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Say goodnight to Lotus 1-2-3

Talk about the end of an era: IBM officially ended support of Lotus 1-2-3 on September 30. For those who weren’t around in the 1980s, 1-2-3 was the world’s most popular spreadsheet and drove the success not only of Lotus Development Corp. but of the IBM PC itself. Until Microsoft Excel came along anyway.

[company]IBM [/company]bought Lotus — for Notes, not 1-2-3 — in 1995. The spreadsheet and its SmartSuite bundle has limped along in the years since, used mostly by IBMers it appeared, while the rest of the world became addicted to Microsoft Office.

So this is sort of a bittersweet week for someone who cut her teeth covering spreadsheets around the time Excel was toppling 1-2-3 from its perch. Up until then, WordPerfect ruled in word processors, Lotus in spreadsheets and Software Publishing’s Harvard Graphics in presentations. Until Microsoft had a stroke of genius of bundling its spreadsheet, word processor and presentation packages together and selling them at a discount over what each product would have cost separately.

Also worth noting, [company]Lotus[/company] 1-2-3 was not the first “electronic spreadsheet.” That honor went to VisiCalc, created a few miles away from Lotus’ Cambridge, Mass. headquarters for the Apple II by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston.

Lotus 1-2-3, photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Lotus 1-2-3, photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of  Flickr user  ctoverdrive

4 Responses to “Say goodnight to Lotus 1-2-3”

  1. Multiplan seemed easier to operate than Lotus. It may have been a derivative of Visicalc with its similarities. But I am not sure of the exact relationship.

    There was a training package called “The Power of…” for each of these spreadsheet packages. It made commands and operands very easy to follow. The ten exercises used almost all, or all, of the commands in each package. Following these ten examples made almost anytthing do-able. Except closure and distribution of the difference problems of surveying, structural frames, hydraulic loops, and trips assignments in transportaiton planning.

    Iterative techniques have been difficult on all spereadsheets. They seem to require a programming language to distrbute the remainder until a tolerable level is left. If anyone finds a spreadsheet that can do such iterative processes simply, please let me know.

  2. Timoy Bowden

    The success of Excel had nothing to do with bundling and everything related to the type of monopoly mechanisms employed by Standard Oil earlier that century. They were able to manipulate access to the market, the desktop, the way Rockefeller did the railroads: they assured themselves a soft ride to customers while making it difficult for rivals. Microsoft never created anything in-house; they copied spreadsheet, word processor, browser from others and used he operating system monopoly to block competition. This is why Ballmer used “innovation” in every sentence – he was justifiably insecure on hat score.