Not quite dead
I've got an unopened box of version 3.1 sitting here. It might be a bit stale in some people's mind, but I know somebody who still uses an old version for writing invoices - simply because it still works.
On Tuesday, with no fanfare, IBM closed the last chapter in the life of one of the most iconic early computer programs, Lotus 1-2-3, when it withdrew support for the final build of the software. IBM Lotus 123 Millennium Edition, IBM Lotus SmartSuite 9.x, and Organizer have now officially all passed their end of life support …
" developing the Notes email system, "
Notes is not just an email, but also a document management system and database. "Groupware" is the term used at some point, I think. It did what "intranets" do these days (or at least that it how it was used at the corporation where I worked), but required its own client.
If I am honest Email was just slapped on in Lotus Notes, items such as sending out of offices immediately instead of when an agent was scheduled. Since version 7 the email side started to get better and I still prefer version 8 over outlook (Apart from the horrendous start times of the full fat client). Since version 5 for basic Notes "programs" I haven't seen the need for the client, where possible forwarded users to the website, almost all features worked and stopped things like if a user opened more than 256 emails at once the tabs would disappear.
Indeed. I used Notes at HighSchool and even my first college years because my university started using something called LearningSpace, which was based on Lotus Notes. I found the whole database groupware thingy pretty interesting; mostly the "replication" feature that allowed you to download the entire course database in one fell swoop, allowing you to work offline and just upload/download any changes later. This was a killer feature in the era of 33.6k dialup internet; I could bring my laptop on campus during our first days, jack into the campus LAN and replicate the whole semester's worth of databases (~400Mb, usually) and then do all my assignments at home, post them offline and just crank up replication, uploading only a couple Kb's worth of data over dialup.
We never used the mail feature, which seems to be what everyone hated about Notes. Thus I can't really comment on that, but it seems that the lack of usage of that particular feature is what gave us a better opinion on Notes.
Well I'm sure someone will find some sort of security bug to rationalize killing it, but SS 9 runs just fine on my Win7 64bit box here. Well at least the parts of SmartSuite I've installed (didn't want 123, but no doubt it will run).
The cult of Approach is alive and well. As Ole says, simply because it works. It doesn't need constant "upgrades". Seems to be a novel concept nowadays.
Yes, it was the benchmark for the original clone market. At my first computer store, since we didn't have an IBM dealership, we spent a good year testing various MS-DOS boxen to see if they could run 1-2-3 out of the box. If it couldn't run Lotus, it wasn't gonna sell. IIRC, there were a couple that had tweaked their BIOS's specificly for it, though they were crap otherwise.
But the company also made some major mistakes. It [..] wasted time and money writing for IBM's ill-fated OS/2 operating system, spent more developing the Notes email system..
I don't think you can punish Lotus for developing for OS/2. At the time, it made business sense. e.g. didn't some of the banks run OS/2 internally?
And I don't believe Notes (More than an email system, as others have mentioned) was a flop. Sure, it didn't stand a chance once MS parked their tank on the lawn, but it was widely used at the time,
Notes turned into a huge money spinner ant, until Windows did the dirty with NT, OS/2 was the only PC platform capable of supporting enough memory for large spreadsheets. I can't program C++ but I'm bet the OS/2 API was better than then Windows one. The switch required a complete rewrite and, this was the days before pervasive VCS and backups, I'm not sure if all the original code was still around.
OS/2 was a far better system than Windows on DOS but was hamstrung by the presentation manager and later, ironically, by virtualising DOS and Windows so well that customers didn't need to migrate their software to it, just allocate DOS boxes more memory. While we all suffered long term as Microsoft learned how to program larger systems, customers benefitted at the time.
My first real job out of college was porting a large app from OS/2 to WinNT 3.5. After using the two side-by-side for a while, I wanted to cry as M$ continued eating their lunch. Better UI, subsystem, API's, etc.
