back to article Hey Reg readers, Happy Spreadsheet day! Because there ain't no party like an Excel party

Break out the bunting and crack out the Excel-based party puns. Tomorrow is Spreadsheet day, and it's time to party like it's 00/01/1900. Celebrating the arrival of VisiCalc for the Apple II all those years ago, Spreadsheet day commemorates the columns and rows beloved by number crunchers everywhere, whatever their tool of …

  1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C

    Something I was told in the 80s

    I was exposed to SuperCalc (can't remember if it was 2 or 3) in the mid 80s. Thought the world had turned golden, especially when I discovered that it had an elementary macro system available (type commands as plain text row by row in column 1, save as a sheet and then execute that 'sheet' within another).

    I enthused about this new power to a geeky (older, more experienced and wiser) friend who told me "it isn't a programming language and it isn't a database".

    Wise words then, wise words now. I still remember those words when somebody suggests using the New Shiny as our new panacea.

    Don't get me wrong, spreadies are a great tool for lots of tasks from easy-to-do forms to simple run-a-formula apps for mathematically challenged users. But the macros aren't programming languages(*) and the programs aren't databases.

    (*) Yes, there are exceptions. But the generalisation stands.

    1. Colonel Mad

      Re: Something I was told in the 80s

      Wish I still had Supercalc, loved it.

    2. druck Silver badge

      Re: Something I was told in the 80s

      If we are going back to the 80's I'd like to mention ViewSheet on the BBC Micro.

  2. Milo Tsukroff
    Coat

    Spreadsheets - The first TRULY useful microcomputer app! Long may they reign!

    Spreadsheets - The first TRULY useful microcomputer app! Long may they reign! ...and having occasionally written my own programs to implement a spreadsheet, just for fun and experience, may I say, spreadsheets are a BRILLIANT idea! I've been playing with them since MultiPlan on the IBM PC and the TI-99/4A. 'Nuff said. I'll get me coat. Mine's the one with the Lotus 1-2-3 manual in the pocket.

    1. Lars Silver badge

      Re: Spreadsheets - The first TRULY useful microcomputer app! Long may they reign!

      I hsd an Apple II+ and was indeed very impressed with VisiCalc.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spreadsheets - The first TRULY useful microcomputer app! Long may they reign!

      Used and loved Lotus 1-2-3

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spreadsheets - The first TRULY useful microcomputer app! Long may they reign!

      As an IT guy the demand for PCs was driven by people wanting to be able to run a spreadsheet. Remember that back then (early '80s?) the cost of S/sheet software was £hundreds and the PC itself maybe £2k or more. One colleague proudly showed me how he'd managed to use Multiplan as a Wordprocessor (not a good idea!) to avoid the cost of a separate WP program!.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: Psion PC-Four

        That reminds me: a cheap piece of software I used for some time was Psion's PC-Four suite. Very good within its limitations, from what I remember. Four disks in a VHS-like case, each with different functionality. The spreadsheet was called Abacus, rather than Have-a-Cuss which we now know as Excel.

  3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Joke

    Advert from Matt Parker about spreadsheets in light of the recent issue;

  4. Imhotep Silver badge

    All You Need Are Various Sizes Of Hammer

    When I were nought but a wee half-wit, I used a Lotus spreadsheet to calculate and total refrigeration loads and then size multiplexed refrigeration units using the tax table feature. It was a real time saver.

    Then I went back to school to find out what the hell I was doing and embarked on a new career.

  5. Johnny Canuck

    lotus

    Back in the late eighties my friend and I got our hands on Lotus 123. The very first thing he did with it was make a database of his music collection. I recall shaking my head and saying "That's not what you're supposed to do with it".

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: lotus

      I've been given a very large MSWord file that somebody has (ab)used as a database.

      1. MrReynolds2U

        Re: lotus

        been there...

        I was given a "database" of 10k+ records in Word and had to write a parser to extract the data into a usable format.

        Wasn't particularly complicated but it did take a while to fix the invalid "rows" issues in the source.

    2. Tim99 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: lotus

      I had a colleague who took all of the 1,2,3 functions seriously:-

      1 - Spreadsheet - Yes that's what we bought it for.

      2 - Database - Sigh, it saved him having to keep logging into the Rdb/VMS database. OK until he added stuff and didn't put them back into Rdb.

