Tag Archives: Software

Jew of the Week: Dan Bricklin

“Father of the Spreadsheet”

Daniel Singer Bricklin (b. 1951) was born in Philadelphia and studied at its Akiba Hebrew Academy. He graduated from MIT in 1973 with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science. His first job was working at a tech company called DEC, replacing typewriters with computers for newspaper companies. He then became DEC’s project leader on its development of the first word-processing software. After a few years, Bricklin moved on to work at FasFax, designing some of the first electronic cash registers for fast food companies. In 1979, he got an MBA from the Harvard Business School. During his studies there, fed up with repetitive and tedious calculations, Bricklin came up with an idea for an electronic spreadsheet. Teaming up with his friend, the two put together a new program called VisiCalc for the Apple II computer. This was the first spreadsheet software ever made, and the foundation for future spreadsheet programs like Excel. In fact, it was VisiCalc that transformed the computer from a mysterious device reserved for techies to a practical tool used by mainstream businesses and consumers. VisiCalc skyrocketed sales of the Apple II, leading Steve Jobs to admit that it “propelled the success of Apple… more than any other single event… If VisiCalc had been written for some other computer, you’d be interviewing somebody else right now.” A New York Times article at the time wrote humorously, but accurately: “All Hail VisiCalc.” For this, Bricklin was awarded the prestigious Grace Murray Hopper Award, among many others. Since then, Bricklin has started a number of other successful tech and software companies, and is currently the president of Software Garden, and the CTO of Alpha Software. He has also published a book, and has been featured in two documentaries. Watch Bricklin’s short and fascinating TED talk here.

Words of the Week

In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence… Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors.
– Isaac Newton

Jew of the Week: Larry Ellison

A Mega Philanthropist 

Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison

Lawrence Joseph Ellison (b. 1944) was born in New York and raised in Chicago by his aunt and uncle, who were his adoptive parents. Ellison studied computer programming at the University of Illinois but dropped out following the death of his adoptive mother. He moved to California shortly after, and bounced from one job to the next for eight years before settling at the Ampex Corporation. There, he worked on a project (code-named “Oracle”) to create database software for the CIA. A few years later, he put in $1200 of his own money (and $800 from two partners) to start a new company, Software Development Laboratories. By 1982, IBM started using their program and the company (now renamed Oracle Systems Corporation) was making millions. At the end of the first decade of the new millennium, Ellison was ranked as the highest-paid executive of any company, earning nearly $2 billion. Between 1997 and 2002, he was on the board of directors of Apple. In 2010, Ellison had Oracle acquire Sun Microsystems, another tech giant, for $7.4 billion. The following year, Forbes ranked Ellison the 5th richest person in the world. Aside from business, Ellison is a cup-winning yacht sailor, and a licensed pilot who owns two fighter planes. He has vast real estate holdings, and owns 98% of Lanai, the sixth largest island in Hawaii. Most importantly, Ellison is a huge philanthropist. By 2004, it was estimated that he had donated over $150 million. Since then, he has donated many millions more, including $10 million to the IDF, whom he described as “some of the bravest people in the world”. Most recently, Ellison donated a whopping $200 million to create a new cancer research centre at the University of Southern California. He has pledged to give as much as 95% of his wealth. Interestingly, he has also spent hundreds of millions on anti-aging research, saying that “death makes me very angry”.

Words of the Week

To become old is a grave sin.
– Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

Jew of the Week: Naftali Bennett

Software Entrepreneur, Special Forces Commander

Naftali Bennett

Naftali Bennett

Naftali Bennett (b. 1972) was born in Haifa to Modern Orthodox parents who made aliyah to Israel (from San Francisco) following the Six-Day War. He studied at Yavne Yeshiva, where he became a youth leader for Bnei Akiva, the religious Zionist organization. After his studies, Bennett joined the IDF and served in the Sayeret Matkal and Maglan special forces units, rising to the rank of company commander. His primary area of operations was in Lebanon. After completing his service, Bennett studied at the Hebrew University, earning a law degree. In 1999, he moved to New York and co-founded the software company Cyota. As its CEO, Bennett built the start-up into a successful tech firm and sold it in 2005 for $145 million. Bennett then returned to Israel and continued his work as a software entrepreneur. At one point he served as CEO of Soluto, which was recently sold for nearly $130 million. Not long after his return to Israel, the Lebanon War broke out and Bennett returned to the IDF, leading a number of search-and-destroy missions in Hezbollah territory. Following the war, Bennett joined Netanyahu’s Likud party and soon became his Chief of Staff. Between 2010 and 2012, Bennett was the director-general of Yesha, the organization that represents Jewish settlements in Judah and Samaria (commonly known as the “West Bank”). After founding a number of other organizations promoting Israel and the Zionist cause, Bennett left Likud and joined HaBayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home), a religious Zionist political party. He immediately ran for party leadership and won by a landslide. Just a few months later, Bennett was able to win 12 seats for the party in Israel’s Knesset (compared to just 3 seats for the party in the previous election). Among other roles, he became the Minister of the Economy and Minister of Religious Services, as well as a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He has been praised for his work as Minister of the Economy, opening up new trade agreements with emerging markets around the world, boosting trade with Russia, China, Brazil, and India, as well as dealing with increasing boycotts of Israeli products. Bennett is continuing to lead HaBayit HaYehudi into Israel’s coming elections in March. Some of his platform positions have been controversial, among them opposing a Palestinian state, and fighting Israel’s big unions. At the same time, he is pushing education reform, more investment in underprivileged parts of Israeli society and in small businesses, and providing affordable housing and land provisions for veterans. He is also focused on integrating Israeli-Arabs and Ultra-Orthodox Jews more tightly into Israel’s society and workforce. Bennett remains a reservist in the IDF, holding the rank of Major.

Words of the Week

The fact that the entire world says something does not mean it is correct.
Naftali Bennett, in an interview for Israel’s Channel Two.