Bits & Bytes
A FUZZY PROGRAM FOR CRUNCHING `WHAT-IF' NUMBERS
The real power of spreadsheet programs such as Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Excel is their ability to combine formulas and data in each cell. Since the programs automatically recalculate the answers every time an entry is changed, spreadsheets owners can play "what-if" games--to see how loan payments change as interest rates drop, for example. But it still takes a lot of thought to figure out which what-if scenarios to test. Tiny Knoxville (Tenn.) FuziWare Inc. says it has a way to make this process easier.
The secret to the $795 FuziCalc program, due out next month, is fuzzy logic, a form of artificial-intelligence programming. Data can be either substantiated figures--the number of toasters sold last year--or "fuzzy" data--the number you expect to sell next year. Each entry is really a range of numbers reflecting a user's belief of what can happen. Think of it as a way to express "probably," "maybe," and "if we're really lucky" in a spreadsheet. Calculations are plotted on a curve, tracing the range of possibilities, with the most probable outcome at the peak.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG