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Lotus 1-2-3 is 30 years old.
January 30, 2013 7:34 AM   Subscribe


 
And the web site design is 20 years old.
posted by Melismata at 8:00 AM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow. dBase III will be 29 this May. The first OS/machine I used was a Digital Rainbow (with the . prompt), and the first application was dBase III.

I am probably the most computer-illiterate user here who has that much history in front of this hopeless little screen.
posted by Danf at 8:00 AM on January 30, 2013


Oh man that makes me feel old. I used to use 123 before we transitioned to Excel waaay back when.
posted by dabug at 8:05 AM on January 30, 2013


And Visicalc will be older.
posted by stonedcoldsober at 8:09 AM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


One of my first warez. I think I started to use it track my baseball cards and the active season stats of the current players, but quickly realized there would be an entire adult life later that I could fill with such drudgery.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:12 AM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I began with Lotus 1A (no sparse matrix array) booting off a floppy on an IBM PC 30 years ago as well...
posted by jim in austin at 8:14 AM on January 30, 2013


The first time I saw it it was orange. The next time, green.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:16 AM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow. The design on that website is really something. But what a fascinating history lesson.

I'm working on a project soon that potentially involves integrating with Lotus Notes (not sure which version, but from the design aesthetic on display in the screenshots, it looks ancient). That product was first released 24 years ago!

It's amazing the longevity these older products had... And such courageous disregard for graphic design principles.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:17 AM on January 30, 2013


And the web site design is 20 years old.

As mathowie put it,
Dan Bricklin of VisiCalc fame, has had a weblog for some time.
In my book, Dan Bricklin can code his website any way he pleases, web fashions be damned.

And Visicalc will be older.

The mefi post: VisiCalc turns 30.

Dan Bricklin, previously.
posted by zamboni at 8:17 AM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not complaining. I'll take elegant functionality over pretty pictures any day.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:23 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm working on a project soon that potentially involves integrating with Lotus Notes

You must have done something really awful in a past life.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:25 AM on January 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


One of my first warez.

So it's your fault we all have to use Excel now.
posted by TedW at 8:30 AM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


My dad still uses Lotus 1-2-3. I had to look around for the newer versions when he finally upgraded his desktop, and ended up paying the $352.00 for the SmartSuite (standalone was the same price).

He refuses to use Excel, citing the need to rework all the financial formulas and references or whatever else he's been using the past 30 years or so. I admit, if I had to go back that far in order to correct something that no longer works, I'd opt for the more-expensive and rarer Lotus.
posted by CancerMan at 8:30 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kadin2048: Evidently I was Pol Pot or something.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:32 AM on January 30, 2013


Thanks to my dad, I started off on the SmartSuite. I hated Powerpoint for killing the best presentation software ever.
posted by infini at 8:40 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will never forgive Lotus for litigating VP Planner out of existence. VP Planner Plus ran circles around 1-2-3 without needing extended or expanded memory and the never-released VP 3D was quite likely a Lotus Killer: a 3 dimensional spreadsheet built on a 5 dimensional matrix array that ran in 512K thanks to Forth. CALL IN THE SHYSTERS!!!
posted by jim in austin at 9:00 AM on January 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I sometimes wonder how much could be done with a 1-2-3 revamp: same constraints as before (640K, DOS, 5.25 floppies, etc) but with 30 years of UI hindsight.
posted by kurumi at 9:06 AM on January 30, 2013


I'm working on a project soon that potentially involves integrating with Lotus Notes

You must have done something really awful in a past life.


I'm pretty sure that means that he has done something kinda bad, but not really that bad in a past life, like laughing at a dog who is wearing a funny costume despite the fact that the dog is clearly embarrassed and uncomfortable. Or watching a classic "man getting hit in the groin by a football" video and finding it simultaneously amusing and uncomfortable because he can empathize with the man getting hit in the groin by a football but it's still funny because that poor rube just got hit in the groin by a football.

Doing something truly awful in a past life would mean having to integrate with, or use, either Groupwise or iPlanet.
posted by cmonkey at 9:38 AM on January 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


At my current workplace, we switched from Groupwise to LotusNotes a couple of years ago.


Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:43 AM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hurf durf lotus eater
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 10:00 AM on January 30, 2013


I still miss Lotus Wordpro and wish to god I could have back whatever version I was using in 1998.
posted by Evstar at 10:01 AM on January 30, 2013


This is kinda getting away from the topic of spreadsheets, but it struck me that in the past few years -- since everything "social" became hot -- we've finally seen some forward movement on what used to be called "groupware". Which those of us who've been around for a while remember as a Big Deal in the early days of networked computers. But it sorta fizzled out, despite having some pretty good conceptual underpinnings; nobody could ever seem to get the implementation quite right. A lot of people have gone through substantial quantities of ink and paper describing what a system like that should do, but getting there has been a problem.

Spreadsheets, OTOH, have remained remarkably unchanged. Someone who used VisiCalc could probably use Microsoft Excel (they'd need to get used to the mouse and some of the other GUI elements, of course); a L123 user definitely could. And I think that's in part because the first spreadsheet implementations just hit the nail on the head so squarely that there hasn't been much that needed to change in order to satisfy users' demands.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:01 AM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm still waiting for 4.
posted by notme at 10:11 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kadin2048: The loss of the purely procedural, GOTO-laden, keystroke-oriented macro language would most likely be the biggest hurdle for a DOS spreadsheet user. I speak from experience...
posted by jim in austin at 10:12 AM on January 30, 2013


Fun fact: even in the latest ribbon-based version of Excel, the "slash" key will activate the menu -- a feature first added many many years ago for text-mode 1-2-3 users who were used to using the slash to bring up the menu.
posted by Slothrup at 10:17 AM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


The loss of the purely procedural, GOTO-laden, keystroke-oriented macro language would most likely be the biggest hurdle for a DOS spreadsheet user.

