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30th Anniversary of the (No Good) Spreadsheet

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the malignant-cells dept.

Software 407

theodp writes "PC Magazine's John C. Dvorak offers his curmudgeonly take on the 30th anniversary of the spreadsheet, which Dvorak blames for elevating once lowly bean counters to the executive suite and enabling them to make some truly horrible decisions. But even if you believe that VisiCalc was the root-of-all-evil, as Dvorak claims, your geek side still has to admire it for the programming tour-de-force that it was, implemented in 32KB memory using the look-Ma-no-multiply-or-divide instruction set of the 1MHz 8-bit 6502 processor that powered the Apple II." On the brighter side, one of my favorite things about Visicalc is the widely repeated story that it was snuck into businesses on Apple machines bought under the guise of word processors, but covertly used for accounting instead.

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407 comments

Time to invent something new, Dvorak! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26432167)

You lazy bastard!

You can take a nigger out of the jungle, but you c (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26432283)

I don't know much about spreadsheets, but here's my story:

I dropped a brown rope this morning the size of a small black child. At one point, I wasn't sure if I was taking a shit, or it the shit was taking me. And while I'm on that point, what's the deal with taking a shit? Shouldn't it be leaving a shit? I'm certainly not taking anything with me when I'm done.

But back on topic, spreadsheets suck ass

an't take the jungle out of the nigger! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26432329)

A few years ago, while browsing around the library downtown, I had to take a piss. As I entered the john, a big beautiful all-American football hero type, about twenty five, came out of one of the booths. I stood at the urinal looking at him out of the corner of my eye as he washed his hands. He didn't once look at me. He was "straight" and married -- and in any case I was sure I wouldn't have a chance with him.

As soon as he left, I darted into the booth he'd vacated, hoping there might be a lingering smell of shit and even a seat still warm from his sturdy young ass. I found not only the smell but the shit itself. He'd forgotten to flush. And what a treasure he had left behind. Three or four beautiful specimens floated in the bowl. It apparently had been a fairly dry, constipated shit, for all were fat, stiff, and ruggedly textured. The real prize was a great feast of turd -- a nine inch gastrointestinal triumph as thick as a man's wrist. I knelt before the bowl, inhaling the rich brown fragrance and wondered if I should obey the impulse building up inside me. I'd always been a heavy rimmer and had lapped up more than one little clump of shit, but that had been just an inevitable part of eating ass and not an end in itself.

Of course I'd had jerkoff fantasies of devouring great loads of it (what rimmer hasn't?), but I had never done it. Now, here I was, confronted with the most beautiful five-pound turd I'd ever feasted my eyes on, a sausage fit to star in any fantasy and one I knew to have been hatched from the asshole of the world's handsomest young stud.

Why not? I plucked it from the bowl, holding it with both hands to keep it from breaking.

I lifted it to my nose. It smelled like rich, ripe limburger (horrid, but thrilling), yet had the consistency of cheddar. What is cheese anyway but milk turning to shit without the benefit of a digestive tract? I gave it a lick and found that it tasted better then it smelled. I've found since then that shit nearly almost does. I hesitated no longer. I shoved the fucking thing as far into my mouth as I could get it and sucked on it like a big brown cock, beating my meat like a madman. I wanted to completely engulf it and bit off a large chunk, flooding my mouth with the intense, bittersweet flavor. To my delight I found that while the water in the bowl had chilled the outside of the turd, it was still warm inside. As I chewed I discovered that it was filled with hard little bits of something I soon identified as peanuts. He hadn't chewed them carefully and they'd passed through his body virtually unchanged. I ate it greedily, sending lump after peanutty lump sliding scratchily down my throat. My only regret was the donor of this feast wasn't there to wash it down with his piss. I soon reached a terrific climax. I caught my cum in the cupped palm of my hand and drank it down. Believe me, there is no more delightful combination of flavors than the hot sweetness of cum with the rich bitterness of shit. Afterwards I was sorry that I hadn't made it last longer. But then I realized that I still had a lot of fun in store for me. There was still a clutch of virile turds left in the bowl. I tenderly fished them out, rolled them into my hankercheif, and stashed them in my briefcase.

In the week to come I found all kinds of ways to eat the shit without bolting it right down. Once eaten it's gone forever unless you want to filch it third hand out of your own asshole -- not an unreasonable recourse in moments of desperation or simple boredom.

I stored the turds in the refrigerator when I was not using them but within a week they were all gone.

The last one I held in my mouth without chewing, letting it slowly dissolve. I had liquid shit trickling down my throat for nearly four hours. I must have had six orgasms in the process. I often think of that lovely young guy dropping solid gold out of his sweet, pink asshole every day, never knowing what joy it could, and at least once did,bring to a grateful shiteater.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26432177)

eat my asshole!

