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Dan Bricklin: Still Productive After All These Years

If you ever used Excel or Google’s spreadsheet, you owe Dan Bricklin a thanks. In 1978, Bricklin had the idea to automate table creation. Along with fellow programmer Dan Fylstra, Bricklin worked out the program’s layout, commands and internal routines on a 40 column Apple II. They called it VisiCalc and it spawned the first real business interest in microcomputers. Here’s what that first screen looked like.

Visicalc

The appeal to business was simple. Put in a what if number and you instantly saw the result. Moreover, until then if you made a table you had to spend much time doing footings, that is, making sure that the vertical and horizontal totals agreed. VisiCalc did that for you, eliminating time and errors.

Bricklin, unlike many of the other PC pioneers did not go on to build a large company, etc. Instead, he has founded small businesses focused on innovations in user design and applications. Most remarkable, he’s never lost his touch for user views and usability.

So, what’s this got to do with EHRs? Much. Below is Bricklin’s take on designing apps and sites that use different platforms and OS. In it he moves quickly from automating spreadsheets to today’s challenges, including what to do with left-handed users on tablets.

So, what do you think?

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