Archive for November, 2009

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] 30 Years of VisiCalc

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

VisiCalc Ad - 1979Reminds me of a Superman comic book cover.

Thirty years ago this October, Personal Software unleashed VisiCalc, the world’s first spreadsheet software for personal computers, upon an unsuspecting computer populace. Invented and developed by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston of Software Arts, VisiCalc has become legendary for its influence on the personal computer industry.

VisiCalc, with its almost magical ability to instantly and intelligently crunch multiple cascading figures, proved to be the Apple II’s killer app — the application that gave the Apple II a viable foothold in the business market and drove the machine’s sales.

Of course, other spreadsheet packages (Lotus 1-2-3 and Excel come to mind) soon imitated and then eclipsed VisiCalc in sales, but we should all raise a glass and toast the original on this fine 30th anniversary.

For more information, check out Dan Bricklin’s website. Dan also has a new book available that you might be interested in.

[ From BYTE Magazine, November 1979 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first spreadsheet software you ever used?

I Hate It When This Happens (Leaky Battery Blues)

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Burst Macintosh Clock Battery
VC&G Collecting Tip: Remove your old computer clock batteries.

Right now.

I’m serious: do it. Despite my regular battery purges (done to avoid just such a situation), I forgot to remove the Mac IIsi PRAM battery you see above because the computer was buried under a bunch of stuff. The battery electrolyte leaked out and corroded everything it touched, ruining the logic board. Sometimes you can recover from battery leaks with extensive cleaning if the damage isn’t that bad. In this case, it wasn’t worth the effort. Bye, bye, IIsi.

While you’re ditching the vintage clock batteries, do yourself a favor and remove the main power batteries from any laptops in your collection. I typically store laptop batteries in a gallon zipper bag each. Even if the batteries are dead/bad (which they usually are), I save the plastic cases for re-use if I plan to rebuild the battery in the future.

As a good rule of thumb, never keep batteries (no matter how new) in any electronic device for longer than a couple weeks of non-use. Any longer, and you’re just playing Russian roulette with your gadgets.

Almost all batteries leak eventually. If your old ones haven’t leaked already, you’re very lucky. Focus on alkaline and NiCd batteries first, because they leak the worst; lithium cells can leak as well (as seen above), but it’s less common overall.

Regardless of the type, if they’re old, remove them now — even if it requires clipping or desoldering — and spare yourself the leaky battery blues later on.