Loooooong time (1)

s1lverl0rd (1382241) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432187)

I think spreadsheets evolved almost zero in the last 30 years. Word processing got fonts, colors... Excel is just VisiCalc with buttons.

Re:Loooooong time (5, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432389)

I think spreadsheets evolved almost zero in the last 30 years. Word processing got fonts, colors... Excel is just VisiCalc with buttons.

Wrong. In the last 30 years, they've added everything from statistical functions, to greater programmability to data mining functions. Integration with SQL databases. Desktop publishing features.

And not to mention the most important advance in spreadsheets in 30 years.

Yep, that's right. Clippy!

*ducking*

Re:Loooooong time (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432923)

And not to mention the most important advance in spreadsheets in 30 years.

Graphing. CEOs can't understand numbers, they make their brains run out their ears. Having the spreadsheet program produce charts and graphs for you is the single most important advancement in accounting since language.

Re:Loooooong time (2, Informative)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433053)

Reversing the X and Y axis for your data is also the easiest way to make the data lie.

It's like Mr. Twain said.

Re:Loooooong time (5, Funny)

mgiuca (1040724) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433399)

It looks like you are trying to make a standard Slashdot joke at Clippy's expense.

Would you like help?

Why use MUL/DIV (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26432207)

When you have shifts?

Re:Why use MUL/DIV (4, Interesting)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432349)

Why use MUL/DIV --When you have shifts?

Well, shifts and adds. For multiply.

Shift, subtract, jle for divide. :-)

Also, remember that when multiplying 8 bit numbers with 8 bit registers results in a 16 bit result. Its not as easy.

I wrote a whole 32 bit math package for the Z80 "back in the day."

Re:Why use MUL/DIV (5, Informative)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432429)

6502 doesn't have jle. It has bcs (branch carry set/greater or equal) and bcc (branch carry clear/less than).

Re:Why use MUL/DIV (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432451)

For integer math, I agree with you, but for floating point math, you need dedicated instructions that offload everything to the FPU. (Yes, we still have FPUs, they are now just an integrated component of the CPU package.)

Re:Why use MUL/DIV (5, Interesting)

Alioth (221270) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432531)

You can do floating point in software, it was done all the time in the 8 bit days, in fact it was done all the time right the way into the 486 days (the 486sx, IIRC, lacked an FPU). It's just not all that fast. But for the size of spreadsheet you could make on a 32K RAM system, the speed of the floating point calculator probably wasn't much of a factor. It wouldn't surprise me if the spreadsheet authors used the BASIC ROM's floating point routine, if it has one (I have no experience with the 8 bit Apple machines. The 8 bit stuff I do play with, like the Sinclair Spectrum and BBC Micro, have floating point calculator routines you can call).

Re:Why use MUL/DIV (2, Informative)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433343)

I don't believe they did use BASIC's floating point routines.

There were two sets of floating point routines you could call...

The first set was in the Programmer's Aid #1 ROM, which was optional, and obviously required for anything that wanted to use it, so not too much stuff used it.

The second set was in Applesoft BASIC (a modified version of Microsoft BASIC,) but not in Woz BASIC (also known as Integer BASIC,) so calling them on an unmodified Apple ][ would result in a crash. (If it had the Applesoft ROMs installed, or was a ][+ or newer, no problem.)

Re:Why use MUL/DIV (2, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433379)

the 486sx, IIRC, lacked an FPU

You are indeed correct. I still have one running Linux and acting as a router. Works just fine and consumes so little power (compared to modern systems) that I haven't been inclined to replace it. Has an uptime of >1,000 days too. I was shooting for 2,000 until we had a 71 hour long power outage that exhausted my UPS.

What if... (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432299)

The spreadsheet was never invented????

Errrr Divide by Zero

Re:What if... (5, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432499)

Then we'd go back to making decisions based on gut instinct, rather than what we do now: have beancounters revise their assumptions until the spreadsheet confirms our gut instinct.

Re:What if... (5, Insightful)

jacksonj04 (800021) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432827)

People would stop combining it with godawful macros in an attempt to cobble together a slow and inefficient relational database with no sensible query or reporting tools and use a real RDBM instead.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26432323)

not first post

Wow (3, Insightful)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432339)

Dvorak is an idiot. To use the old adage: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."

If a bank trusts a spreadsheet based on a bad formula that is provided by the bank itself, is it the spreadsheet's fault? If the CEO chooses that saving 1 cent a year by outsourcing the call center to India, is that the spreadsheet's fault? Please.