      3 - Wordprocessor - So he didn't have to learn WordPerfect. Yes he wrote multipage technical reports in 123 without headings, then printed multiple copies with his local small dot-matrix sprocket printer...

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: lotus

        The (original) Lotus Symphony did pretty much that (badly, of course, except for the spreadsheet part).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: lotus

        Don't forget DTP! I will admit to abusing Excel to produce posters in the past.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: lotus

          Don't forget that excel can be (ab)used as an art package!

          https://mashable.com/2014/10/26/microsoft-excel-art/?europe=true

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Grammar, please!

    "...none of them IS a database."

    1. Snowy
      Headmaster

      Re: Grammar, please!

      <quote>When deciding whether to use is or are, look at whether the noun is plural or singular. If the noun is singular, use is. If it is plural or there is more than one noun, use are.</quote>

      "From VisiCalc to Google Sheets" looks like it identifies more than one item so is could be would be used but then the end is wrong. This leads me to think ...none of them are a databaseS is more correct :)

      1. MiguelC Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: when using Pedant Alert icon, please ascertain that you did not add other errors

        none of them are  a  databaseS

    2. Precordial thump

      Re: Grammar, please!

      Correct. Google Sheets is singular.

      Simple check: mentally substitute "not one" for "none" and re-read to see if your sentence still makes sense.

      The errors come when you get hung up on using a singular verb immediately after a plural pronoun; it's right to do that sometimes.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Grammar, please!

        The subject of the verb is "none" ("of them" is a prepositional phrase acting as an adjective modifying "none"). Grammatically, "none" has long been either singular or plural depending on the whim of the writer - there's no conventionally dominant number for none in English usage.

        And, of course, all of the comments claiming that either a singular or plural verb is "correct" here are prescriptive, and prescriptivist comments on English usage are false pedantry.

        In short: none of you is correct, and none of you are correct. Either is acceptable.

  7. Andy Non Silver badge
    Coat

    Remember only 6 people in your Excel party

    or you may spend the night in a cell.

    1. Happy_Jack

      Re: Remember only 6 people in your Excel party

      or 3 nights in a row.

    2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Remember only 6 people in your Excel party

      First class. See icon--->>>

    3. C R Mudgeon

      Re: Remember only 6 people in your Excel party

      Best to just column all at home.

  8. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Spreadsheet day

    Shouldn't that be 2/29/1900 (or 29/2/1900)? Back when MSFT apparently believed 1900 was a leap year.

    (The Mac used a 1904 epoch to avoid that issue, but apparently Excel countered that move with the auto-epoch-switch that made transferring sheets between Mac and Windows so memorable.)

    Nicely bookended by the update (late November, 1999, IIRC) to make Windows believe 2000 was a leap year.

    Credit where it is due, both those bugs were almost certainly discovered/reported by folks using spreadsheets to calculate future value of various financial instruments. Rather than the truly useful applications like the sheet to translate to Pig Latin.

    1. logicalextreme Silver badge

      Re: Spreadsheet day

      There's some nice spolsky* context on that here.

      * he's an adjective now Lana, deal with it

      1. Norman Nescio

        Re: Spreadsheet day

        Duly upvoted. I had read that particular posting before, but it was nice to be reminded. Thanks.

        NN

  9. John Riddoch

    The bane of auto formatting....

    and it's tendency to assume "12E4" as scientific notation and muck up the data....

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius

      Re: The bane of auto formatting....

      On most occasions, auto formatting is useful. It is, as ever, the user's fault when it goes wrong.

      Ideally, modern schools would teach these things. But that would entail telling the little ones they had got it wrong. Correcting children's work like that is "not done" nowadays. British state education has become a comprehensive disaster.

      1. stungebag

        Re: The bane of auto formatting....

        "Ideally, modern schools would teach these things. But that would entail telling the little ones they had got it wrong. Correcting children's work like that is "not done" nowadays. British state education has become a comprehensive disaster."

        I must inform the teachers I know. Being told that they can't correct work will come as a considerable surprise.

        As to 'teaching these things', that's exactly what the ICT syllabus was for. No specific products were mentioned by name, for example using spreadsheets was called modelling, as there's more than one spreadsheet available and things change over time. But the ICT syllabus was about using ICT to do things.

