Why we choose the Mac. The secret history of VisiCalc. Bob Frankston, the lead programmer for VisiCalc and co-inventor of the computerized spreadsheet, has posted a long history of the project. It’s fascinating reading, a kind of computer paleontology, describing the origin of commercial software products.
Before discussing keyboards, it’s worth noting that back in 1979 people viewed the keyboard as an impediment to using computers. After all, only secretaries could type and the rest of us need to be able to talk to the computer. Hence the decades spent on trying to get computers to understand speech. It turns out that most people could type (at least those who used spreadsheets) since it was a basic skill necessary for getting through college. In fact, speech is a very problematic way to interact with a spreadsheet. In fact, the spreadsheet itself is used as a communications vehicle rather than speech.
The Apple ][ had a simple keyboard that only had upper case letters and only two arrow keys. There were no interrupts nor a clock. If the user typed a character before the keyboard input buffer was emptied it would be lost.
This reminds me of how we preceved of PCs when we started MacroMind in 1984. At the time – only the C64 (Commodore 64) had audio as a built into component. This was crucial to building videogames (which is what we all were doing before 1984) – but it only had 64K of memory.
Then we heard about this computer called the Macintosh – which not only had TWICE the amount of RAM = 128K – but also had built-in audio. That was enough for us – to get us to develop for the Mac. We get a call from Guy Kawasaki – who heard we were game guys, and away we went.
Little did we know – about the Mac toolbox, GUIs, the fact that we didn’t have to develop with the Lisa (we bought three of them mistakenly) and how insufficient a measily 128K of RAM was. But the whole thing started with our requirement of audio. MusicWorks was our first product – Oct. 1984.[Marc’s Voice]