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The History Of Spreadsheets And How They're Still Used Today

Spreadsheets are a tool used for both personal and professional use today and in the business world to help with data inventory and data analysis. They have moved from long sheets of ledger paper with pencil markings, dates, and keywords to advanced technologies you can find in what is now called the Google Suite and used on fancy laptops like the MacBook Pro.

Learn more about the fascinating history and innovations of this data collection tool here.

The Earliest History of Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are pages that compute and collate data, usually in numbers. The earliest record of a spreadsheet was a long sheet of paper where numbers and data would be penciled in. These ledgers were first used in business almost exclusively. By the end of the twentieth century, electronic spreadsheets became the new normal.

The first spreadsheet known for digital purposes was developed by LANPAR, a company founded in 1970. These spreadsheets were used for the room-sized computers that were known to the public. Again, these digital spreadsheets could only be used for business due to the nature of the technology needed to support them. Few, if any, homes had a personal computer that could sustain a spreadsheet application.

This would change in 1979 when the AppleII computer was invented. Where Numbers comes with Apple computers today, it was VisiCalc then, the first ever spreadsheet for the general public’s consumption. The VisiCalc program was developed by programmers Bob Frankston and Dan Bricklin and launched as a pre-installed program on the Apple II in 1980.

The IBM PC spreadsheets would come next. They would be the Steinman Spreadsheet released with the Commodore 64 in 1984. This would be followed by Lotus 1-2-3 and Multiplan, programs that some people that follow “old school” methods of accounting still use today.

When the Graphical User Interface (GUI) was first invented by Xerox in 1981, visual elements of the spreadsheet interface began to emerge. This would serve as the foundation for the Microsoft version of the spreadsheet, known as Excel 1.0, the first GUI-based spreadsheet built by Microsoft for Macintosh in 1985. The Windows version of Excel arrived in 1987, a year when the company called Microsoft began to change the world. This was also the year the everyday computer user would become introduced to the concept of something called the World Wide Web.

Spreadsheets and How They Have Grown

Within 20 years, the world of technology, the information superhighway, and how people used computers would become a way of life. Excel was a spreadsheet that would become used more frequently by 2007 with a new interface that taught the world how to use tabs, ribbons, toolbars, and menus. Its counterpart in the Microsoft suite included Word which offered the same thing.

2007 was the same year that Numbers was invented. This would become a component of the iWork productivity suite. It was the same year that the first iPhone came out, an invention then known as just iPhone. Today the latest model is called the iPhone 13 ProMax, a smartphone that includes the capacity to manage the Numbers application. Also on this smartphone is the compatibility to use every current version of spreadsheets, including Google Sheets, Excel, and other recent versions of spreadsheets.

Spreadsheets Today

Spreadsheets today are not complete without a discussion of the brand name called Google Sheets. This is a cloud-based spreadsheet developed by Google. Although some people are just learning what Google Sheets is and how to use it, it has been a web-based spreadsheet program since 2006.

It is by many considered the second most popular spreadsheet program in the world, second to Microsoft’s Excel, which has been considered the best in the world since 2007.

Learn Spreadsheets Today

The history of spreadsheets takes us back hundreds of years to pencil and paper methods, and even back to inkwell and papyrus methods.

Today, you can use spreadsheets from the biggest businesses in the world on a machine where you never have to get your hands dirty for even a second. The most important thing we know about spreadsheets is that this is a tool that society will always need.

Today, when we need to use a spreadsheet, we will find a way to excel at making those numbers crunch on sheets. These tools provide benefits to businesses and people all over the world today. They help with computations, they increase productivity, they improve efficiency both at work and at home, and they are now industry standard tools for calculations.

At the same time, spreadsheets now make the everyday person more marketable in the workforce. If you are looking for a way to become more proficient at work, or more organized at home, learn the use of digital spreadsheets today.