Hardware and software are the two keys to computing, they exist side by side. The main difference between the two is that the manufacturing of hardware is extremely costly and the barrier of entry will cost you quite a sum of money. Most large companiesx do hardware. Software on the other hand can be created by an individual, by true grit, determination and technical savvy. Anybody can start a software company with little or no cost, just a computer and some serious programming skills. The real history of information technology is the history of software, although hardware is important.
As we do our computing on a daily basis, we use programs like Word, Excel but it’s seldom that we think back to their origins. They are a novelty for us in our daily lives, helping us make sense of data by creating charts associating tables and rows with formula. In those days software wasn’t sold separately but bundled with the computer or system that was purchased by the consumer.
As software the PC software came of age (sometime after the ENIAC, IBM System/360 and OS/360, the Altair, mini-computers of the early 1970’s and microprocessors) there was a spreadsheet program called VisiCalc that was released originally for the Apple II.
What I want is to be number one. — Steve Prefontaine
VisiCalc was written by Dan Bricklin in November 1979 while doing his MBA at Harvard. Bricklin was joined by Bob Frankston and the pair wrote the program within two months. VisiCalc was a huge success and the power of the little program packed into 32K stayed on the Apple II for a couple of years. People rushed to buy a $2000 machine for a $100 piece of software. As a matter of fact most modern programs borrow heavily for the GUI of VisiCalc, with it’s rows and columns.
VisiCalc was ported to the Commodore PET, HP-150 and TRS-80 Model I and II – another port was made to the IBM PC and was notably one of the first commercial packages shipped in 1981 selling at around $250 from it’s previous $100 value. Eventually VisiCalc was killed by Lotus 1-2-3 by another VisiCalc employee; Lotus 1-2-3 borrowed heavily from VisiCalc and it’s performance was far superior. Around that time there were imitations of VisiCalc notably SuperCalc and MultiPlan.
While reading an article on Indie developers and how some can actually make money by creating software on their own, it reminded me of Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston and their successful endeavours with forming Software Arts. Though this is just one story of many, it’s the oldest where modern day software is concerned. Lot’s has changed since then and a lot remains the same. The idea is that there is still hope for individuals or a group of two or even three to start their own software companies. The question is what platform will you be developing for as it’s rare to find successful indie developers on the iOS or Android ecosystems