Re:Wow (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432365)

Its easier to blame the messenger, didn't you get the memo?

Re:Wow (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432415)

I think so, but I didn't read it because after I shot the mail boy who brought it, I used it to sop up the blood on my office floor.

Re:Wow (5, Funny)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432695)

"Its easier to blame the messenger, didn't you get the memo?"

Actually, I do blame Messenger for some problems.

Re:Wow (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26432743)

Whatever you just said, FUCK YOU for being a poor decision maker. You made me bald, too.

bad analogy - think crank (5, Insightful)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432525)

Spreadsheets aren't like guns, they're like methamphetamine.

It starts out innocently enough - a couple sheets here or there - maybe a long weekend working out a household budget. It's all good fun. By the time you realize a problem, though, you're hitting the 65k row limit. You're writing VBA and macros, you're embedding external data sources - and haven't backed up your work for days. It drives you insane and causes brain damage.

Just say no to spreadsheets.

Re:bad analogy - think crank (4, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432859)

Just say no to spreadsheets.

Once again the tool is blamed for the usage - there is nothing wrong with spreadsheets per se, its the user that needs to have the boundaries clearly defined.

Re:bad analogy - think crank (1)

MatthewCCNA (1405885) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433081)

Once again the tool is blamed for the usage

Isn't that the old convention, a novice blames their inexperience, while a professional blames their tools.

Re:bad analogy - think crank (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433203)

Once again the tool is blamed for the usage - there is nothing wrong with spreadsheets per se, its the user that needs to have the boundaries clearly defined.

How can you clearly define boundaries when spreadsheets support 65,000 rows or more and can bring in data from other spreadsheet files?

Re:bad analogy - think crank (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26433393)

there is nothing wrong with spreadsheets per se...

The first step is always denial. I know it's hard, but you need to admit that you have a problem before you can start the healing process.

Re:bad analogy - think crank (1)

Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433151)

It starts out innocently enough - a couple sheets here or there - maybe a long weekend working out a household budget. It's all good fun. By the time you realize a problem, though, you're hitting the 65k row limit. You're writing VBA and macros, you're embedding external data sources - and haven't backed up your work for days. It drives you insane and causes brain damage.
Isn't that just like emacs(though replace VBA w/Lisp)?
PS captcha: jittery ha!

Re:bad analogy - think crank (4, Insightful)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433195)

This is absolutely true. Spreadsheets are notorious for holding important business functions that are often designed by end users who may/may not have the best coding/design (VBA or formula) skills, that are typically never put through a QA/peer review process, and many times exist on a sole employee's desktop computer and have risen to the point that the business rules have bene forgotten over time and that sheet is necessary for some calculation for some function. These are the cases when IT gets raked over the coals when that desktop fails when responsibility lies on the user, and the user has really put the department in a precarious position. Word documents are just as bad. I've literally seen staff take a print out from the ERP system of a list of contacts who were past due for an event or account recievable take that list and manually edit the "gray boxes" in a word document that was write protected with a password that has been lost in staff turnover making it very difficult for IT to make changes when they ask for it, and then enter the same contact info in a second word document rigged to print a single label on a desktop label printer. With a Crystal or SQL report, we could have automated the process and saved time/resources for the staff and cut down our support of esoteric business processes. However, rather than work with us, one of their own rigged up something we had no idea was in practice had I not headed over there to help a technican with a connection to a server.

This is my same objection to having important business functions being run out of Access databases often developed by the most computer-able person in the department but whose skills are completely lacking. At the community college I used to work for, we had our standard ERP/student info system, but rather than approach IT to add some tracking for special programs into the system one of the student services staff started writing lame Access databases (without a single relationship mind you) to track student attendance in some program offices. What it ended up doing was causing the users to do double entry, made useful information exist outside of the insitution wide data source, and when it failed, it had become such an important part of business, IT was expected to fix a resource that was effed up from the beginning.

For the small business with 1-10 employees it is a great, in expensive way to work electronically. For anything bigger, it is trying to fish with a stick, shoestring, and bubble gum. It costs far more money to have workers working inefficiently and even worse, allowing them to stick with the skills they learned in a high school computer apps class than thinking critically, than ponying up the dough for a server or two and a more robust information system with a programmer/dept liaison to help them work more effectively. (Keeping in mind that it is possible to go into overkill mode.)

Even his examples are wrong ... (2, Insightful)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432557)

"where's the evidence of improvement in the way business runs or works? Cars are shoddy, consumer goods are junk."

So Dvorak would want us to all drive the biodegradable pieces of crap cars from 1979? Those Fords and K-Cars were really awful. Then there was the AMC Pacer ... a goldfish bowl on wheels ...

