My history of computers dates back a few generations, back to the radio industry, a construction company, and an advertising agency. The latter provided the need, Apple provided the incentive, but not the first products.
Back in the last century I ran a small St. Louis, MO area advertising agency. That meant clients, ad budgets, and the need to purchase advertising in area newspapers, radio stations, and television stations. Budgeting was a horrible time devoted to long yellow legal pads and a calculator. One day I dropped into Forsythe Computers in Clayton, a St. Louis suburb, and saw my first Apple computer and a spreadsheet.
I outlined my advertising agency budget calculation problems to Timothy O’Neil who also handled Forsythe’s advertising so he quickly understood the issues. Advertising budgets for multiple ad clients was a painful, tedious experience but he had a solution. VisiCalc running on a CP/M card running in an Apple IIe personal computer. I sat down and he pulled up a VisiCalc spreadsheet. And advertising budget. He explained how VisiCalc worked, what the cells and formulas did, and I was hooked.
Unfortunately for Forsythe Computers and Apple, I didn’t buy an Apple IIe or an Apple III (dodged a bullet on that one). Instead, I bought something that was priced lower and more familiar. An Osborne I that ran CP/M (an OS I was familiar with already from previous careers) and came with the SuperCalc spreadsheet, dBase II, WordStar, and other utilities. It didn’t take long to adapt SuperCalc to an advertising agency budget, and set up dBase II to handle media schedules. I wrote ads and commercials on WordStar.
Yes, this was a form of personal computing back in the day.
The Osborne 1’s price tag was $1,795, software included. $1,795 today is about $4,700. For that money you can buy a fully tricked out iMac with a 27-inch 5k Retina display and massive SSD storage and RAM. The Osborne had 64k of RAM and everything about the OS was command line only. dBase II started up as a green dot on the diminutive screen. Osborne I predated the famous IBM PC and debuted long before the Mac or Windows
From there I graduated to another CP/M machine, then to an IBM PC that ran the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet and a PC version of WordStar. The Mac came along in the spring of 1984 but didn’t do much for an advertising agency until a few years later when Apple’s own MacDraw and the Aldus PageMaker apps debuted. Through the years I’ve owned more than three dozen different Mac models. Today’s personal computers– Mac or Windows or Linux– are vastly superior in every way to those of yesteryear, but for me, it all started with a solution to a need. Necessity is the mother of invention. A spreadsheet led to multiple careers in and around the industry.