        But it got killed. Many Reg commentators were against it, seemingly on the grounds that it wasn't software engineering, programming or systems design. I assume they're also opposed to learning to drive on the grounds that it isn't auto engineering or car maintenance.

        It was also seen (or portrayed) as a soft subject with no real academic side, being little more than software training.

        There was some truth to the arguments but it was a useful, practical, subject.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: The bane of auto formatting....

          I'm glad you wrote that. I've written similar comments on El Reg myself. You wrote this with precision, concisely and clearly.

          You've earned, (see icon)

          Thank you.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The bane of auto formatting....

          UK IT teaching in schools a decade ago...

          If any teachers are about to tell me things have changed, they are welcome to invite me to observe a lesson so they can prove it.

          My lad was taught MS Office then progressed to websites, came home to tell me he needed a copy of Dreamweaver to do his homework. I explained that was a choice between a pirate copy and a few hundred pounds and as a programmer I took a dim view of piracy. (The school copies were reportedly on some kind of incentive deal from Macromedia and couldn't be brought home). At the time I employed professional designers who did use Dreamweaver, their training had taken significant time and money; the school's training was little more than "here's the software, get on with it" in a couple of "lessons" a week.

          I showed him how to use a text editor and deliver the required results using HTML&CSS which he understood, found easier to understand and quicker to use. He got bad marks because, although the deliverable delivered exactly what the assignment required in terms of function and appearance, it wasn't done with dreamweaver and the teacher didn't understand simple HTML/CSS.

        3. Greybearded old scrote

          Re: The bane of auto formatting....

          "No specific products were mentioned by name"

          Not so sure about that, my nephew was required to have MS Word for his homework. For $reasons involving a new drive and excessive DRM I'd had to give them OpenOffice.org.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The bane of auto formatting....

        "auto formatting is useful. It is, as ever, the user's fault when it goes wrong."

        I thought the entire purpose was to make it go right when the user went wrong. The cost of that is that it goes wrong when the user's right.

  10. Norman Nescio

    Locales and function names

    It's not just auto-formatting. Try moving spreadsheets between locales.It's almost as though Microsoft never considered that people might want to share spreadsheets across borders.

    And if you want to use functions....well if someone creates a French spreadsheet, the function names are in French. Move it to the UK, and suddenly it doesn't work, because the functions are not tokenised in storage. Quite why some idiot decided to store function names in the language they were input, I don't know. Had they been tokenised, I could open up a French spreadsheet and tell the program to display the tokens in English, or German, or Swahili (other languages are available). As it is, websites that list the translations of various functions names from English to foreign and vice versa are rather useful e.g. https://www.excel-function-translation.com/

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Locales and function names

      I was working at a German subsidiary, and asked the manager if he wanted German as the standard.

      "Oh no, localisation sucks"

      What about your employees who don't speak English?

      "Who on earth can't speak English?"

      Naturally we were speaking in English because I knew maybe 200 German words mostly gleaned from software menu options.

    2. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

      Re: Locales and function names

      Norman Nescio : "Microsoft never considered that people might want to share spreadsheets across borders"

      What are you talking about? I am sure MS considered that someone in Utah may want to read a spreadsheet from Washington State, or even Ohio.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Locales and function names

        >Norman Nescio : "Microsoft never considered that people might want to share spreadsheets across borders"

        What are you talking about? I am sure MS considered that someone in Utah may want to read a spreadsheet from Washington State, or even Ohio.

        Bet the NSA just love reading Chinese .XLS files - made even more problematic back in the day because the US install media didn't include support for non-US English language...

        1. EarthDog

          Re: Locales and function names

          It's not that hard to set up a server on an isolated network localized to Cinese with an NTP server designed to convince it it is on Beijing time. Or given a little cash obtain licenses through unconventional means. That's what black budgets are for, after all.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Locales and function names

      Did 1-2-3 or others tokenize function names? Or they didn't have localized versions at all?

    4. Greybearded old scrote

      Re: Locales and function names

      Let's remember how long ago the original versions were, and the hardware they were running on. The PC version had DOS memory limits, and even the wealthier (they had to be, you might think current models are spendy) Mac users could probably only afford 1MB or so. Then there was the speed cost of those lookups on a sub 12mhz processor.

      Once that compromise was made then the backwards compatibility that past MS were very keen on kept it in.

      Excuse me while I recover from the severe cognitive dissonance caused by defending Billy.

    5. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

      Re: Locales and function names

      It was the case perhaps with Excel 97, but starting at a minimum with Excel XP everything was done properly (if that term can apply to anything related to Excel).

      Of course if you are not using an English version of Office on an English version of Windows you may enjoy some performance related issues...

  11. TDog

    VBA

    "The impressive extensibility via macros (and the dread Visual BASIC for Applications) has nearly been Excel's undoing over time."

    VBA may well be dreaded but only by auditors and truth seeking fanatics. EUC (End user control) is the bane of any attempt to ensure data integrity but there always seems to be at least one bod with a spreadsheet which is only understood by the bod in virtually every medium to large organisation I have ever worked in.

    It doesn't matter whether this is right or wrong, it only matters that it is - and VBA is the tool of choice. Easy for an amateur to program and get right - easy for a professional to program and get right. So what could go wrong?

    Often (and usually) these products have many years lifetimes being ensconced in the accounts for the last X.Y, Z years, and no one gets any form of support for challenging them. And to be fair, nearly all of the errors I have ever found have been on the close order of £10M or less - just a rounding error.

    On at least one occasion I was strongly instructed in the presence of senior management to identify any potential actions that could be considered as more than ignorance or irregularities. Having found such evidence and presented a potential forensic chain I was asked whether there was a source control system that could be used to demonstrate deltas and potential intent.

    On stating that that was not my brief and I had not formally checked with the IT support I was thanked. The 46 year old person retired and I was thanked and subsequently informed that they would not be extending my contract.

    I have no idea why.

    1. Norman Nescio

      Re: VBA

      VBA is the tool of choice. Easy for an amateur to program and get right

      I would suggest VBA is easy for an amateur to program and get working.

      There is a huge amount of value to a business in being able to produce code that works 'well enough' quickly. Problems occur when a quick lash up becomes a production system.

      NN

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: VBA

        Quote:

        " Problems occur when a quick lash up becomes a production system."

        Been there, done that, screamed and pulled out all my hair as a result before repeatedly headbutting a wall yelling "I want to die"

        Saving the data, and then deleting the whole f'ing thing was the best solution....

        Wheres the 'nuke it from orbit ' icon?

      2. gerdesj Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: VBA

        I once wrote a finite capacity system in Excel 6 for a pie factory. It had a forecast on the front and spat out a machine/process loading - ingredients, prep, make, bake, wrap and dispatch and delivery on the end. It took the into depot values from the forecast and ran the plant backwards, allowing for recipes, cooling times and quite a lot else. You input desired machine efficiencies - usually 80-95% except at Easter and Christmas when 110% was often needed followed by maint. There were several other desired parameters. Once the plan had run backwards, then the model would spit out what will not work. You change the constraints and run it again until it works. I had some ideas for making that automatic but a skilled planner is quite good at fixing the issues.

        Two days work in Planning turned into an hour or so. Now you can run the Plan daily instead of weekly. It also spat out a labour plan and a forecast for the next month so that Manpower and co had advanced warning.

        Each sheet of data always has the word "End" at the bottom of each column, in white text on a red background, 8 point font. My routines would always look for all those attributes when deciding when to stop running down a column. If it made sense, then all tables of numbers would be summed horizontally and vertically and compared. I had routines that I suppose would be called unit tests nowadays but I was a simple civil engineering grad doing IT in a pie factory in the mid '90s.

        I'll never forget giving the factory manager a smart new labour plan. We ran old and new side by side for a few months and compared what worked. Generally both systems worked but mine took minutes to an hour or so to run instead of days. When a machine blew out or whatever a new plan was available within an hour.

        This comment is grossly over simplified but should give you a feel for what can be done. Nowadays I run an IT company. I've seen some proper horrors in spreadsheet form.

        Don't blame the tool, its the f'ing tool using the tool that cocks it up or makes it work efficiently.

  12. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Pint

    I'm getting OLD

    I remember when Visicalc came out, and the first time someone showed me formulas that were related and how it recalculated.

    My brain exploded and my jaw rattled around on the floor. It was about as earthshattering as the time someone explained exactly what pointers were in C.

    We need an "old man rambling on about shite" icon...

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: I'm getting OLD

      That I think this suffices as the icon requested............

