Do you know what accountants used before Excel and other spreadsheet software was invented?

Pen and paper.

Seems pretty obvious really, but when you consider how complex software is these days, and the hugely intricate operations they’re required to complete, you wonder how on earth anyone could have done any of this stuff without a computer.

So, how did they?

Simple really: very, very slowly.

You may have seen the ‘50 Things That Made The Modern Economy’ series that’s being broadcast on the BBC World Service and the BBC website, and one of the latest articles deals with spreadsheet software.

It’s a really interesting read, so I recommend taking 5 minutes to digest it – you can find it HERE.

As the article explains, until 1979, the processes that programs like Excel make look easy were all done manually, by hand, with rows, columns and formulas all painstakingly changed whenever a spreadsheet was changed.

And then “VisiCalc” was born, and everything changed.

VisiCalc is known as the first “killer app” – a software program deemed so useful that people would buy a computer just for that one program.

What struck me about all this was how quickly things have changed – 1979 really wasn’t that long ago, and yet that manual process seems so primitive and archaic.

It got me thinking about the things we’re currently doing which will seem laughable 50 years from now – are there any time drains in your daily role that you wish a piece of software could remove?

And what’s your favourite “killer app” that you use today?