Last I looked, computers were consumer goods. My laptop is a lot higher quality, and much more capable, than the Heathkit 4004 I would have had to settle for 30 years ago. Ditto my cell phone compared to ANY "portable/mobile" phone 30 years ago. And both, after adjusting for inflation, are MUCH cheaper today.

Re:Wow (5, Interesting)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433085)

Dvorak is an idiot. To use the old adage: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."

If a bank trusts a spreadsheet based on a bad formula that is provided by the bank itself, is it the spreadsheet's fault? If the CEO chooses that saving 1 cent a year by outsourcing the call center to India, is that the spreadsheet's fault? Please.

There's a lot worser things than people using spreadsheet formulas. For instance, people not using them. Have you ever watched someone with no accounting or technical knowledge enter a bunch of figures in a spreadsheet then turn to the desk calculator to sum them up, turn back to the computer and key in the result? That's almost as bad as how somehow "worser" got into my spell-check dictionary and now I can type it without complaint!

Re:Wow (-1, Redundant)

afabbro (33948) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433327)

There's a lot worser things than people using spreadsheet formulas.

Indeed. Consider people inventing new words, for instance.

Re:Wow (1)

Tranzistors (1180307) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433235)

Quote:
To use the old adage: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."
End Quote

This should be educational: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1m65v8QI3A [youtube.com]

On this case, if spreadsheet lures people to trust it when they shouldn't, then maybe it is not God sent.

Disclaimer: I haven't read the friendly article or any of Dovark's article for that matter.

Don't Follow the Link (5, Informative)

twmcneil (942300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432373)

The only way to get rid of Dvorak is to deny him him the clicks. Don't follow the link.

Re:Don't Follow the Link (5, Funny)

RandoX (828285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432445)

Not true, start tagging the story diedvorakdie or ohnoitsdvorak.

Re:Don't Follow the Link (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432603)

Not true, start tagging the story diedvorakdie or ohnoitsdvorak.

It worked once, maybe it will work again?

Anyone who still thinks Dvorak is worth reading, please go search youtube for the video of him explaining his methodology. 'nuff said.

Re:Don't Follow the Link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26432811)

Don't follow the link.

Uhh, you do realize this is Slashdot.

Re:Don't Follow the Link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26433019)

I clicked it twice to spite you.

Re:Don't Follow the Link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26433179)

The Dvorak story may not be useful, but the link to the guy talking about writing it wasn't bad. What surprised me the most was what he didn't know - most of the things he had trouble with are part of what I would consider to be a basic CS curriculum (trig functions like sin() and cos(), how to write a parser)...yet they did a remarkable job designing for a limited architecture.

Instruction set. (4, Insightful)

drolli (522659) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432421)

Oh my goodness, did they really write it in assembler? I always imagined they already used high-level languages at that time.

And nevertheless, the non-availability of multiplication or division is honestly the smallest problem when programming the 6502 in assembler. Using a decent macro assembler it does not take a lot of effort to implement these two instructions. What i personally collided more with where the awkward addressing techniques of the 6502, and, of course, the quite um... limited stack, and of course, having only 3 registers sucked. I liked the Z80 much more form a low-level viewpoint. But in never though about the absence of multiplication instructions as a bad thing, just a little training....

Re:Instruction set. (3, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432659)

The 6502 wasn't that bad, or at least the 65C02. While you only have 3 registers, you do have fast zero page operations which makes it almost like having 256 registers. However, I still prefer the Z80, it makes things a lot easier to have the 16 bit register pair ops, and notwithstanding the 6502's zero page instructions, most routines on the Z80 are a bit easier to program since most of the time you don't have to shuffle things to and from RAM because you can fit everything in the two register banks. I still write Z80 asm today, it's fun.

Re:Instruction set. (2, Interesting)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432813)

I liked the Z-80 better, too. I do hobby work with the Microchip PIC series these days, but I still yearn for the Z-80 days (I think I was 16 or so). Dedicated I/O instructions and bus signals, cool interrupt subsystem. Too bad they didn't have nice 68k-style symmetrical registers. There are tons of Z80++ SoC's out there - maybe one day I'll play with them.

Re:Instruction set. (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432693)

Well, sonny, back in those times there was mainly BASIC and Assembly. Nothing much in the way of fast high level languages (BASIC, maybe Pascal by then.

You and your assembler, you had it easy....

Many of us starting out coding higher speed stuff had to hand-write our assembly and then lookup instruction values, calculate the addresses, branch offsets, etc. So we could enter it in a monitor or use DATA statements to POKE it in.