Humm. Yeah, you're right. Excel still has macros, but at least anecdotally I don't know nearly as many people who use them today vs years ago. Perhaps that's because you had to use them to achieve many of the same functions that Excel has built-in today? Or maybe the userbase of DOS spreadsheet programs was more technical and interested in something like a macro language, versus modern users who tend not to be able to program at all?

It's too bad; I suspect that those simple application-specific macro languages that were popular in the DOS days were (along with BAT files and shell scripts) an introduction to programming for quite a few people.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:33 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


With the exception of some BASIC coding I did as a kid, that was my entryway to programming: I used to work as an editor for a shop that used Windows for DOS to tag content for publishing through an old-timey, XYVision publishing distiller the company had literally picked up at a military surplus sale. We were under page-count quotas and had to move thousands of pages per month, so using macros to automate common repetitive editing/tagging functions made life a lot simpler...
posted by saulgoodman at 10:43 AM on January 30, 2013


My current work place is on Lotus Notes. It's always fun to watch new employees struggle to comprehend it. All the classic stages-denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
posted by kimdog at 10:43 AM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


It seems to me that a lot more end-users these days just don't want to deal with anything remotely challenging like writing macros (or anything that sounds even remotely technical)... Even mentioning things like "Use Cases" (which are supposed to be a tool for bridging the gap between the "business" and "technical" sides of requirements gathering) makes people's eyes glaze over and makes them visibly squirm a little.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:47 AM on January 30, 2013


Kadin2048: Having an end-user meander around a DOS spreadsheet, especially with all the macros usually beginning in cell 1A and employing a diamondback design, was a recipe for disaster. Macros kept them out of trouble. The GUI sheets made navigation much easier and more secure. Just about the only thing I program any more are buttons for reports, resets and the like. The rest is handled by the interface...
posted by jim in austin at 10:49 AM on January 30, 2013


This was an amazing program. The computers of the day were severely limited in processing speed and memory, yet Lotus was very efficient code which wrung great performance out of these limited machines. I think I heard that it was programmed in assembly language. We used to program and run heat balances in these and that is really quite intensive number crunching which would not have been possible with Visicalc, which was pretty amazing in its own right.
posted by caddis at 11:22 AM on January 30, 2013


My current work place is on Lotus Notes. It's always fun to watch new employees struggle to comprehend it. All the classic stages-denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

I've been in a workplace working with Lotus Notes from the past nearly seven years (on 6.5, but we got 8.5 in 2011) and am so relieved to learn that there is a LN stage after depression; I thought I'd be in that phase FOREVER.
posted by urbanlenny at 11:33 AM on January 30, 2013


@YAWN(A1,ZZZZZZZZZV65536)
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 12:08 PM on January 30, 2013


kimdog: "My current work place is on Lotus Notes. It's always fun to watch new employees struggle to comprehend it. All the classic stages-denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance."

A few friends of mine work for a startup that just got bought by a certain large blue company and have all had to transition to Lotus Notes. The amusing thing is that they used to work for another startup that got bought by said blue company in the '90s so their second time of having to go through all those stages.
posted by octothorpe at 12:27 PM on January 30, 2013


A few random memories:

Working at a company that was upgrading from Gnats to Lotus Notes for bug tracking, I called a friend to complain about it. It turned out that his company was simultaneously upgrading from Lotus Notes to Gnats for bug tracking. Either way, Notes seemed like a truly horrific piece of software.

Looking at an early Macintosh (circa the 128k, 512k Mac days) and being told by the sales guy that "Lotus 1-2-3-4-5" would be coming out soon. That product turned out to be Lotus Jazz. Anybody here ever use it? ...how about Informix Wingz?

Looking at a NeXT Cube and being told about Lotus Improv. (Apparently I look like a guy who cares about spreadsheet software for avant garde computers.) Anybody here ever use it?

Trying to create, from scratch, a fairly complex spreadsheet using Numbers for iPhone. (See what I mean?) It turns out that a touchscreen phone makes for a really lousy spreadsheet interface.

Good lord I'm old.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 2:19 PM on January 30, 2013


The / and : menu system was so fantastic. Alt- is useless by comparison. Oh well..
posted by Chuckles at 2:37 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I loved 1-2-3. I programmed a play by e-mail game resolution system using macros and a 1-2-3 spreadsheet when I was in my teens (about 24 years ago?). To me it was an amazing tool that just made sense to be on the PC. There was something more approachable and intuitive about that iteration than I've ever experienced with Excel and all its bloat and "helpfulness".
posted by meinvt at 4:31 PM on January 30, 2013


I spent a hell of a lot of time in 123. But I always preferred Multiplan. Yeah, you can call me a sheethead.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:04 PM on January 30, 2013


Slothrup: "Fun fact: even in the latest ribbon-based version of Excel, the "slash" key will activate the menu -- a feature first added many many years ago for text-mode 1-2-3 users who were used to using the slash to bring up the menu."

Wow! Well that answers something I've wondered about for a good long while.

And all this time I had been making up reasons why that key had that atypical functionality. Lamest slash fiction ever.
posted by barnacles at 8:38 PM on January 30, 2013


Ah, the age of Lotus. Talk about nostalgia.
posted by FormlessOne at 10:37 PM on January 30, 2013


You don't get nostalgia like you used to in the old days.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:29 PM on February 1, 2013


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