window mode on the budget spreadsheet:
Another example of split window, this time using different column widths in each window and the graphing format:
Printing the budget spreadsheet entire range:
Printing the graph spreadsheet formulas:
Pocket Reference download
- Atari Mania: http://www.atarimania.com/utility-atari-400-800-xl-xe-visicalc_s10984.html
- VisiCalc Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VisiCalc
- Spreadsheet Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spreadsheet
- VisiCorp Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VisiCorp
- Software Arts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_Arts
- Dan Bricklin VisiCalc History: http://www.bricklin.com/history/sai.htm
- Bob Frankston VisiCalc Implementation: http://www.frankston.com/public/?name=ImplementingVisiCalc
- Dan Bricklin First Spreadsheet Question: http://www.bricklin.com/firstspreadsheetquestion.htm
- Byte Magazine May 1979: https://archive.org/details/byte-magazine-1979-05
- DIF Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_Interchange_Format
10 thoughts on “S1E8 VisiCorp VisiCalc – Supplement”
As always, enjoyed your podcast. VisiCalc on the Atari was the first spreadsheet I ever used. I was a teenager and it was a pirated copy without a manual so it was pretty hard to figure out what it was all about and how to use it as I had to learn by trial and error. As I hardly needed a spreadsheet I remember doing some calculations for my dad, certainly one of the rare occasions when I could do something really “grown-up-useful” with the Atari.
SynCalc looked a bit niftier but AFAIK it wasn’t as flexible in copying cell references in formulas. (Something to look into when you review it.)
Thanks for the story! It’s always interesting to hear how others used the software as well. I’ll keep the cell references in mind when I feature SynCalc.
Fully agree with your rating BTW. Atari productivity software at its best!
Bob Frankston will be at VCF East 10 on Sunday April 19th. I’m looking forward to his talk and maybe getting a copy of the Atari 8-bit version VisiCalc autographed!
Thanks, that is great information!