Spreadsheet – Concept, history and what it is for

We explain what a spreadsheet is and what is the history of this computer tool. Also, what is it for and some examples.

The spreadsheet is for entering alphanumeric information.

What is a Spreadsheet?

A spreadsheet or electronic template is understood as a type of digital tool that consists of a document made up of rows and columns in a table, thus forming cells in which alphanumeric information can be entered and put in relation in a logical, mathematical or sequential way.

The spreadsheets are a computer tool with a huge application and validity in the most diverse fields of human activity in the world today. From administrators, accountants, scientists and inventory managers, to the professions less given to mathematics take advantage of it and its ability to automate certain operations, such as the ordering of data or combinations of the four main ones of mathematics: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Thus, a spreadsheet is a versatile computing tool, adaptable to different needs, and common in office software packages such as Microsoft Office, LibreOffice, OpenOffice, etc.

History of the spreadsheet

The first electronic data sheet was created in 1972, taking advantage of algorithms already patented a couple of years before by Pardo and Landau. His announcement took place in the article Budgeting Models and System Simulation by Richard Mattessich, although the accepted inventor of spreadsheets as we know them is Dan Bricklin.

According to Bricklin, the idea came from an extensive table drawn on a blackboard by a professor at his university, who, perceiving a wrong calculation almost at the end, had to raise it again from the beginning, erasing all his hard work. Seeing this, Bricklin imagined the possibility of an interactive spreadsheet in which these tasks would be much easier.

That first spreadsheet was called VisiCalc, and it was extremely important as it drew the attention of the business and management world to personal computers (PCs), until then had as a hobby.

What is a spreadsheet for?

A spreadsheet allows a wide variety of functions, such as:

  • Enter data in lists or sequences of operations, save and print them.
  • Sort lists and data sets, applying alphabetic or other criteria.
  • Apply formulas and formal operations to data sets to obtain results.
  • Plot data sets and operations in different ways (pie, bar, etc.).
  • Build automated digital templates.

Spreadsheet examples

A couple of examples from a table or spreadsheet might be: