Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Spreadsheet of Old

At the bottom of a very, very old pile I came across a pad of paper which produced nostalgic memories. It was an all-purpose AmPad miniature spreadsheet, of the old-fashioned kind, thus neatly pre-ruled pages. Herewith an image of it. I call it a miniature because, on full-sized jobs of calculation, we used pads of much greater size. But they were essentially the same format you see here but made both wider and deeper.

The old spreadsheet—which also gave its name to the electronic kind—served exactly the same purposes. Ever notice that when you open a new page of Excel, for instance, one of the first tasks is to make the left-most column  wider—because that’s where the descriptive labels usually go? Well, in the old days the paper versions came that way. And, of course, both rows and columns were numbered. The electronic versions introduced column-marking using letters, which made it less confusing to reference a cell.

To be sure, working with the vast, physical, ancient spreadsheets was a bother. You had to have a calculator handy. And in the really early days those were not small and handy but big and bulky and almost too heavy to move.

Yes. Nostalgia. Most of it is of this flavor. Somehow the past appears in a rosy sort of light whereas the present is always in black and white. Until you recall what a major labor it was to revise a column already filled with numbers. All that erasing, all that cursing. Ah, the good-old-days.

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