(cue for the next Yorkshireman)

Re:Instruction set. (4, Funny)

jacksonj04 (800021) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432919)

You had a lookup table for instructions? We had to try each value in turn until it did the right operation and then record the results by tying knots in bits of coax cable.

Re:Instruction set. (1, Troll)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433113)

Oh my goodness, did they really write it in assembler? I always imagined they already used high-level languages at that time.

Of course they already used high level languages in those days - on mainframes. But there just wasn't the program storage space on 6502-based machines in those days. You could create a much smaller and more efficient program in assembler than you could in COBOL or Fortran or something.

We didn't even use a high level language on the PDP11. But Macro11 was a million times better than the crappy 6502 assembler i had to work with back in 81!

Re:Instruction set. (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433257)

Oh, high level languages existed back then. Heck, C and most of the basic aspects of Unix existed back then.

However, technology in computing tends to start with really big systems and work its way down through midrange, then servers, then PCs and finally into embedded devices. Reasonably high-level compiled languages are one thing among many that did this.

Borland Did... (2, Interesting)

maz2331 (1104901) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433321)

Back in the late 80's, Borland wrote all of their compilers in Assembly. That's how they were able to compile 27,000 lines of Pascal code per minute on a '286 machine.

I shudder to think of the difficulty of that endeavor.

"look-Ma-no-multiply-or-divide instruction set" (1, Informative)

cliffiecee (136220) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432443)

No multiply or divide? Oh Noes!!1!!

Meh [wikipedia.org]

"On most older microprocessors, bitwise operations are slightly faster than addition and subtraction operations and usually significantly faster than multiplication and division operations,"

I have a question (0, Offtopic)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432467)

mod me offtopic but... what the fuck is wrong with his head? It looks like somebody stuck it in a vice and gave it a few turns (that would explain his "logic"...). Does he have John McCain cancer or something?

Cannot believe I am saying this... (5, Insightful)

DrWho520 (655973) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432487)

...Dvorak blames for elevating once lowly bean counters to the executive suite and enabling them to make some truly horrible decisions. even if you believe that VisiCalc was the root-of-all-evil, as Dvorak claims...

That which infuriates me the most about the tech sector is corporate executives building wealth upon the backs of laboring engineers. I have yet to receive an explanation as to why some VP somewhere gets to make ten times as much myself. When the company is not making record profits, it is an engineering problem. When we are raking in the dough, it is an executive success. No one ever looks to see how difficult the problem is because, they cannot fathom the problem being solved. My first day at orientation, you could tell the engineers from the financial analysts. We were in Dockers and collars and they were in three piece suits. Where did we go so wrong that support staff are the ones elevated to executive positions? Why is balancing a checkbook a more executive skill than writing the tool that tool used to balance the checkbook?!?

This only thing that disgusts me more is sharing a sentiment with Dvorak.

Re:Cannot believe I am saying this... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432579)

Because they schmooze. and you dont.

If you pretty much rim-job everyone above you, you get to be promoted.

There is no other reason for being promoted, and working very hard is a sure fire way of NEVER being promoted. you are valuable? we cant promote you.

Re:Cannot believe I am saying this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26433361)

Sounds like you should consider working at small companies. In my experience the only thing that matters at small companies is the quality of your work. I've recieved two promotions in the year and a half I've been at my current company with no ass kissing whatsoever. I work hard and that's it. I wear jeans and a t-shirt every day, have long hair and a bushy beard.

Re:Cannot believe I am saying this... (4, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432665)

Not that I want to contradict your thoughts, which I share (especially the pay check part), but let's put it into perspective.

Someone might be able to write the tool to balance the checkbooks but at the same time be unable to actually make good use of the program.

Another example would be Photoshop. I'm pretty sure the people who programmed it aren't nearly as good at using it as actual artists. The programmer probably never went to design school, etc.

Yet another example would be Word, Pages or any other word-processing program. Just because you can program such a beast doesn't automatically make you an award-winning writer.

You get the idea.

Re:Cannot believe I am saying this... (5, Insightful)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432673)

One day when you try to run your own company, you'll realize the problem with what you said above. The fact is that trying to find financing and projects to execute, in order to keep 500 engineers busy, really ain't easy.

Re:Cannot believe I am saying this... (1)

Brad_McBad (1423863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432697)

Sad as it is to say, they are not the support staff. They are the ones "making the business", and for good or ill, we are there to support their requirements and get them done.

It's a shitty situation, so now I work for a coding house. There are salesmen and techs and precious little else. It's almost a heaven. Now, if it weren't for the customers...

Re:Cannot believe I am saying this... (2, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433067)

That which infuriates me the most about the tech sector is corporate executives building wealth upon the backs of laboring engineers. I have yet to receive an explanation as to why some VP somewhere gets to make ten times as much myself.