We were using PVCS for VCS. Anything was better than SourceSafe, which tended to corrupt its internal database as the project grew in size. Yikes.
"I don't think you can punish Lotus for developing for OS/2. At the time, it made business sense. e.g. didn't some of the banks run OS/2 internally?"
You can, and the market did. OS2 never had any traction other than with a small number of IBM captive customers (the sort of people that bought in token ring networks and those crappy overpriced underpowered PS2 machines). OS/2 was unpopular with most users and struggled for software, and backing an unpopular proprietary system from a single PC maker was always madness.
Lotus should have avoided OS/2 like the plague that it was. Sadly, even now 1-2-3 remains a better product than Excel, which is (like all Microsoft products) over-laden with whizzy new features that nobody asked for, and they never fix useability issues that go back decades (like Excel's crap charting, or basic input conventions of not recognising that when I open a spreadsheet and type 4+3, I am most likely to want that calculated in the cell, not entered as text, etc etc.
Lotus should have avoided OS/2 like the plague that it was. Sadly, even now 1-2-3 remains a better product than Excel, which is (like all Microsoft products)
There is a lot of hatred towards OS/2. Sure it had its faults, but it wasn't all bad. It ran Windows programs better than native Windows. OS/2 Warp ran Borland Delphi better than native Windows (at least on the DECpc 433 I ran it on) . It actually didn't crash much, and if it did it didn't take whole OS with it like on native Windows.
OS/2 had two big problems.
1. Price - it simply wasn't affordable for the typical home user.
2. Too many disks for the install. IIRC the initial package came on 20 floppy disks. The odds of one of them going bad on you after the first install were just too high. Ironically Gates ridiculed IBM for the number of discs required then released 95 which required even more disks.
OS/2 had two big problems.
IBM's biggest mistake was letting Microsoft work on OS/2.
OS/2 was built for companies which is why it had all kinds of network and terminal emulation support that Windows never got. By making, and marketing, OS/2 as "a better DOS than DOS, a better Windows than Windows", IBM provided little incentive for users (and therefore software companies) to port to OS/2. If 1-2-3 and Wordperfect on OS/2 had significant advantages over their Windows versions then things might have been different.
You couldn't crash it but programs could quite easily cause Presentation Manager to hang, which was pretty much the same to many.
Circa 1995, I was working for two years with OS/2 Warp as my desktop OS. It could run circles around Windows 3.11 and NT, and even around Windows 95, which appeared later. The difference in stability and performance was spectacular. OS/2 was also far easier to manage and configure -in my opinion- than any of the other three OSs I listed.
OS/2 Warp was a really good product. S.T.T.B.
.... companies realized that it would be much more profitable to cooperate and join forces to make sure you all give out the most optimal user experience instead of trying to dominate a market by trying to do it all yourself.
I lived the day, and was utterly fascinated, how it was easily doable to link a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet right into WordPerfect 5.1. And with updated contents too mind you (so change the spreadsheet and you'd also get different values in your WP document).
But wait; there's more. dBase III and dBase IV. You could easily access dBase from Lotus and even from WordPerfect.So keep your data stored in a most optimized way (where you could also use, for example, Clipper to build database powered applications) and then use that data in your other programs.
All without international standards, regulations and other dumb stuff such as software patents.
Not saying that it was all better back then, heck no, but IMO the companies were much more focussed at providing the best customer experience.
> I lived the day,
Yeah, I'm also feeling my age... In its heyday, Lotus123 WAS personal computing. I eventually ceased to be amazed to find beancounters writing their letters in 123, using rows as lines, all done because 123 was their universe. You messed with this at your peril, and 2.1 was the absolute pinnacle, with reasonable memory demands and a wealth of add-ins. I recall the wonder of seeing for the first time the rows and columns populated from an Oracle database running on a Sequent, a miracle of integration at that time.
Then came the dog that was version 3. A half hearted attempt to be graphical, a memory hog and oh, so slow.
