When was Excel created? Why is it called the spreadsheet? Microsoft Excel has the basic features of all spreadsheets, using a grid of cells arranged in numbered rows and letter-named columns to organize data manipulations like arithmetic operations. It has a battery of supplied functions to answer statistical, engineering, and financial needs. In addition, it can display data as line graphs, histograms and charts, and with a very limited three-dimensional graphical display.
It allows sectioning of data to view its dependencies on various factors for different perspectives (using pivot tables and the scenario manager). A PivotTable is a tool for data analysis. It does this by simplifying large data sets via PivotTable fields. It has a programming aspect, Visual Basic for Applications, allowing the user to employ a wide variety of numerical methods, for example, for solving differential equations of mathematical physics, and then reporting the results back to the spreadsheet.
It also has a variety of interactive features allowing user interfaces that can completely hide the spreadsheet from the user, so the spreadsheet presents itself as a so-called application, or decision support system (DSS), via a custom-designed user interface, for example, a stock analyzer, or in general, as a design tool that asks the user questions and provides answers and reports. In a more elaborate realization, an Excel application can automatically poll external databases and measuring instruments using an update schedule, analyze the results, make a Word report or PowerPoint slide show, and e-mail these presentations on a regular basis to a list of participants. Excel was not designed to be used as a database.
When was Excel created?
Microsoft Excel is part of the Microsoft Office software that allows users to operate numerical data entered in spreadsheets. The interface of this program includes a table with a large number of cells for data entry and ribbon tabs that give access to various functions. An Excel file is usually called a workbook that may consist of many pages, worksheets.
By means of Excel, individuals can convert digits into useful information that may be applied for many personal and professional needs. Apart from simple calculations, Excel is capable of performing functions and formulas, as well as creating user macros with the help of VBA. These capabilities, as well as Excel’s distinctions from Google Sheets, will be reviewed further.
What a Spreadsheet is
Excel is only one of the spreadsheet programs, which evolved faster than its competitors and managed to take the largest share of the spreadsheet software market. Generally, a spreadsheet is a number of cells that are organized in rows and columns and contain text, numeric values, or formulas (The Data Labs, 2019). With the invention of computers, spreadsheets have replaced paper worksheets (The Data Labs, 2019).
These grids can are traced back to 1971 when Pardo and Landau patented an algorithm that presented a new way of processing data (The Data Labs, 2019). Supposedly, the first spreadsheet was VisiCalc, a program that contributed to the success and proliferation of the Apple II computer (The Data Labs, 2019). Before Microsoft developed its product, the leading spreadsheet program was Lotus 1-2-3 (The Data Labs, 2019). Then, the world saw MS Excel that gained popularity and made Microsoft the major supplier of the spreadsheet software.
Data Types, Formulas, and Functions
As was already mentioned, the Excel spreadsheet consists of cells that are meant for data input. There are four major data types that a cell can hold: text, date, number, and boolean (French, 2019). Alphabetic letters and strings are assigned the text type; they cannot be used in calculations but can be formatted, that is, their font size and style, color, and cell borders can be changed (French, 2019). The boolean type is “a result of a logical comparison, such as TRUE or FALSE” (French, 2019, para. 8). Apart from that, a cell can hold a formula, but the user will see the result of a calculation in its place (French, 2019).
Finally, if there is an incorrect formula or data in a cell, it will obtain an error value (French, 2019). In Excel 2019, new data types were introduced: stocks and geography, which show information about stock markets and countries, respectively (Microsoft, 2019). They are connected with an online source of data and, therefore, are called linked data types (Microsoft, 2019). Data types define how Excel displays and manages the information in the cells.
History of Microsoft Excel Up Until This Point
It is hard to talk about the history of Microsoft Excel without talking about the entire history of spreadsheet applications and software. Let’s start where it all began: Harvard Business School. In 1978, Harvard Business School student Dan Bricklin needed to perform an analysis for his case study. At the time, he had two options: complete the analysis by hand or use a clumsy mainframe program. Bricklin envisioned creating something akin to the blackboard in the classroom where data could be compiled, displayed, and computed.
By the fall of 1978, he had created the first working prototype of his vision and called it VisiCalc. It was capable of manipulating matrices of 5 columns and 20 rows. It could perform basic arithmetic operations, instant automatic recalculation, and scrolling. It was a far cry from modern-day spreadsheet programs and software, but it was the program that started it all.
Why is it called the spreadsheet?
The term spreadsheet might seem strange to those who associate it with only its digital capability. However, the spreadsheet is quite a literal reference to its original form hundreds of years ago.
Back then, a spreadsheet was a ledger book full of huge sheets of paper that would quite literally spread across the table. Rows and columns divided these sheets for manually entering data using a pen or pencil.
The original spreadsheet looks something like this:
Accountants would primarily use these ledger books for a variety of finance-related scenarios that handled a lot of data. A whole spreadsheet could cover aspects such as accounts receivable, investments, inventory and expenses. Everything accountants needed to know was right there in one place, so they could easily make important decisions.
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