We moved Software Arts on December 21, 1979 to good commercial quarters a few blocks away, also in Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, eventually taking over the entire 12th floor of this building:
Third Software Arts location
The first award that we got for VisiCalc was from Adam Osborne. Adam was an important visionary, commentator, and entrepreneur in the early personal computer days. He founded a book publishing company (later sold to McGraw Hill) which published computer books. Some of those books were about accounting and included the source code of programs such as General Ledger. That "open source" helped start the use of microcomputers (especially CP/M machines) in small business. He also was an industry pundit and gave a yearly "White Elephant" award for the most important chips introduced in the previous year and to the people that changed the industry for the good. In March of 1980 he gave Bob and me the 1979 award for VisiCalc at the West Coast Computer Faire. There's more information about Adam and a copy of a recording of him giving us the award on my "Adam Osborne Recording
" page. To get a feeling for the thinking of an industry visionary at the time, it's worth listening to. At that trade show I also met Dave Winer
, later of Userland
, and saw his early outliner as he demonstrated to Ted Nelson, of hypertext (and Dream Machines) fame.
The award consisted of a circuit board with the winning chips, some engraved words, and a tiny ivory white elephant (he lived much of his life in India). Here is a picture of the award (there's a bigger picture on the recording page) and Bob and me on the cover of the Boston Computer Society's magazine of July-August 1980 holding it:
"White Elephant Award" from Adam Osborne, Dan and Bob on the cover of Boston Computer Society publication with it
We ported VisiCalc to many different computers. Here is a picture of VisiCalc running on a variety of them:
Clockwise from upper left: Apple III, TRS-80 model 3, Apple II, IBM PC, TRS-80 model 2, Commodore PET CBM-80, HP 125, Atari 800
Here are some of the packages it came in:
VisiCalc packaging for a variety of computers including from Radio Shack, Apple, and Hewlett Packard
A copy of the IBM PC VisiCalc
is available for you to try on this web site. For more information about the announcement of the IBM PC, see these pages on this web site: "Thoughts on the 20th Anniversary of the IBM PC
" (which includes pictures of my notes in my notebook from those days) and "IBM PC Announcement 1981
" (which consists of a transcript of a videotape taken of the Software Arts staff meeting about the announcement on August 12, 1981, including reading the press material and brochures from IBM). The IBM PC version became the most popular. The shipped version supported up to 512K of memory (the maximum we could test it on at the time).
We hired many programmers, managers, testers, and others.
Software Arts computer room with Prime timesharing minicomputers used to do development, and some of the programmers, testers, and managers working on VisiCalc (probably taken in late 1981 or 1982)
In January of 1982, publicity started to pick up. Bob and I appeared on the cover of Inc. Magazine in an article written by Stewart Alsop. Stewart was new to computers (this was his first exposure) but he went on to be editor of Infoworld, start his own publication and the Agenda conference, and later become a venture capitalist. In addition to the article about Software Arts, there was another one about "The Birth of a New Industry" which included Bill Gates, Mitch Kapor, Gary Kildall, Dan Fylstra, Tony Gold, and others, written by Steve Ditlea and Joanne Tangorra. Part of it reads: "All five of their companies -- whose combined revenues just missed $50 million in 1981..." Here are some pictures:
Bob and Dan on the cover of Inc. Magazine January 1982, and an excerpt from the article by Stewart Alsop about Software Arts
Article about the new personal computer software business in Inc. Magazine in January 1982: "The Birth of an Industry: Working in their attics, basements, and garages, seven entrepreneurs tacked together a totally new industry."