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Being Dan Bricklin

There are programming legends, and then there are programming legends. Dan Bricklin certainly belongs to the second group. I got a chance to speak with the 'father of the spreadsheet' a few weeks back for a story appearing in the November issue of Redmond Developer News. Back in the 1979, Bricklin's VisiCalc erupted onto the computing scene, emerging as the first 'killer app' of the personal computing age -- you can check out the history of VisiCalc at Bricklin's site . To this day, VisiCalc remains the benchmark against which other killer apps must be judged.

So when our conversation turned to open source software, we wondered: Has the open source community produced its own killer app? Bricklin was quick to respond, singling out the Apache Web server and Linux operating system. But he extends the argument a bit when he says: "The Internet itself turned out to be one (a killer app for open source). The Internet needed open source to get there because a lot of the basis for the Internet comes from open source components. This is how we realized it was valuable."

What's really interesting is that Bricklin thinks Microsoft might finally appreciate the value of open source software. He says Ray Ozzie has been pushing hard against the lock-em-down forces of Craig Mundie in Redmond. The recent extension of the Microsoft Open Specification Promise program certainly bodes well. The software colossus has loosed the strings on a host of code, including once-protected bits like SenderID email authentication.

As for Bricklin, he's plenty busy running a boutique outfit called Software Garden. His current project is a spreadsheet-inspired Web authoring tool, called wikiCalc , that lets groups of people create and maintain Web pages using fast and proven wiki editing approaches. [Read the Q&A]

Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/07/2006

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