Computer Software

The key to the mass-market success of the microcomputer lay, not in the hardware itself, however small or cheap it became, but in the development of a range of generic applications. Compatible computer hardware meant that there was a huge incentive for companies to develop software that would enable users to exchange data easily. From the beginning to the present day, the business-software industry has been dominated by American companies. The first mass-market applications provided the means of computerizing the tasks that were common to all businesses—accounting and word-processing. In 1979, Software Arts introduced VisiCalc, the first commercial spreadsheet, to run on the Apple II computer. Spreadsheets create files in the form of tables in which numerical data can be sorted and manipulated. Launched in 1982, the Lotus Development Corporation’s 1–2–3 application for PCs, which added database and graphics display functions to the core spreadsheet functions, soon became the market leader. In the same year, Ashton-Tate released dBASE II, the first commercial relational database. While the pre-PC WordStar was the first commercial word-processing package, WordPerfect—launched in 1982—became the market leader of the 1980s.