Berdine Enola May 3, 2021 Spreadsheet
Lester P. Goodbinder had suffered another agonizing week in Pittsburgh. The semi-annual audit he conducted at the Bourgeois Ball Bearing Factory stretched into five 14-hour days examining electronic spreadsheets on an archaic computer system installed in the early ‘80s. The equipment churned so abysmally he cleverly joked to himself it was powered by lazy hamsters on treadmills. Not only that, the accounting software loaded on the system was an early version of ”Abacus,” and only slightly faster than a key-punch adding machine but considerably slower than a hand-held calculator.
So why does data that inevitably finds its way into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet often suffer from the problems outlined above. The reasons are many. If the data is imported, it may have been sourced from a combination of other spreadsheets, databases, systems, reports, word documents, emails or web pages. If the data has been entered manually it may have been poorly done so by an inexperienced computer users such as administrative or junior staff with a lack of understanding for data structures. Excel is easy to use and widely accessible, so an inexperienced colleague can quite easily update your spreadsheet with a false sense of confidence and inadvertently enter new data incorrectly. And finally, unlike a fully functional software system, data entry in Excel generally has no automatic validating rules, unless carefully setup by the spreadsheet‘s creator.
Given this data set imagine trying to find out which Fridays you were busy at an appointment at noon while your partner was also busy at an appointment at noon and the descriptions of both of your appointments contained the phrase down town. If you are not familiar with relational databases and SQL it might surprise you to know that the question can be answered by a single simple SQL query. The database and SQL don‘t have it all their own way however. Spreadsheets come in to their own for tasks that benefit from a visual representation. Traditionally databases do not provide a visual way to browse the data in tables without explicitly requesting data.
Lester‘s temporary office at the Factory was glassed on all sides, and surrounded by the sights, sounds, searing temperatures, and smells of the smelting and pouring areas. Originally, the cubbyhole had been used for storing coal and coke until the plant converted to gas-fired furnaces in the mid-‘50s. Over the next three decades a succession of plant superintendents used the room to boink their secretaries, which necessitated its windows being painted a squalid olive drab. During 10 years of performing this chore every six months, Lester had scraped two panes clear, so now he could gaze into the murky, smoky, smelly pit outside as he waited for the grinding computer and clackety printer to spit out a stream of spreadsheets.
Here‘s a very simple budget set up. Keep a simple income spreadsheet. List all the sources by name in column A. List how much each brings in in column B. And then, any notes you have for the income (like if it is temporary) in column C. You don‘t need to get very detailed with the income, because it only needs to be accounted for so that we can budget for it‘s use. And, the incomes use is in our expenses spreadsheet. This spreadsheet will be much more complex than the income one. You‘ll need a field for income that you carry over from the income sheet. You‘ll also need a field for a total expenses budgeted for. A third field will give us the budget surplus. We get that by subtracting the budgeted amounts from the income amount. A final field will subtract the actual amount spent from the income, and will serve to tell us where we stand in our budget. If you like, you can add another field that subtracts the actual amount spent from the amount budgeted.
He was an ex-divorce attorney who had seen firsthand what a messy thing divorce was when lawyers were involved. He developed a program where a couple would meet together, with him present, and work through the divorce piece by piece. Property, finances, kids, pensions. It was a great system. And he was cheap! Relatively speaking. It took about 10 months including some stops and starts (”what do you mean you want some of my inheritance? if you want my inheritance then you STAY married to me”) but in the end we were able to come to terms with each other in a reasonable and fair way.
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