It was also a time when others were trying to get in on the act. There was a brilliant shareware clone of 123 called "As East As" which was equally fast, used less memory at a time when every byte of the 640 in the machines was important. But it didn't say "Lotus 123" so was unacceptable. Borland tried with Quattro, again, technically superior, in my opinion, but Lotus could do little wrong, so the users rejected these.
We were heavily invested in 123, but then we thought that Windows was looking like the future. My boss and I set up meetings with Lotus development and Microsoft to develop our own strategic approaches - this in the days when mere users really could set up meetings with software companies. We came away from those meetings with the understanding that Lotus was going to wait to see how things panned out, and had no real Windows strategy, while Microsoft said "Yes, we know we need to catch up, but here's what our plans are." To a large extent, they did what they said they would do. Lotus simply thought they'd be able to control the future and dropped the ball. After those meetings, we went to Excel and Word in spite of a very shaky start, and really never bothered with Lotus after that.
The one exception was Lotus Agenda. It's still available for download. It was a hard-to-describe piece of brilliant personal management software which Lotus thought they'd put into Notes, but never did.
I miss my youth....
ql says: "...we thought that Windows was looking like the future"
One year, about 1985, I attended the Personal Computer World Show at Earl's Court. It was called "Personal..." because it was organized by the magazine of the same name, but it was as much about business computers. We were all used to word processing, databases etc with an 80x25 text screen, and pretty happy with that to be honest. At least it was simple and fast. But at the Show, it was Windowing GUIs on all sides - GEM, Apricot, Apple, Windows, all the big players - and small ones - had something to push. Still monochrome, mind.
That happened only *after* Microsoft decided that an integrated suite with the same UI, and able to easily exchange data between applications, was a great idea.
What Lotus, Wordperfect & C. couldn't do was to adapt the OS to these needs. Microsoft introduced DDE first and then OLE exactly to make Office application integrate easily, first only data (DDE), than the whole application (OLE) - it wasn't made at the file level, but at the application level with a standard API, and it was also open to third party applications...
When Borland teamed with Wordperfect to deliver something alike, it wasn't able to reach the same kind of integration - while Lotus took too long to integrate Ami Pro and the presentation software into its product line - wasting resources in DOS releases.
This post has been deleted by its author
I had a fully boxed version of DOS v2.1 complete with copy protected floppies, manuals and silly little stickers! Threw it in the recycling about 2 years ago, along with a boxed copy of dBase IV ( yep the one in the big beige box with the 2 or 3 ring bound manuals) and finally a copy of DataEase 4 for DOS.
First IT "job" I had as spotty little 14 year old was helping my Dad install Concurrent DOS 386 with DataEase running on top of it! DataEase and my Dad, it's their fault I ended up as a DBA by trade!
Yep, still got a boxed copy of DataEase 4 in the garage. Without checking, I believe it came on a single HD 3.5 inch floppy.
I set up a small business stock control / ordering / invoicing system in two days. From scratch. The data entry took longer than the setup.
I too feel a VM coming on...
I still regularly use Lotus WordPro and much prefer it to Word (though familiarity is no doubt a factor).
Seconded. Samna's Ami Pro was pure bliss. I could actually get stuff done with that without any hassle unlike Word. The way you used styles was so fluent.
I never did try it after Lotus bought it.
I spent endless hours with Lotus support trying to make WordPro work - it crashed too often. Also Lotus tried to enforce its Notes-like UI on it, and it was really ugly - and often not user firendly, i.e. toolbars could only host buttons and no other controls (i.e. combobox, etc.)
The right click property inspector was introduced by Borland in Quattro Pro for Windows - it was nice, but it just did what in Word you could soften do from the toolbar without requiring a right-click, than a tab selection, and finally the change required - three clicks instead of one. It would be OK for complex tasks, but not for simpler ones. And again, it did use Lotus own UI, and I really hate applications that don't use the OS standard UI - more so if they are also not well designed.
