Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Oral History of Adele Goldberg

Adele Goldberg (via Lambda):

It was a different user interface. Ultimately, it was the very first spreadsheet where the spreadsheet was an object, where all the cells were objects, and therefore a cell could be a spreadsheet. In those days they didn’t have that. It was all hooked to a database and it was all getting CIA data coming down and it was a remarkable tour de force. And I said to him, “I don’t understand how you did that.” I mean I just couldn’t believe this non professional. He said, “Well, I’ll show you.” And so I said, “Okay.” “Hit Control-C,” which is how you then get into the code and interrupt it. I remember saying to him, “That is the ugliest piece of code I’ve ever seen.” And he said, “Oh that’s okay, because it does what I want it to do and the professionals down at XSIS are going to rewrite it all. This is the spec.” Suddenly the prototype became the spec and it didn’t matter how. What mattered was “what.” Talk about learning from your customers! That was the beginning of my getting interested in having customers. Alan never wanted to have customers because you have to support them. If you support them, you’re going to do what they need and not what your vision is. I’m sure to this day he is livid angry with me because I marched down to software engineering row and got customers.

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