  13. 45RPM

    My first was SuperCalc on CP/M for my old NewBrain. Then Multiplan on MS-DOS. Resolve was the first really, really, good one, and I wish it still existed. Excel, for work, because work. And Numbers for home because now mi brane hurtz

    1. Norman Nescio

      NewBrain

      Have an upvote for the NewBrain. I had one too. I eventually donated it to the National Museum of Computing, together with the floppy disk controller. The NewBrain, an Oki dot matrix printer, and a fair bit of programming produced the graphical plots for my degree umpty-um years ago.

      NN

  14. Novex

    "Tool on the Stool" - love it :D

    Can I ask for a Happy Microsoft Access Day? If we're talking about Excel and the like being used to innappropriately stand in for properly developed applications, then Microsoft Access also has to be nominated as such a culprit. However, in both cases it happens because Business-side people want something developed, but the willingness of I.T. departments to work to the Business-side needs for a price that isn't astronomical and a development time that isn't measured in millennia seems lacking, so Excel and Access get used instead.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      I've so far done three different Access courses. It's the only piece of software I can't seem to get to grips with. I've no idea why. I've no problems with SQL and the many variants of it, FileMaker, RDS etc Just a massive bout of amnesia when it comes to Access. I remember it just long enough to pass the course then Poof! Gone.

      1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
        Pint

        This is how your brain says "No, just no!". Your brain is a fine brain.

        Now do reward your brain ---------->

  15. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Mac user here

    So if it's all the same to you, I'll party like it's 01/01/1904

  16. Terry 6 Silver badge

    All of the above

    Where a Spreadsheet becomes a problem ( or an Access DB or a WORD table) most of the problem is not the capabilities and idiosyncrasies of the product. It's the culture in which it is used. Creating a quick tool is one thing. Creating such a tool that needs to be in use for, potentially, ever - or overcomplicating such a tool with extra, originally unintended functions, and/or setting it running long term with no overview of how it works is the organisation's failure, not the Spreadsheet's.

    That the developing companies, Microsoft or whoever, fall over themselves to add value to the product with bells and whistles is a shared guilt. The customers want that stuff, and the software companies deal it.

  17. davenewman

    My first spreadsheet error was saving on top of the program disc instead of a different disc when using someone else's copy of Visicalc.

  18. Danny 2 Silver badge
  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is a reason why IT departments are almost universally hated

    Making spreadsheets *is* programming, and Excel is as a database, *because that is how it is used*.

    “stupid users, hur hur hur” - you sound like prats. Get over yourselves.

    1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: There is a reason why IT departments are almost universally hated

      > ...and Excel is as a database, *because that is how it is used*.

      Solid argument there, I am impressed.

      > you sound like prats

      You say that like it were a bad thing!

      Best regards from your IT department.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is a reason why IT departments are almost universally hated

      Making spreadsheets *is* programming,

      Nope, it's data entry

      Excel is as a database, *because that is how it is used*.

      Right, so a chisel is a wrench, because that's how it is used - by ignorant arseholes.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't be too hard on spreadsheets and their scripting languages that are/were used for tasks not envisaged by their creators.

    The IT industry has rich history of 'bending' tools to do things they were never intended to do. As a prime example I give you the browser - I mean if you could sit down today to design the thing would you really start with the cobbled together HTML/CSS/JS stack (and myriad of mode du jour frameworks) that we have today? VBA might be looked down upon as a programming language but Javascript really? How many years have engineers spent (wasted?) optimising run-time engines and type-systems just to overcome it's pantheon of shortcomings? And why? Because what was envisaged as a simple scripting language to automate web pages has turned into a not fit for purpose monster that literally the whole planet is lumbered with!

    1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge
      Facepalm

      How do you date!

      Javascript is a fine language where statments like

      if (x == 1 && x == 2 && x== 3) { console.log("True!") }

      make sense given the proper context...

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    *The* standard for government work

    (shameless repost from last week)

    Peon creates excel sheet (in their own time) that stores details, then upgrades it a bit so it automatically sends emails, or something.

    Their manager sees it, and mentions it to their boss as a Good Thing.

    Boss tells their boss, everyone gets access to it, and before you know it everyone is using it.

    Original peon leaves for a better job.