You think it's just tech companies? No sir, this is how capitalism works. Really, it's just feudalism without the hereditary aspect. You are a serf, deal with it or go get an MBA.

Re:Cannot believe I am saying this... (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433117)

It's called a "job" for a reason. Don't like it? Start your own company. Your choice is either working for someone else or have someone else working for you.

Is executive pay too high? Of course it is, and the various boards of directors around the US should be summarily voted out by the shareholders. If you are looking for a government solution, good luck. Mandating equality has never, EVER actually worked to actually bring equality. You just get a system where some workers are more equal than others.

Elite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26432495)

...implemented in 32KB memory using the look-Ma-no-multiply-or-divide instruction set of the 1MHz 8-bit 6502 processor...

Are you kidding? They did Elite on that platform. Subtracting losses from profits doesn't even *need* a multiply.

Re:Elite (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433331)

...implemented in 32KB memory using the look-Ma-no-multiply-or-divide instruction set of the 1MHz 8-bit 6502 processor...

Are you kidding? They did Elite on that platform. Subtracting losses from profits doesn't even *need* a multiply.

Elite did a whole bunch more tricks which were pretty groundbreaking at the time and very much nailed to not just the CPU but the entire system it was developed on - how in God's name it ever got ported to other platforms I have no idea. Total rewrite?

VisiCalc binary is still available (3, Informative)

mritunjai (518932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432533)

Who'd 've thought :-)

Google for visicalc.com and download from the second link.

BEWARE: DO NOT run it on your main computer. Use a windows virtual machine or dosbox on *nix. It runs perfectly in both even after these years.

Re:VisiCalc binary is still available (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26432683)

BEWARE: DO NOT run it on your main computer.

Out of curiosity, why?

Re:Dvorak? Get real... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26432753)

Dvorak has the most unbelievable record of being wrong that I've ever seen in anyone who continues to be employed, and he's often been wrong about all things Apple for years. Why does anyone pay attention to him at all?

Re:Dvorak? Get real... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26433003)

Most people wouldn't miss the mouse at all if the web browser didn't require it.

For me, it's mostly useful in Quake.

Business Decisions (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432605)

Yeah, it's all the spreadsheet's fault. As soon as MS added the MAXIMIZE_STOCK_VALUE and HIDE_FROM_SEC functions, we were doomed.

Only left and right arrows no up and down (2, Interesting)

acomj (20611) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432627)

I've used visicalc. I was just a kid, but my friends dad had it for the apple ][+.

It was weird, because it had no up down arrows on the keyboard, you had to toggle up/down left/right mode by hitting the spacebar.

Love it or hate it, visicalc made computers way more useful. I don't think it was a bad thing

Huh? Elevating the bean counters? (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432663)

If Dvorak thinks that accounting and finance were bit players in the history of the world until the invention of the electronic spreadsheet, he's even more completely out of touch with reality than I thought. Maybe that's true in the parallel Dvorak universe where OS/2 took over the world and dialup BBSes became a multi-billion-dollar industry, but in this universe, accounting and finance has been a major player since, well, the invention of money and writing.

I actually like Dvorak, but having read him since the days when Computer Shopper was as large as an urban phone book, I have come to recognize that his predictions, while sometimes reflecting what ought to happen, seldom if ever reflect what actually does happen, and his analyses range from the silly to the outright bizarre.

Re:Huh? Elevating the bean counters? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432887)

I actually like Dvorak, but having read him since the days when Computer Shopper was as large as an urban phone book, I have come to recognize that his predictions, while sometimes reflecting what ought to happen, seldom if ever reflect what actually does happen, and his analyses range from the silly to the outright bizarre.

It sounds to me like you don't like him so much as have gotten used to him.

Dvorak has been writing from a formula from day one. Piss people off, but leave yourself an out, and when you are invariably proven wrong, claim that your out was your real position the whole time. Mac users ate it up more than any other group - coincidence? I THINK NOT

It's not the tools, it's the morons, stupid (2, Insightful)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432799)

What is actually killing the economy is the business major. There are too many people who don't know a trade going around thinking that the world owes them something.

Non-engineers doing engineers jobs (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432843)

If you think that it's bad that some executives do some calculations... think of the possible results when non-engineers attempt to do engineering jobs. The moment I step into a project, the standard 1st task is to correct all the mistakes that were made so far by the people who wrote the project proposal (and started to calculate too) and the lab guys. No offense to them, they do good work, but they would save us all time if they'd let _me_ do _my_ work. After that's done, I then to proceed to do the calculations in a programming language like Matlab (Octave)... which is much faster, more free and will hide mistakes much more professionally. *hides*

Get off my lawn! (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26432911)

your geek side still has to admire it for the programming tour-de-force that it was, implemented in 32KB memory using the look-Ma-no-multiply-or-divide instruction set of the 1MHz 8-bit 6502 processor that powered the Apple II.

