Reflexive VisiCalc

During our recent move I came across several files and artifacts that brought back memories of early learning experiences with this medium. One of the more interesting ones was working on the same document with a remote collaborator using two computers linked by a 300 baud dial up line.

Using a program developed by Arrow Micro of Kanata, we were able to develop and edit budgets for the community agency and to support research proposals. There was also a small chat window of one or two text lines at the bottom of the screen. It ran on an Apple ][. Since I may have one of the only copies still around, thought it might be useful to record here. The following text is from a small cardboard insert for the ‘Reflexive VC’ program. Capitals appear in the original.

“You can synchronize two VisiCalc programs over the phone! There are two RVC disks so that you and the person at a remote site may place a call between your APPLES, run the RVC program and then you both load our 16 sector VisiCalc program disks. Now the magic begins! If you both insert disks that contain exact copies of the same VisiCalc data files, either  you may then load a file and start manipulating the VisiCalc screen and BOTH APPLES will react in exactly the same way at the same time! You can even type messages to each other. Also, should either one of you initiate a VisiCalc save-to-disk command, both of you have a very powerful TELECONFERENCING system. Each RVC disk contains a program that prints the documentation and an RVC demonstration file.”

The simplicity of a text based editor that required attention only at the cursor position rather than complex window and WISIWIG layouts made it possible for the above arrangement to work very responsively over low speed connections. With increasing bandwidth we may be able to do achieve the same satisfying results with current productivity apps.


About mielniczuk

Community, systems, design, collaboration, change, evidence, Intelligent Accountability(c)
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