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and change it and
say well, what if I do this.
So it put people in a sense in control
of the thing that lots of people in our society feel is driving
them and that's numbers.
The spreadsheet was every businessman's crystal ball.
It answered all those 'what if' questions.
What if I fire the engineering department?
What if I invest $10 million in pantyhose futures?
Look! I'll be rich in under a year and have slimmer thighs
at the same time!
The Computer says so!
The effect of the spreadsheet was enormous.
Armed with an Apple 2 running Visicalc a twenty-four year old MBA
with two pieces of dubious data could convince his
corporate managers
to allow him to loot the corporate pension fund and do a
leverage buy-out.
It was the perfect tool for the eighties...
the lead decade where money was everything and greed was good.
In five years, the PC had gone from a hobbyist's toy
to an engine that shaped the times we lived in.
Thanks to VisiCalc the Apple II made history.
Everybody you talked to just seemed excited about talking
about what we were doing.
And there was this huge media explosion, kind of like the Internet
is receiving today,
of this is the happening thing. You read about it over and over
and over,
and every time you took an airplane flight you read about it,
in every newspaper every week you'd read something
about small computers coming, and Apple was one of the
highlight companies
so we were being portrayed as a leader of a revolution,
and we really felt that we were a leader of a revolution.
We were going to change life a lot.
Pretty good for a company started in a garage three years before.
But not all the PC pioneers made great fortunes. Dan Bricklin decided
not to patent his spreadsheet idea.
Though more than 100 million spreadsheets have been sold
since 1979,
Bricklin and Frankston haven't earned VisiCalc royalties in years.
You know, looking back at how successful a lot of other people
have been it's kind of sad that we weren't as successful...
It would be very nice to be gazillionaires,
but you can also understand that part of the reason was
that that's not what we're trying to be.
We're kids of the Sixties and what did you want to do?
You wanted to make the world better,
and you wanted to make your mark on the world and improve things,
and we did it.
So by the mark of what we would measure ourselves by,
we're very successful.
And what about Ed Roberts?
Three years and 40,000 computers after assembling that first Altair,
the fun was over for Ed.
MITS was just another player in what had become a
competitive market for personal computers.
Roberts sold his company in 1978 and started a new life.
He went back to his native Georgia and retrained as a doctor.
- I hadn't really thought anything at all about it for the last
few years
- until people started taking credit for things that we did at MITS
- eh that's the only thing I think about. It irritates me
- when I think about the things that we did at MITS and we took
all the heat for
- that other people have tried to take credit for
- and that frustrates me.
While Ed Roberts invented the personal computer,
it was the founders of Apple who got rich.
When Apple went public in spectacular fashion in 1980,
Jobs and Woz became multimillionaires.
The nerds had inherited the earth.
I was worth...
...about over a million dollars when I was twenty-three
and over ten million dollars when I was twenty-four,
and over a hundred million dollars when I was twenty-five
and ehm it wasn't that important ehm because I never did it
for the money.
It was just a little hobby company like a lot of people do
not thinking anything of it.
I mean it wasn't as though we both thought it was going to go
a long ways.
It was like we'll both do it for fun
but back then there was a short window in time where one person
who could sit down and do some neat good designs
could turn them into a huge thing like the Apple 2.

- !
- XX

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