Not those of us who actually programmed the Apple II, or programmed any computer back then. Even the original IBM PC had only 64k of memory (expandible). I wrote a battle tanks game on the Sinclair 1000 with its 4k of memory and its 1mhz chip. Of course, with that little memory and slow speed it couldn't be written in BASIC so I had to write it in assembly and hand assemble the machine code, and enter it byte by byte into memory.

No multiply of divide? So what? Multiplication is just serial addition, and division is simply serial subtraction. 4x4=4+4+4+4. Geek side? Gimme a break, that's stuff you learn in the third grade.

Now to quote Clint Eastwood from his new movie Gran Torino, "get off my lawn!"

Re:Get off my lawn! (1)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433377)

No multiply of divide? So what? Multiplication is just serial addition, and division is simply serial subtraction. 4x4=4+4+4+4.

Not if you want to do it fast. Multiplying two binary numbers is basically a matter of shift-and-add.

Say you want to multiple 1101 by 1010 (13 x 10), this breaks down to:

0 x 1101 +
1 x 11010 +
0 x 110100 +
1 x 1101000

= 10000010 (130)

To implement this in assember you'd shift one number left one bit at a time so that the least significatn bit gets shifted into a processor flag where it can be tested (the 1's and 0's shown on the right), and shift the other number right one bit at a time for the corresponding multiplication by 2, and either add it or not to the running total depending on whether you're multiplying by a 1 or a 0.

Division is done basically the same as the long-hand division you'd do on paper.

Dvorak's role (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26432987)

Ever notice Nostrodamus always "predicts" things after they happen, not before? I call him a predictor of the past.

I've watched Dvorak since I started in the industry in 1978. His job is to be wrong, pretty constantly. He's just doing his job.

Aren't we forgetting something? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26433001)

Where's the hate for powerpoint? If you really want to blame a piece of software for spawning crappy, Dilbertesque, counter-productive executive culture, look no further.

Power corrupts.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
But it takes Powerpoint to really fuck things up.

no multiply and divide (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433065)

look-Ma-no-multiply-or-divide instruction set of the 1MHz 8-bit 6502 processor that powered the Apple II

The majority of the 6502's instructions were 8 bit. I wrote quite a lot in 6502, and several times had to code 16 or 24 bit multiply/divide routines. BASIC even had floating point math which I never ventured into. Anytime you wanted to deal with a number > 255 you had to juggle carries.

Overall it's a very good learning experience. The first thing any assembly course teaches you is how to do some of the more complicated instructions using simpler instructions. My first touch with a higher assembly (VMS VAX) was a cakewalk because they were basically teaching me things that were old hat. ("and this week we are going to learn how to do multiplication and division without using the MUL and DIV opcodes..." *yawn*) And when they let us use the more powerful instructions (multiply, SORT, omg this is assembly??) I could sleepwalk through coding. It felt a lot more like BASIC than assembler.

I don't think I can have any respect for assembly that has more than 200 opcodes.

Tooting my own horn... (5, Interesting)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433083)

Speaking of 6502 programming feats, back in 1982 I worked for Acorn computers in the UK, writing software for the 2MHz 6502 based BBC microcomputer, which incidently we also used as our development machines. The BBC micro had 16K of ROM for the built-in BASIC interpreter and low level "OS", another 16K of address space into which you could map any one (at a time) of the other 16K software ROMs in that machine, and 16K or 32K of RAM depending on the model. Much software was sold on ROM - there were four sockets built-in or you could get expansion boards to allow more - but only one at a time could be selected since there was only 16K of address space for these.

One project I did at Acorn (with another guy) was to implement a Pascal development system for the BBC micro that we crammed into two of these add-in 16K ROMs. This was no cut down version - is was a full-blown ISO certified version of Pascal, the first ever implementation for a Microcomputer to implement the standard and achieve ISO certification (ISO Pascal is different from P-system Pascal which had preceded it).

So, what we fitted into 32K was:

- An ISO Pascal compiler, which compiled programs down to a P-code like stack-based virtual instruction set
- A virtual machine/interpreter for the instruction set
- A 6502 machine code relocator
- The complete Pascal run-time library (full floating point, IO library, heap, etc)
- A full-featured full-screen editor with regex find/replace (with as-you-type syntax parsing and highlighting), block copy/move/delete, etc (in only 4K of code)
- Command line interpreter

Now bear in mind that only 16K of this could actually be in the address space at one time...