Anyway, since Office 2007 you have local toolbars which appear when you select something...
I always suspected some link between WordStar's use of Control-K for formatting initiation and Lotus' use of Control-K to pop up the formatting box. What other reason for using K for the format shortcut? I know the first WordStar used Control-1, Control-2 etc (on my Xerox 820) but I had a Bondwell 12 with a later version that moved to Control-K-C for Copy, etc..
Wordstar and New Word were excellent tools. I've missed the Wordstar dot-file approach to mast documents for decades now. And New Word, which was WS with bells, produced by staff that departed WS, arguably had the only well written - actually enjoyable to read - software manual I have ever read. Even now I prefer Joe for editing small configuration files in Linux.
IBM wanted Notes and Domino (Notes server), partly to sell, and partly for their own use. While PROFS/NOSS was a perfectly usable, it relied on mainframes, and IBM was trying to reduce the number of mainframes they ran for their own use.
They saw OS/2 and Notes as a key part of their own internal strategy, and initially made it almost impossible to buy Windows for internal use without a very specific need.
Once they had installed the RS/6000 SP/2 servers for Domino, it would have been a real clime-down to switch to Windows/Exchange, and IBM still use Notes as their mail client, even porting it to Linux for those of use who don't use Windows on their company Thinkpads.
IBM's still trying to prevent users from purchasing Microsoft software, particularly Office, saying that corporate policy is either Symphony (a hacked Open Office fork, not the Lotus Symphony that ran on DOS and was an attempt at a follow on product to 123), or now that that is discontinued, OpenOffice itself (not Libre).
It's a shame that they didn't invest more money trying to add the extra features to OpenOffice that really would have allowed it to be compatible. As it stands, users are left with neither being able to run Office, nor having a fully compatible office suite, even for their own tools like the nmon analyser, which requires Excel. The only people who get an automatic right to have MS Office are those in direct customer facing roles. Everyone else has to fight with their manager to try to get it.
"It's a shame that they didn't invest more money trying to add the extra features to OpenOffice that really would have allowed it to be compatible."
People just have to remember that the reason developments like this don't happen isn't money, it's IP restrictions. Eg., Visual Basic is required make Powerpoint work. To make any Powerpoint clone compatible with Powerpoint created files would impinge on MS IP. MS owns Visual Basic lock, stock and barrel. No Powerpoint clone is -ever- going to be acceptably compatible with Powerpoint. The OpenOffice variants just aren't good enough, fast enough, compatible enough.
IBM missed wholly the point that OS/2 needed software to take off. Nobody buys a desktop OS if there is no good user friendly productivity software available (look at Linux, same mistake - ironically, StarOffice . now Open/LibreOffice - was one of the few software available for OS/2). It didn't understand what made the PC take off - and it wasn't the DOS prompt or EDLIN.
Lotus could have filled that gap, but it didn't, even after it was bought by IBM.
Sure, OS/2 could run Win 3.x applications, but 95 and NT4 were coming, and it was clear everybody would have moved to the newer 32 bit applications which couldn't run on OS/2 - and nobody would have developed expensive software for an OS with a small user base. Moreover, the best Win 3.x office applications available were already the Microsoft one - it wasn't smart to make people used to MS software...
it was up to IBM to sustain the investment to bring the most useful software to OS/2, but they decided to avoid it, and rely on third parties who were hesitant and delivered little and late.
They didn't see the Outlook/Exchange combo coming also... anyway Notes alone would have never been a good reason to adopt OS/2 on the desktop as well.
OS/2 also lacked good development tools, Visual Basic and Delphi started then to offer "simple" good tools to deliver GUI apps without the difficult of C/C++ and API programming, but none was available for OS/2 - VisualAge was an ugly monster - but that's another story.
Had OS/2 a good office suite to offer, maybe history could have been somewhat different. But Lotus wasted all its efforts in the SmartSuite for Win 3.1 first, and later for 95, without being able to gain any ground in Microsoft battlefield (also, its software was buggy and with the unfriendly Notes UI), while never delivering an OS/2 SmartSuite in time.
