Presentations and spreadsheets before Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office is the standard for document management in offices around the world. It was this office suite that formed

culture of modern workflow.And Microsoft is working diligently to keep things going. And she was very successful at it. Despite the fact that there are many free analogues, and most ordinary users do not even realize the full potential of Office by 50%, people still want to work in Microsoft Office.

I remember the moment when Microsoft translated theiroffice products from box sales to a subscription model. Under one of the articles on the topic, serious passions unfolded in the comments. People complained that they didn’t want to pay all the time, and they didn’t want to pay at all, but they weren’t ready to download a free analogue, because it wasn’t so convenient.

To some extent, this attachment is understandable:After all, Microsoft Office has always been with us. Bill Gates introduced the first version of the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint package in 1988. And as separate programs, the listed applications appeared back in 1982-83.

Of course, Microsoft's office software was notthe very first. There were several analogues on the market, and at the first stages, for example, no one believed that the same Excel (then called Mutiplan) could move VisiCalc or Lotus 1-2-3.

However, I propose to dive a little into history and see how office affairs were conducted before the advent of computers.

Presentations before PowerPoint

Planning sales, protecting development plans, and performing other business tasks were required even before the creation of computers.

In ancient times, when the world was simpler,most decisions were made by eye. For example, in 1553 the British ship "Eduard Bonaventure" anchored in the Dvina Bay. Thus began trade relations between Russia and Britain: a group of merchants went on an expedition, picking up goods for trade with them. They sailed, found customers, sold, opened representative offices, arranged deliveries.

However, in the 19th and 20th centuries, this approach no longer worked. The so-called corporate culture began to appear, when you need to train salespeople, protect sales plans, and so on.


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This is now for every rally we sculpt a presentation.Previously, presentations were made for centuries. They often looked like giant books, which came to be called flipcharts. For example, this is a 1940s flipchart with a presentation on advertising and promotion.

Accordingly, when it was necessary to update some data, they simply changed the sheets. In the pre-computer era, flipcharts were the presentation standard.

In passing, it is worth noting that the creation of presentationswas a troublesome business, as it required the cohesive efforts of many people. Companies had entire departments dedicated to creating on-demand presentations. Designers and printers worked there, who always had a lot of work. After all, along the way, we were developing universal designs that can always be used by simply updating the numbers. Here is an example of a 1958 General Electric presentation.

However, for large-scale events, real gurus-designers and artists were invited to cooperate. How do you like the IBM presentation from the 50s too?

Since the process of creating slides was painstakingand time-consuming, they were prepared several days, and sometimes weeks before the presentation. And people carefully checked every word and honed their performance. As a result of this approach, there was a slightly different way of presenting information. The slides did not try to make them heavier with an abundance of numbers and text - anyway, no one will take the presentation with them. And he won’t be able to take a picture, so the main thing at the meeting was the speaker, not the presentation.

With the development of printing services, handouts appeared. And a new presentation format, when everyone was given out such a “calendar”. Everyone sits and flips. It was in the 60s - 70s.

However, at that time no one called sheets slides. The term "slide" migrated to the presentation with the development of projectors.

Projection slides were more difficult to manufacture.However, the projectors themselves were much more compact, and up to 80 slides could be loaded into one projector. So they were used on business trips. And they were very fond of various salesmen. A projector is much more convenient than carrying around huge flipcharts or presentation sheets.

It should be understood here that there were examples aboveimportant presentations. At ordinary meetings there were also presentations, but then no one thought about the design, and everything was drawn by hand. For example, here is an ordinary presentation of IBM in 1958, which is preserved in the science museum.

And here is a photo from the NASA 1961 press conferenceof the year. There are no real calculations on the board, only basic equations that were supposed to visually show how NASA scientists work - a bunch of stepladders and pieces of chalk.

And finally, look at what the first one looked likePowerPoint presentation. Black and white, on a tiny screen, but it was immediately clear that this was a breakthrough, a future that would lead to the reduction of entire departments and the bankruptcy of third-party contractors. Why do you need a professional presentation designer, if now everyone is their own designer, right?

This was largely due to the fact that the sameMicrosoft introduced ClipArt, a set of pictures that anyone could add to their presentations. Undoubtedly, electronic presentations stimulated business development. However, an era has passed. Presentations from the EVENT turned into an ordinary thing with a typical design, that is, they became more boring and mediocre.

Spreadsheets before Excel

When I first got acquainted with Excel at school,unrestrainedly admired what a genius one must be to come up with such a program. A giant table in which you can read and visualize any data. And only later I realized that, unlike the presentation, people from time immemorial used the prototypes of Excel.

In the pre-computer era, there were ledgers instead of Excel.

And, in fact, any school magazine is Excel at the minimum.

Before the invention of Excel, the life of office workerswas a real hell. Initially, they had to study all the ledgers, knocking out numbers by hand. With the development of computers, the situation has become simpler, but not much.

Before the advent of personal computers in the company(if it is big and prosperous enough) there was one computer. This mainframe could take up an entire floor. It was a data center. Accordingly, when some figures were required, they turned there. At the same time, one should not think that one could simply come in and ask to throw off "the figures for the past week after lunch." The computers were very big, but slow and stupid.

So people only made requests whenit was really important data. At the same time, usually the computer did not even count anything, they simply entered all the data into it, it sculpted them together and issued them in the form of rolls of thin paper. Accordingly, in response to a request, the employee received a huge sheet of numbers, from which he manually selected those that he needed, and then he counted everything himself. So here it was impossible to come up and ask for sales statistics for a separate counterparty. They gave it all away. But this was better than running around different departments, collecting data.


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It became possible to speed up the calculation process thanks to the invention of LANPAR, or LANguage for Programming Arrays at Random (a language for programming random arrays).

Only really big companies like General Motors or AT&T could afford that.

Thus, LANPAR was developed at the direct request ofBell Canada and AT&T. Companies were faced with the fact that they needed to update the data in the cells of the budgeting form. Then the Fortran language was used for calculations, and local specialists said that it would take them from six months to 2 years to recalculate all the results. And LANPAR allowed to recalculate automatically: updated the cell - all other results were recalculated.

However, for ordinary cases they still usedaccounting books, and instead of computers, they hired students whose job was to drive a sharp pencil over rows and columns of numbers, then adding them up on an adding machine.

This is what the calculator looked like.

If you are interested in how such a machine worked, then you can watch this video on YouTube.

But to sum up, it was LANPAR that becamethe prototype of modern spreadsheet editors, which everyone was guided by. With the development of computers, everyone wanted to have tables in which data could be automatically recalculated.


Today the world cannot be imagined without computers andMicrosoft Office (or other office software). Office software has democratized offices by allowing every employee to operate data. It's funny that history goes in a spiral, and we are almost back to the starting point.

Don't believe? Look!Previously, there was so much data, and computers were low-performance and huge, which is why a separate category of specialists was engaged in calculations, to which ordinary employees turned to with requests. Then came the era when everyone on their computer could add numbers and work with databases. Now, again, there is so much data that a conventional computer does not have enough power to process them, and in Excel - rows and columns. And now ordinary employees are again forced to turn to specialized employees who can extract the necessary data from arrays.

I wonder what will happen in the future.Will the process of working with data be simplified again, for example, can it be possible to ask artificial intelligence to do all the calculations in the cloud and immediately provide tables and insights?