The first truly 3-D spreadsheet.
Recently I have noticed quite a few hits (relatively speaking) on my resume page from people searching on Boeing Calc. This fascinates me. Why at this late date are people looking for this? You can't be still using it... can you?
So that is the point of this page. If you got here because you were searching on Boeing Calc, I would really like to know why.
Drop me a note. corwyn at kolvir.com
A Short (not particularly complete or chronologically correct) History
Boeing Calc was one of the last vestiges of a failed attempt at a grand unification of software systems that Boeing had attempted in the early 80's.
With dawning of the micro and small mini computer era, and the myriad of machines such as the apple, the various CPM brands, the low end mini's (PDP 11/03 or Teraks), and IBM PC looming on the horizon, Boeing looked upon a chaotic, nearly unsupportable landscape of software needs and decided that things definitely were 'not good'.
To tackle this problem Boeing launched the BITS (Boeing Intelligent Terminal System) project. The idea was to create one operating system and one set of application software that would be used company wide. To accomplish this, Boeing purchased a license to the UCSD Pascal system and wrote Byte code compilers to support the myriad of machines used within the company.
Applications to run on the system created were written: A word processor, a database, a spread sheet, and some others. The system was even sold outside of Boeing and its use on production machines outlived its presence at Boeing by a number of years.
Enter the IBM PC.
With the advent of the IBM PC, the whole mix of machines used at Boeing changed. More and more the groups ordered the IBM PC and usage of the other types of personal computer faded away. And so did the reason for BITS.
Boeing canceled the BITS project and with it the applications were dropped. The word processor was just a word processor and not a great one at that. Gone! The data base, GONE! But the spreadsheet, now that had been an ambitious and innovative implementation. BoeingCalc introduced the concept of pages to the normal columns and rows. The decision was made to continue work on it and sell it in the PC DOS world.
Boeing relaunched Boeing Calc as a PC based product. It used virtual memory to allow you to create spreadsheets up to the available space on the hard drive.
It was slow…very slow… the hard drive of the day was not a particularly speedy beast, add to that the interpreted nature of USCD Pascal. But the ability to create huge spreadsheets was a draw for many companies. Eventually a native compiler was written for the Pascal system and the help speed things quite a bit. The 286 came out, and extended memory systems, that allowed for much bigger in memory spreadsheets.
A deal was cut with a German company to add on a 3D graphing package that be came to be known as Boeing Graph. The deal was a very nice one, for the German company that is.
There was also a mainframe version of Boeing Calc running on IBM big iron. Not really looking much like the PC version it was hard to see the connection. But it could take the files and run them MUCH faster.
Being a manufacture of airplanes, Boeing did not understand the PC software market. At $400 a copy the bean counters claimed they were losing money on each copy sold. This was mainly due to the overhead accounting system they used.
There was a short lived attempt to spin the products off into a new company. It failed miserably.