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Bob Frankston

2004 Fellow

For advancing the utility of personal computers by developing the VisiCalc electronic spreadsheet.


Biography

VisiCalc screen diagram, 1979
VisiCalc screen diagram, 1979

Bob Frankston was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1949. He received S.B. degrees in both computer science and mathematics (1970) and master's and engineers degrees in computer science (1974), all from MIT.

In 1979, Frankston founded Software Arts with friend and Harvard MBA student Dan Bricklin to develop and sell VisiCalc, the first electronic spreadsheet program for personal computers. VisiCalc was first available for the Apple ii personal computer, which significantly drove Apple ii sales. It became a blockbuster product and remained a widely used program for personal computers for many years.

From 1985 to 1990, Frankston worked at Lotus Development, where he created the Lotus Express product and a fax facility for Lotus Notes. At Slate Corporation, (1990 to 1992), Frankston worked on mobile and pen-based systems. At Microsoft Frankston championed the effort to integrate the Internet with personal computing and home networking.