BMUG Meeting - 11 June 2019


Continuing our theme of spreadsheets

Have you ever wondered how Microsoft came to be such a successful company, making its founder so wealthy he can decide who gets health care?? Well, the simple answer probably starts with the publication of a spreadsheet called Excel.

But did Gates invent Excel? Nope - despite benefiting from it, he did not. The two guys who did are little known and not in his league.

Believe it or not, there was a time when our computers were incapable of functioning like a calculator, a time before Microsoft Excel. Enter Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston, two men who wanted to see their calculators come to life. By creating VisiCalc, the first electronic spreadsheet, that’s exactly what they did.
(From BusinessInsider at

We learn the following:

For the real spreadsheet geeks amongst us – guilty! – a working copy of the original IBM VisiCalc spreadsheet program from 1981 is available to play with here. It’s similar to the early prototype Bricklin created during an assignment at Harvard Business School. The next year, it was picked up by Apple and in Steve Jobs’ words, “propelled the Apple II to the success it achieved”. VisiCalc may even be responsible for Apple becoming the tech behemoth it is today as it convinced a lot of people to purchase their first computer. It’s a little ironic that Apple were first to champion the spreadsheet for wider audiences as their competitor Microsoft completely dominates that market now with Excel.

VisiCalc’s co-founder Frankston described their creation as a “magic sheet of electronic paper that can perform calculations and recalculations, which allows the user to solve the problems using familiar tools and concepts” and this is precisely what it has remained. Competitors such as Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Multiplan sprung up, in part due to the rarity of patenting software at the time and in part simply due to the obvious huge potential. Excel developed from Multiplan, the first version was released in 1985 and had a big hand in making Microsoft a leading PC software developer.


In 1985, Microsoft launched Excel - probably the most valuable software ever written. (See

Whether it's Excel, or Numbers, or one of many others, spreadsheets are among the cleverest applications and used naturally by millions of people who value the software as intuitive.

Meeting Agenda

At the June 11 meeting, we will continue working on spreadsheets - their use and how to use them. At the last meeting, members were asked to try building a game of snakes and ladders using Numbers (or its equivalent). What might have seemed like a crazy idea was suggested because, in fact, it is a good exercise for learning the features and functions of spreadsheets.

In addition, members are urged to do some homework because if they have worked on shared tasks, it is much easier for presenters to identify what is easy, what is causing problems, and what will be of interest in subsequent meetings.

At the meeting we will also have as guest, Ben Russell. Ben has an Apple business in Geelong and offers devices for sale but, importantly technical support. He has recently moved his business to Belmont. Members were invited to send in questions for Ben - if you have a question could you please snd it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in time for the meeting.

The meeting will start at 3.45 pm in the Ocean Grove Hub, 1 John Dory Drive, Ocean Grove. Visitors are welcome.