The Vision Thing

March 26, 1998

They decided to call the program VisiCalc, for Visible Calculator. . . . When it was launched in December 1979, VisiCalc was an overnight success. Not only was the program a breakthrough as a financial tool but its users experienced for the first time the psychological freedom of having a machine of one's own, on one's desk, instead of having to accept the often mediocre take-it-or-leave-it services of a computer center.

  Martin Campbell-Kelley and William Aspray, Computer: A History of the Information Machine, p.251
We'll be able to see what's happening. Not only will we have numbers, but we'll be able to see the dynamics for yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Using the projection capability, you can see immediately the impact on earnings or the portfolio. We'll be able to see the business through the terminal.

With the data-base environment, there is one information system for all to see. Tasks become more comprehensive. You can see the whole, not just the part. People will need a broader skill base to take more of a helicopter view.

The new technology makes you look at the whole. Tasks become more comprehensive as a result. You need to know where to look for what you need and how to get it. You need to see patterns in relation to the whole.

Now that I can see the total functioning of the office, I feel more ownership towards all of the units, not just my own. . . . I am not just a record keeper, but I can really use my brain.
  Managers and workers interviewed by Shoshana Zuboff in her The Age of the Smart Machine, pp. 163, 202, 169, 157

Once graphics were included, the spreadsheet was a nearly perfect expression of what you could do with a computer that you could not do without it; it combined the computer's specialty, memory and calculating power, with the most powerful and most difficult to replicate power of the human mind, the ability to recognize and integrate patterns.

  Gene I. Rochlin, Trapped in the Net, p. 28
Foucault uses the term "panopticon" to designate the control mechanism in prisons by which a guard, stationed in a central tower, could observe the inmates, arranged in cells around the tower with windows facing in toward the tower, without himself being seen by them. Panopticon, literally "all-seeing" denotes a form of power which attempts to orient the prisoners toward the authority system of the prison as a step in their reformation or normalization. For the process of reform, the panopticon is a part of a broader set of mechanisms which included a minutely regulated schedule, a file-keeping system on each prisoner, and so forth. . . . The key to the mechanism of discipline is the continuous, systematic, unobserved surveillance of a population. . . .
        Databases, I argue, operate as a super-panopticon. Like the prison, databases work continuously, systematically and surreptiously, accumulating information about individuals and composing it into profiles.
  Mark Poster, The Second Media Age, pp. 67, 69

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