The way we managed to squeeze all this in was to have the compiler in one 16K ROM, and the rest in the other. The compiler was written in ISO Pascal and self-compiled to our virtual instruction set. We had to add a few "macro" instructions especially for the compiler in order to get it under the 16K limit. The rest of the software (which I wrote) was all in 6502 assembler. Now consider that to run the compiler you also needed the virtual machine, but that was in a different ROM which could only be mapped into the same address space as the compiler (hence replacing it)... What I did was organize the VM/interpreter into pure code, pure data, and relocatable data (address tables), and implement a 6502 machine code relocator (recognize each instruction type, and know how many byyes they were, and whether they had an address component that needed relocating) which copied the VM out into RAM therefore allowing it to co-reside in the address space with the compiler.

It was a very fun project, not only because of the technical challenge (this was my first job out of college), but also very much because of the memory constraint. I had to use every 6502 trick in the book to eliminate every spare byte to squeeze the assember half of it into it's 16K ROM. Those from this generation may remember things like using XOR A, A as an alternative to LD A, 0 to save a byte, changing tail recursion/calls to jumps (JSR subroutine, RET -> JMP subroutine), taking advantage f known processor flag state to use 2 byte "conditional" (but not if you know the state) branches in place of 3 byte absolute jumps, etc, etc.

Toot toot!

Re:Tooting my own horn... (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433269)

I remember that Pascal system. We had it on the BBC Micros at school.

Unfortunately, I didn't appreciate it at the time. I heard we were getting it and was really excited because I understood it generated machine code, not P-code - and was very disappointed when I found out it didn't make native code...so I went back to assembler.

I would appreciate your achievement these days though (but I'd still use assembler nonetheless!) One of the great things about the Beeb was the built in assembler. Although my retrocomputing love is the Sinclair Spectrum, I do have two BBC Micros - they were by far the best 8 bit architecture of the time. We had an econet network of them at school, and a friend an I wrote a Shades-inspired MUD, part in BASIC, part in asm. Unfortunately we couldn't afford one for home, the Spectrum at about a third of the price was the affordable proposition, so I know my way around the Z80 much better than the 6502. It was only in 2007 that I got my first BBC Micro!

Re:Tooting my own horn... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26433357)

I don't think you're tooting a horn. If nobody knows what we've done in the past, it's as if we had never done it.

By the way, I think you work is really impressive.

Disaster for planning, great for accounting (1)

Budenny (888916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433125)

Problem is obvious if you've ever been in a Fortune 500 senior management meeting making an investment decision. You have one proposal portrayed in too exhaustive detail for you to be able to see the assumptions. What you need is a few likely scenarios in little enough detail that you can debate the assumptions. Then you have the result presented in PPT slides which you have not seen before, where after the fact you have no idea why the group decided what they did. Or often, even what they decided. What you actually want is prose, which everyone has read in advance, which makes the thing crystal clear: what, why, how.

Solution: keep Excel in Accounting. Do business decision making with 5 page written papers, 1 page of financials, max 3 graphics. No overheads except the graphics. It works.

Evil Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26433129)

Spreadsheets may enable Evil, but are not Evil in themselves.

On the other hand, PowerPoint is Pure Evil.

I hate baby programming in spreadsheets (0, Troll)

Hoplite3 (671379) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433159)

Spreadsheets generally annoy me because many programming concepts I'm used to are watered down. I find most of the formula stuff to be a pain. Maybe somewhere out there is some sort of "spreadsheet for smart people" where I can use say python expressions to manipulate a big table of data.

As for spreadsheets leading to bad decisions -- it's really the fault of bad models. Just because you can extrapolate into the future doesn't mean that prediction is worth a darn. The phrase "if this trend continues" usually makes my ass twitch. Shouldn't you first do some check to see if that extrapolation means something?

30 years? Try thousands of years (2, Insightful)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 5 years ago | (#26433301)

Spreadsheets have been around for a long time; there are cuneiform tablets still around that showed how many cattle somebody had. I've got 50-year old reports in my office that have spreadsheets of financial ratios. The only difference now is that they're made on computers. Before a spreadsheet by itself can be blamed for anything, it will need to have at least as many cells as the human brain.

"snuck into businesses" ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26433397)

one of my favorite things about Visicalc is the widely repeated story that it was snuck into businesses on Apple machines bought under the guise of word processors, but covertly used for accounting instead.

That's not the way I remember it. VisiCalc is the quintessential Killer App [wikipedia.org]. Businesses bought Apple IIs because of VisiCalc.

There was no need for it to "sneak in" anywhere.

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