Antedating of "Spreadsheet"

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Wed Sep 5 20:59:04 UTC 2012

The use of "spreadsheet" to denote a computer program, or at least a
function performed on a computer, dates to at least 1975.

IIRC, it can be found on page 13 of the 23 July 1975 issue of Computerworld.
Unfortunately Google Books is exhibiting very strange behavior and won't let
me see that issue right now. (When I do a date delimited search, Google
keeps showing me results outside the date range.)

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Dan Goncharoff
Sent: Wednesday, September 05, 2012 11:50 AM
Subject: Re: Antedating of "Spreadsheet"


Is there a meaning of spreadsheet in the 1981 context that is any way
different from the 1945 context? I ask as someone whose first job after
graduation in 1982 was taking spreadsheets done in pencil on columnar pads
and setting them up in VisiCalc on an Apple III. The function was the same;
the end product was the same. Is it a different word?

I note that the phrase "video game" does merit distinction from "game", but
I think that is a different animal altogether. Am I mistaken?


On Tue, Sep 4, 2012 at 10:51 PM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Antedating of "Spreadsheet"
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------
> spreadsheet (OED 1982)
> 1981 _ABA Banking Journal_ Oct. (Nexis)  Whatever the size of your bank'
> pe=
> rsonal computers belong on its planning agenda for next year. Personal
> comp= uters--also known as home computers and microcomputers--are
> those small, in= expensive, and yet amazingly powerful and flexible
> machines that are being = used for everything from video games to
> spread-sheet analysis.
> ***
> The above citation alludes to VisiCalc, the enormously important
> invention = of my old partner on the MIT tiddlywinks team, Dan
> Bricklin.  The OED fails=  to recognize that the VisiCalc spreadsheet
> was preceded by a noncomputeriz= ed financial tool called a
> "spread-sheet."  Here is an early citation:
> 1945 _Journal of the American Statistical Association_ 40: 511 (JSTOR)
> Att= ention is directed to the Summary of Financial Data (Spread
> Sheet) shown in=  Exhibit III.  It will be noted that basic
> statistical data is "spread-out"=  on one sheet so as to be read
> easily and correlated to significant factors=  recorded in the lower
> part of the exhibit which are essential to proper in= terpretation of
> the data.
> Fred Shapiro
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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