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Texts daniel bricklin

Often referred to as The Father of the Spreadsheet', Daniel Bricklin's place in the PC revolution will forever be one of prominence.

Bom in 1951 in Philadelphia, Daniel Bricklin grew up in a world that was just taking its first steps into the computer revolution. New technologies and new programming languages were being developed as fast as people could think of them. It was in this new era that Dan Bricklin was raised.

The future founder of two software development companies began his career as a mathematician, but soon transferred to computer science. He began to work in the Laboratory for Computer Science. It was here that he met the man who would later become his business partner, Bob Franksten.

In 1977 Bricklin began to work towards an MBA in business administration from Harvard Business School. While at Harvard, Bricklin began to formulate the groundwork for something that would eventually lead to his, and one of the computer industries, most influential products ever, VisiCalc. The idea for the project stemmed from Bricklin's belief that computers could be used in the business industry for more than just word processing. Up until that point calculations that now seem simple and practically error-free had to be done by hand. Not only was the work long and tedious, but it often produced inaccurate results. Bricklin decided that a computer could do the job faster, easier, and more accurately than had ever been done before. His program would enable users to manipulate numbers as easily as they could manipulate words. Budgets, cost estimates, inventories, and Investments could be easily managed through one program. The benefit to the business world would be tremendous.

This idea was taken from the drawing board to a reality. With Bricklin designing the interface and Bob Franksten coding, the project was in full swing. The two men formed Software Arts in 1978 with the express purpose of producing and (later) enhancing VisiCalc. In 1979 the product was ready for market.

At the time VisiCalc was being developed, changes were being made in the hardware industry as well. This was the era of the Apple Computer. For the first time small, relatively inexpensive computers were available to the general public. There was only one problem: who wanted to buy a machine that did nothing useful? The so-called "killer application" was needed; the one item that would turn the computer from a curiosity into a necessity.

It was in the fall of 1979 that VisiCalc was made available to the public for use on the Apple II. The impact was felt immediately. At $100 per copy the software was being bought by just about anyone who could afford it. Apple's sales rose accordingly, as many people bought computers just to be able to run VisiCalc. Bricklin and Franksten made their product available on many more platforms; most notable was a version for IBM. The format Bricklin and Franksten chose would vary very little in future years.

Throughout all this Bricklin made the decision not to patent VisiCalc, holding to his ideal that software should not be proprietary. It is obvious that Bricklin's intent was not to make money, but to make a difference. Alas, the decision not to patent VisiCalc would soon prove disastrous.

Another young software company, Lotus, began putting out their own spreadsheet package, Lotus 1-2-3. Although based on Bricklin's product, Lotus 1-2-3 was more powerful and user-friendly. Software Arts meanwhile, had failed to adequately improve VisiCalc. The resulting domination by Lotus forced Software Arts to sell company assets.

Bricklin endeavoured to start a company again. It was Bricklin's intent that the stupendous rise and fall of Software Arts would not be repeated.

The main purpose of Software Garden, Inc. was to produce and market 'Dan Brick

Demo Program'. This new product allowed users to create demonstrations of their program

before they were even written. The program was also used to create tutorials for Window based programs.Recently Bricklin has been involved in yet another ground-breaking piece of software, OverALL Viewer. This Software Garden product takes data normally represented as text, and displays it in a graphical format. What makes this program especially impressive is how it handles varying levels of detail. If the document in question is a map, you could look at a birds-eye view of a state, for example, and with a click of a button zoom in to get a much more detailed look at one of its cities.Applications for OverAII seem limited only to the imagination.

If the computer industry is to grow in the future as it has so far, more people like Daniel Bricklin must step to the fore. His decision not to patent VisiCalc, although costing him untold wealth, allowed countless others to develop. Products such as Lotus 1-2-3 and Excel may never have materialised as quickly as they did without Bricklin's influence. In an age when computers and computer products are a multi-billion dollar industry it is refreshing to find someone who is more interested in producing a quality product than turning a fast buck. Dan Bricklin has been taking the difficult road for years now, and for our benefit.



Born June 22, 1910, Berlin-Wilmersdorf. During 1936 to 1938 he developed and built the first binary digital computer in the world (Zl). The first fully functional program-controlled electromechanical digital computer in the world (the Z 3) was completed by Zuse in 1941, but was destroyed in 1944 during the war. Because of its historical importance, a copy was made in 1960 and put on display in the German Museum ('Deutsches Museum') in Munich.

Next came the more sophisticated Z4, which was the only Zuse Z-machine to survive the war. It was moved from to Switzerland where it was installed in the ETH (Federal Polytechnical Institute/'Eidgenossisch Technische Hochschule') in Zurich in 1950. It was used in the Institute of Applied Mathematics at the ETH until 1955.

At the beginning of the 30s, the computing industry was limited to mechanical calculators using the decimal system. Punched card devices were slightly further developed and able to deal with relatively complex operations for statistical and accounting purposes. However, these machines were almost entirely designed for commercial application. This meant that mathematicians and engineers had to develop computers on their own, working independently from one another. Zuse was no exception.

Zuse decided to develop and build bigger calculating machines, more suitable for engineering purposes, and he approached the problem from various angles:

Firstly, from a logical and mathematical point of view:

  1. program control;

  2. the binary system of numbers;

3. floating point arithmetic.

Today, these concepts are taken for granted, but at the time this was new ground for the

computing industry.

Secondly, from the design angle:

  1. allowing fully automatic arithmetical calculation;

  2. a high-capacity memory;

  3. modules or relays operating on the yes/no principle.

Zuse's research soon led on to new ideas about 'computing' in general. He recognised that computing could be seen as a general means of dealing with data and that all data could be represented through bit patterns, generally speaking. That led to his basic hypothesis that: 'data processing starts with the bit'. On the basis of this hypothesis Zuse defined 'computing' as 'the formation of new data from input according to a given set of rules'. This basic theory meant that all computing operations could be carried out by relays operating according to the dual status principle.

But a new problem had to be overcome: pure memory was needed without the adding-on facility, but with high capacity and a special selection facility, as well as an elegant way of communicating with the periphery. Zuse thought it was a good idea to base such a memory device on binary numbers from the outset. His idea was to divide the machine up into cells which would be able to hold data for a complete number, in other words, the operational sign, exponent and mantissa (where a floating point was being used), as well as additional specifications. Using the yes-no principle a 'word' - as we would call it today - could be formed from a series of bits. The memory elements only needed to store yes-no values.

One device that could deal with this type of operation was the electro-magnetic relay, which can adopt two positions, "open" or "closed". Zuse felt that the problem could be better solved mechanically. He played around with all sorts of levers, pins, steel plates, and so on, until he finally reached what was a very useful solution, for those days. His device consisted mainly of pins and steel plates, and in principle could be extended to 1,000 words.

The basic principle was that a small pin could be positioned right or left of a steel lug, thus memorising the value 0 or 1. Input and retrieval were also effected via a steel-plate construction, and the individual parts could be stacked on top of one another in a system of layers. The address system also used binary code. These machines had the advantage of being made almost entirely of steel, which made them suitable for mass production.

Individual memory elements could be easily arranged in matrix form, which was very useful as far as constructing computers was concerned. Not only was a number memory now available, but it could also be used to store general data drawn from practically any source.

In the course of pursuing the basic principles of mechanical memory Zuse developed a mechanical relay technology. This he applied to both programming and calculating parts.

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