Software spotlight: Viscalc IV and Visicalc Advanced for DOS

edited August 2015 in Software Spotlights
The situation as it was: Viscalc was written by Software Arts (AKA Dan Bricklin and pals) and sold by the software publisher VisiCorp (formerly Personal Software). The original VisiCalc was ported to many, many, different architectures, and was for a time the "killer app" that everyone had to have.

In late 1982 VisiCorp released VisiCalc Advanced Edition for the Apple III. For whatever reason, Software Arts was indefinitely delayed providing VisiCorp with the Advanced Edition for the IBM PC.

By late 1983, VisiCalc was competing against a new upstart spreadsheet "Lotus 1-2-3". 1-2-3 , written by a former VisiCalc programmer, was specifically designed for the IBM PC and made better use of the x86 hardware.

VisiCalc IV:


As a response to this, and still without the advanced version, VisiCorp released VisiCalc IV. It appears that VisiCalc IV was the last version sold by Visicorp, although they briefly advertised a "VisiCalc Extended Version". They also released Visi On Calc (Later renamed Visi On Plan) with their Visi On graphical environment, which despite the name was completely unrelated to VisiCalc - and appeared to cause some friction with Software Arts.

I have no idea where they got the "IV" from.

VisiCalc IV was not a completely new version. Instead it was the same VisiCalc product bundled with a third party product called "Stretchcalc". The box slipcover is actually the same as regular VisiCalc, but with a clear sticker tacked on that adds "IV" and describes stretchcalc.

It seems they were quite desperate. ... &q&f=false

VisiCalc IV, or really Multisoft Corporation StretchCalc, adds graphing, sorting, arranging columns, and keysaver macros.

Finally, VisiCorp decided to *SUE* Software Arts for failure to deliver VisiCalc Advanced for the PC on time - while ignoring their own failures to market the software. And VisiCorp sort of imploded after that.

VisiCalc Advanced:


But that wasn't quite the end of VisiCalc. The VisiCalc Advanced Version was finely released and sold directly by Software Arts. This continued until Software Arts was bought out by Lotus Corp.

The "Advanced" capabilities include:
Variable Column widths
Expanded formatting option
Flexible printer control
financial functions
a smart help facility
Microsoft mouse support
full word prompts
keystroke memory (macros)

So let me count the ways VisiCorp blundered:
- First, they renamed their company after their flagship product.
- They did not actually *OWN* their flagship product!
- They never bought out or merged with Software Arts, although it was talked about.
- They announced Visi On too far in advance, giving enough time for a particular four-eyed nerd to come up with his own...
- They "let" a VisiCalc programmer quit and help develop Lotus 1-2-3.
- They pissed off Software Arts by publishing a second, unrelated spreadsheet with a similar name (Visi On Calc)
- For whatever reason they could not get the IBM Advanced VisiCalc from Software Arts in a timely manner.
- They SUED Software Arts over the delay.
- They slap a third party add-on on to their existing IBM PC VisiCalc and market is as new.

So in conclusion, both of these releases are historically important as they were important to the ultimate demise of VisiCorp.


  • Incidentally, I've added VisiCalc Advanced for the Apple III, but I have no way to test it. I don't know of any Apple III emulators that support copy protected disks.

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