"look at Linux, same mistake".
That statement makes it sound like there is one person or organisation in control of Linux who could fill that gap.
I'm sure that you realise that it's just not like that. Linus was interested in creating a UNIX clone, originally for his own use. He did not really have any ambitions for the desktop. It's true that someone like RedHat or Canonical could attempt to fill that gap, but most of the Open Source projects just don't have the resources to produce something on the scale of a full-blown office productivity suite.
The one realistic candidate, StartOffice, was a project that came from proprietary and commercial package that was offered for free, non-commercial use on various platforms after being re-written in C++. When Sun purchased the company, they forked StarOffice to create OpenOffice, which had some of the copyright-encumbered components removed (particularly the database component, which was IIRC a cut-down ADABAS implementation). Sun kept StarOffice on their product catalogue as a commercial product, but as time went on, they had difficulty committing serious resource to it's development.
And Oracle's purchase of Sun was the death knell for StarOffice, and a serious kink to the development of OpenOffice. Whether the fork to produce LibreOffice will be enough to kick-start attempts to make is a serious contender for deployment at Enterprise level (it's already perfectly capable for SOHO or most SME uses) remains to be seen.
If you have the odd few tens-of-million dollars (or more) to develop a new, compatible competitor for MS Office, I'm sure that the whole world would wish you well! I'm sure that there really is a niche for a cross-platform, commercial suite, but trying to play catch up with Microsoft will always be a difficult task. Maybe you should invest in Corel, and try to get WordPerfect and Quattro ported, but I suspect that even this would be a quite herculean task!
"Sure, OS/2 could run Win 3.x applications /.../ newer 32 bit applications which couldn't run on OS/2"
Hmm, there's more to that. OS/2 was destined to run 32-bit NT applications, and did for a while, but Win32s spec kept changing rapidly.
Quick search suggests that Win32s version 1.25a was the last to run on OS/2.
I heard that Gerstner bought Lotus for one reason only: Their replication technology. Lotus had that locked up and IBM wanted those patents to use everywhere. Broadband didn't quite exist yet. Replication was -really- useful. IBM didn't give a rat's rear about 1-2-3 or AmiPro or any of it--just the replication part.
This post has been deleted by its author
Even that was more a failure of Lotus marketing. My office used 1-2-3 in the 1980s, and a few of us wanted to have home computers that we could take work home to - but 1-2-3 was far too expensive for us to buy our own copies, and our employer was paranoid about doing anything that might infringe the Lotus EULA. So we had to resort to the 'clones' and 'compatibles' that we could afford. I ran Borland Quattro Pro on my Amstrad PPC 640 D - and still don't understand how it was vastly cheaper than 1-2-3 yet just as reliable and with a better user interface and some useful 'extra' features.
If my memory is correct, the rights to CP/M passed from DRI via Novell to Caldera and then SCO, and the CP/M and MP/M source was released by Ransome Love, under a very permissive license. I have a full copy of the source, and license, somewhere.
But alnong came nasty Darl McBride (who we all know sued IBM and others over ownership of UNIX, Linux, and half of the world's software (slight over-simplification) and lost, big time. But I digress...) No new licenses were issued, but it is well-nigh impossible to take back that which has been issued, and of course trade secret protection, if it still applied, was automatically lost on public exposure.
The rights, including the copyright of the source, passed eventually to Lineo, and Bryan Sparks kindly made it available again under a permissive license. See here: http://www.cpm.z80.de/ and here: http://www.cpm.z80.de/license.html
IANAL so please check with your own lawyer before making use of the CP/M source in any way that might get you into trouble if I am wrong.
If anyone can expand on this information, or correct errors on my part, please feel free to do so. It would be nice to be sure of the current status of CP/M, since it is potentially still useful on small, simple, ultra low-power things.
