Episode 606: Spreadsheets! : Planet Money The creation of the electronic spreadsheet transformed industries. But its effects ran deeper than that.
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Episode 606: Spreadsheets!

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Episode 606: Spreadsheets!

Episode 606: Spreadsheets!

Episode 606: Spreadsheets!

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/528807590/528833684" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Wikimedia Commons
Calculations on a spreadsheet.
Wikimedia Commons

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

Spreadsheets used to be actual sheets of paper. Sometimes, a bunch of sheets of paper taped together.

Any calculation made on a spreadsheet was done by hand, and these could take days to complete for an accountant or bookkeeper. It was tedious. One little adjustment to these calculations meant a whole day of erasing and filling the same boxes out again.

Then, in the late '70s, a bored student invented the electronic spreadsheet. It transformed industries. It created new jobs, and destroyed others.

But its effects ran deeper than that. It changed the way we assigned value, and made decisions.

As one journalist wrote more than 30 years ago, "The spreadsheet is a tool, and it is also a world view — reality by the numbers."

Today on the show, how the spreadsheet transformed not just finance but health, entertainment, and almost everything else.


Today's show was inspired by A Spreadsheet Way of Knowledge, a 1984 article by Steven Levy.

Music: "Sublimely." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

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