    Six months later the thing is overloaded, or stops working, or an Office upgrade renders it useless. Meanwhile it has become "business critical" and there is a Massive Flap (tm) while IT get the blame for it not working.

    Repeat ad nauseum.

  22. Lucy in the Sky (with Diamonds)

    In 2005 I was an analyst, supporting a large telecommunications company. An Excel issue was passed to me, that stumped those who came before me. A department has engaged an external developer to build a database in Excel 2003, and by the time of my involvement, NZ$80k was already spent.

    The problem was that the developer has actually hit many of Excel 2003’s limits in rows, columns and system resources, and was unwilling to accept this as a fact. The secondary problem was that too much money was already spent on the project to make its way under a rug.

    The solution was political, and I have engaged my manager’s manager to sit down with the head of the department in question and sell them a SQL database instead. Sometimes, a political solution is more elegant then figuring out how to work within given limits.

  23. Marshalltown

    According to the Microsoft link

    "... We sometimes get mails from our customers claiming to have found a calculation error in Excel, when in fact the calculation isn’t wrong, but the side effects of binary floating point precision make it seem that way. ..."

    The article doesn't explain how the square root of a squared number can yield a negative number. Just a simple variance, always a positive value for archaeological counts and measures, nothing esoteric, yet taking the square root, there it was: a negative standard deviation. I quit using Excel (or any other spreadsheet for statistics after that). I still don't get quite how that number, which was seriously wrong, only "seemed" that way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: According to the Microsoft link

      >The article doesn't explain how the square root of a squared number can yield a negative number.

      Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but the square root of a positive number has two answers - a +ve and a -ve number. The square root of 25, can be +5 or -5.

      Its only when you get into the square root of negatives values (i) where maths becomes much more fun.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1
        FAIL

        Re: According to the Microsoft link

        > square root of a positive number has two answers

        Yup. What he said. If your application insists that the positive root is the only physically valid one, then stick an ABS() function around it.

        ===

        I was about to post a link to the hackiest .xls spreadsheet I ever created (and was pleased with at the time), which generated a printable calendar-style page for any month/year that could be posted on the wall so that last-person-out could sign for room security. It has all sorts of dropdowns and conditional formatting to hide 31st September and so forth.

        But... I just opened the archive copy in LO to reminisce and it's horribly broken, probably would be in any modern version of Excel, too. And that little anecdote is probably a better lesson than the "source code" could ever be.

    2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: According to the Microsoft link

      Mathematically, every square root has two solutions, a negative and a positive one. If you really, absolutely have to have the positive number, use the absolute value of that square root.

      EDIT: I should hit F5 more often.

  24. Frank Eggleaves

    The article and the comments so far don’t recognize that spreadsheets and databases as used today are partial mediums in the 1964 Mcluhan sense, partial sensory extensions. Non-electronic spreadsheets are an ancient device dating perhaps before quill and paper right up to the later era of mechanical comptometers. Likewise the article and comments don't distinguish database as a medium. What is usually called a database today is actually a conglomeration of electronic coding techniques that don't distinguish information from information method. In particular no relational database system exists for the simple reason that the very first sentence in the 1970 paper by Codd is universally ignored by the well-known implementations. Besides, the first business application of modern personal computers was actually electronic typesetting in the form of a typewriter replacement. Alan Kay describes the effect of all this when he points out the universal tendency to apply new mediums as replacements for old mediums. Nothing against the coders whose reaction to this is almost guaranteed to be partial because coders are dominant and make the world go round but it needs to be understood that the lense of those who only copy patterns cannot be the same as that of programmers who create patterns nor cyphers who neither create nor copy but do recognize patterns. Coders don’t need to create or recognize.

  25. AndrewB57

    And another blast from the past

    Surprised not to see mention of the shareware prog we bought back in the ?early 90s - AsEasyAs

    And why AsEasyAs? well Lotus-123 geddit?

    I taught myself the back end from the Manuel (written in West Coast geekese as I recall) and wrote a macro that took the csv output from our invoice runs, data in our product files and table for salesforce ("force" ha, haha, oh god) and calculated gross and net profit (an anaylsis missing from our otherwise handy dbase app).

    We shared this out on a monthly basis leading to the classic observation that "1/8th of fork all is fork all"

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: And another blast from the past

      My first post-Uni (well, last month of Uni) job was installing AsEasyAs on a suite of PCs.

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