Visualized data seems as natural as eating and sleeping, doesn’t it? Yet the first economic time-series wasn’t plotted until 1786, according to our patriarch of viz Edward Tufte in his 1983 book Visual Display of Quantitative Information.
What took so long? I suppose humanity really did suffer from lack of an Excel chart wizard. People had been making maps for centuries, but apparently no one had made the leap from maps to abstract quantities like time and money. That wasn’t so easy to do, after all. You can’t just scratch numbers in your clay, you have to think about it first.
It all comes back to what’s probably already a cliche: simple is hard.
Still, what took so long?