The Pioneers of Spreadsheets: The Inventors Behind Excel

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and talk about the pioneers of spreadsheets – the brains behind the invention of Excel. Excel, as we know it today, has become a staple in businesses and households alike for organizing, analyzing, and storing data. But do you ever wonder who came up with this genius idea? Well, grab a cup of coffee, and let’s get into it.

The Pioneers of Spreadsheets: Who Invented Excel?

Before Excel became the go-to spreadsheet software, there was VisiCalc, the very first spreadsheet program invented by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston in 1979. This groundbreaking tool laid the foundation for what would become Excel. However, it was Microsoft that took spreadsheets to the next level with the launch of Multiplan in 1982. But it wasn’t until 1985 that the first version of Excel was released for the Macintosh, and two years later, in 1987, Excel for Windows made its debut.

Step 1: Recognize the Importance of Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston

Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston created VisiCalc, which was the first-ever electronic spreadsheet. This invention was instrumental in the development of future spreadsheet software, including Excel.

Bricklin came up with the idea while he was a student at Harvard Business School, and together with Frankston, they developed VisiCalc. This software revolutionized the way people worked with numbers and played a critical role in the success of the Apple II computer.

Step 2: Acknowledge Microsoft’s Role in Evolving Spreadsheet Software

Microsoft launched Multiplan in 1982, which was an early competitor to VisiCalc. Although it didn’t gain as much popularity, it set the stage for the development of Excel.

Multiplan was Microsoft’s first spreadsheet program and was initially released for computers that ran on the CP/M operating system. However, it eventually lost out to Lotus 1-2-3, which was the leading spreadsheet software in the early 1980s.

Step 3: Understand the Significance of Excel’s Launch

Excel was first released for the Macintosh in 1985, which marked a pivotal moment in the history of spreadsheets. The Windows version followed in 1987, which further solidified Excel’s position in the market.

The first version of Excel for Macintosh was a significant success and helped establish Microsoft as a major player in the software industry. Excel for Windows, which was part of Microsoft’s Office suite, became the dominant spreadsheet software and has maintained that position ever since.

After completing the action, you’ll have a better understanding of the origins of Excel and the people responsible for its creation. You’ll appreciate how these pioneers’ contributions have shaped the way we handle data today.

Tips for Understanding the History of Excel

  • Remember that VisiCalc was the first electronic spreadsheet, but it was Excel that became the industry standard.
  • Note that Excel’s success can be attributed to its inclusion in the Microsoft Office suite, which offered a range of productivity tools.
  • Consider the impact that Excel has had on the business world, revolutionizing data analysis and decision-making processes.
  • Acknowledge the continuous development and improvements made to Excel over the years, keeping it relevant in an ever-evolving tech landscape.
  • Appreciate the role of competition in driving innovation in the spreadsheet software market.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who invented the first electronic spreadsheet?

The first electronic spreadsheet, VisiCalc, was invented by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston in 1979.

Did Microsoft create the first spreadsheet program?

No, Microsoft did not create the first spreadsheet program. However, they developed Multiplan, which was an early competitor to VisiCalc, before creating Excel.

When was Excel first released?

Excel was first released for the Macintosh in 1985, and the Windows version followed in 1987.

Why did Excel become more popular than VisiCalc?

Excel became more popular than VisiCalc because it was part of the Microsoft Office suite, which offered a comprehensive set of tools for productivity. Additionally, Excel’s features and user interface were more advanced.

How has Excel changed over the years?

Excel has undergone numerous updates and improvements, adding new features, enhancing user experience, and adapting to changes in technology and user needs.


  1. Recognize Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston as inventors of the first electronic spreadsheet.
  2. Acknowledge Microsoft’s role in evolving spreadsheet software with Multiplan.
  3. Understand the significance of the launch of Excel, which became the industry standard.


Spreadsheets have come a long way since the days of VisiCalc, and it’s fascinating to see how Excel took the world by storm. Understanding the history and the pioneers behind this revolutionary tool gives us a deeper appreciation for the software that we often take for granted. Excel has not only simplified tasks but has also opened up endless possibilities for data analysis and business intelligence. The story of Excel is a testament to the power of innovation and how a simple idea can transform the way we work and live. As technology continues to advance, it’s exciting to think about what the future holds for spreadsheet software. Will there be new pioneers who will take Excel to even greater heights? Only time will tell. But one thing is certain – Excel has made an indelible mark on the world, and its legacy will continue to influence generations to come.

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