Thoughts on Spreadsheets

You can stare at a blank spreadsheet for hours.  Any task you wish to complete is daunting with nothing more than grids staring back at you. On top of the grid there are buttons with hidden meanings, menus filled with commands you’ll never use and strange greek symbols.  What the hell are you even doing with this program?  This isn’t for you, this is for some back-room nerd, or high-rise accountant to use.  Why don’t you just go back to playing the sims and leave the grids and formulas to the big boys.  But after the initial shock of the whole thing, you realize that you recognize these symbols. “Wait,” you say to yourself, “Half of this is just the font and color…i know this.”  People around you turn their heads, wondering why you are talking into your computer at a Starbucks.  These aren’t even cool Starbucks people, because this coffee cart in a Barnes and Noble isn’t actually a real Starbucks.  One minute you are browsing through discounted kitten calendars and the next you are digging through your trunk to find the netbook you bought 2 years ago when you said you were going to write that novella.  But this isn’t about “Midnight Mystique,” this is about a spreadsheet.  Your spreadsheet.
You use your track-pad to clumsily move some cells around.  The grow and shrink at your whim.  You feel powerful, you ARE powerful.  You are staring at this grid which has a direct link to an amount of processing power that would have won WWII for the Germans if had it fallen into Nazi hands.  This project of yours isn’t for the Reich though.  You have important things that need to be done, and damn it you are going to do them.  You are going to use formulas.  Remember those?  Those make you feel like a hacker in a Hollywood movie, using less thans and greater thans, ifs, thens, and all sorts of other crazy commands.  You can use phrases like “I just have to debug these formulas” and you would not be bullshitting someone.  You have data damn it.  And you need to process it.  You are a one person data processing unit.  This data will be processed and the results will be bold…no, bold and underlined…and in blue…if you want them.  Why not?  Well, maybe the blue will distract you later…maybe just stick to black.  You start to type on the number pad…remember that?  You used to be quick with that thing, maybe if you ever get a large column of data you can use that number pad again…you wish you had some data here right now, damn you would process it…Maybe this hobbit Starbucks will let you inventory their coffee.  No, probably not, they probably have a very sophisticated system for that.  But guess what?  It is probably based on a spreadsheet.  Some back-room nerd wrote it for some high-rise accountant to use…and you are using the same exact program.  You’re possibilities are endless.  You take your last sip of coffee, you shut the lid to your net-book, you pick up your bag of comic books and you go to your filthy car and you drive home.

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