Ironically, we miscounted and missed Spreadsheet Day

Well, certainly I did. If you had a party and spent last Friday dancing on pivot tables, you are a far better spreadsheety kind of person than I am. But where it seems as if every day of the year is now a Day of Something, the fact is that you probably just thought yes, there’s bound to be a spreadsheet listing all those days.

Spreadsheets are used for lists, they are used for sorting, they are are used to create the most almighty huge cockups in history. But they are also used for numbers. There isn’t a company in the world that doesn’t have a spreadsheet. Microsoft used to run adverts for its spreadsheet with a strapline that went something like this: “Excel is used in 99% of companies. What are we doing wrong?”

Microsoft Excel is a weird one. Even though it has similar issues to Microsoft Word, it’s also clearly got different DNA. I think that it’s typical Microsoft that the company doesn’t care how one of its major apps works in a different way to another one – look at how you change size of the displayed page on screen – but it’s also a sign that the teams are different. Somehow I like that even as I don’t like it, it’s simultaneously sloppy and individual.

If you think that it’s ridiculous to project individuality and sloppiness onto a piece of software, well, there is nothing I can say to change your mind. Equally, if you’d told me 35 years ago that spreadsheets would become the power they are, it would’ve helped. I’d have invested in VisiCalc.

Sorry? Never heard of VisiCalc? You’ve seen its influence. You’ve felt its influence, both for good and bad.

On this day in 1979, a computer program called VisiCalc first shipped for the Apple II platform, marking the birth of the spreadsheet, a now-ubiquitous tool used to compile everything from grocery lists to Fortune-500 company accounts. And that’s why October 17th is Spreadsheet Day, celebrated by fans of the form.

Behold the awesome power of the spreadsheet, destroyer of worlds – Jason Karaian, Quartz (October 17, 2014)

As I say, before you celebrate by taking the rest of the day off, this 35th anniversary was last Friday. Look at the title of that piece celebrating it, though. Celebrating. With the words ‘destroyer of worlds’ in the title. It’s not as if Karaian is kidding, either. Read the full piece.

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