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The History of Mathematical TablesFrom Sumer to Spreadsheets$
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Martin Campbell-Kelly, Mary Croarken, Raymond Flood, and Eleanor Robson

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780198508410

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198508410.001.0001

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The rise and rise of the spreadsheet

The rise and rise of the spreadsheet

(p.323) 12 The rise and rise of the spreadsheet
The History of Mathematical Tables

Martin Campbell-Kelly

Oxford University Press

The mathematical table, as a paper-based artefact, is close to the end of its technological life. Tables had two main uses — as a calculating aid (such as a logarithm table) and as a data storage device (such as an actuarial or census table). Logarithmic tables have now been made obsolete by the electronic calculator, while data tables are increasingly being replaced by online databases. Examples of these uses of tables have been given in several of the previous chapters. The decline in the use of tables was much in evidence before the arrival of the electronic spreadsheet on the scene, and by and large the spreadsheet has not taken over these functions of the table. Yet, the perception of the spreadsheet as an historical successor to the table is intuitive and appealing. This chapter considers the sense in which this can be said to be true.

Keywords:   spreadsheets, mathematical tables, numerical tables, logarithm table, census table

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