IBM FPS II and ADRS II BG on the mainframe just about predated visicalc and did offer something we would recognise today as a spreadsheet. Admittedly you needed to learn APL to get the most out of it. These later got repackaged as Info Center/1 in the 80s when Information Centres were all the rage. The BG stands for business graphics - something that didn't come along on PCs until Lotus 1-2-3.
Actuially, one of the limits of 1-2-3 was its very limited graphics and printing capabilities - you needed add-ons (which costed money) to get decent graphics and prints - in a time when you couldn't easily publish a file or image on a website everybody could easily access - nor easily bring a floppy disk to a meeting... (no laptops, no projectors.... I still remember devices to "print" on real slide film to show them on a screen using a slide projector...)
That was a ground which both Borland with Quattro and Microsoft with Excel attacked easily - both products offered much better integrated graphic and printing capabilities.
Probably easy to do because they're defunct now too. It was QuattroPro that first challenged Lotus for the spreadsheet market. They showed MS it could be done. The office I worked in was standardizing on Quattro about the time I was entering the work force. Had some folks working in Paradox too.
It was initially named Borland "Quattro" (the Italian word for "four") , "Quattro Pro" came later - and it was the reason of the "Borland-vs-Lotus" trial, which stated that software menu arrangement couldn't be copyrighted... different times from today, when somebody tries to copyright rectangles with round corners..
It was also the first spreadsheet to use the "tabbed notebook" interface, which led to another copyright infringment cause, this time against Microsoft.
Anyway, it was what put Borland into MS aiming target, and lead to its "destruction" (among many Borland mistakes as well)
It was available when Datapoint was desperately trying to stay alive and "office automation" was all the rage. The paperless office and all that jazz.
Heck, I even remember spread "sheets" - pads of wide, columnar oriented accounting paper forms. I sold Monroe electronic calculators to minions who cross footed sums of rows with sums of columns as a error detection technique.
That much is true but sadly, I don't spit at the memory of Lotus Notes, I still have to use it every day. I work for one of the Big 4 firms of business advisers. We employ a lot of very clever people and, generally we are well catered for on the IT front. I have a decent laptop, an iPhone supported by some genuinely useful apps but still, I have to use Lotus Notes.
It just shows that once some software is well embedded into an organisation, it can be very difficult to remove.
Notes/Domino is one of the few apps that makes you really long for a Outlook + Exchange system...
Years ago I worked for a company that was a full IBM shop (yes, we also had a Token Ring network), it was a reseller of IBM products and also had a software development division. We had Notes, but I do not know why, IT one day decided to give a try to Outlook and Exchange. My software development group was chosen as the pilot installation (probably because we were the only ones happy to get new software to play with... and nobody cared if our mail system didn't work for a while).
Well, Outlook was very well received (its UI was years ahead of Notes with its strange Egyptian UI...) - and after a while most of the company wanted "that mail application the software development group uses!". It took more time to get rid of Token Ring and switch to Ethernet, though...
I also shared the office for a while with some Notes developers.... well, most of them hoped to ditch it soon and start to develop applications with better tools on real RDBMS...
...using its slash ( / ) commands, way faster than any RIBBON today.
Even Excel (inside windows 3.11) bowed to its functionality, allowing you to enable the complete list of slash commands inside Excel. Good times. Back in the day, scroll lock was actually used, because mice had not been invented or had no scroll button.
It was an ill fated choice because it was strongly tied to the US keyboard layout. In other countries it was very uncomfortable. MS had already started with 'world domination' ideas, and was looking for UIs that could work in different languages without becoming clumsy or requiring big changes.
One reason Excel succeeded was that Windows was coded as a UI for it. Those who ever dug their way through the Windows 3.1 SDK and the DDK would have found this in the early days. 1-2-3 could never recreate the performance of Excel because it was limited by the public interface, rather than using the private interface.
I had heard that Excel's AVERAGE function was originally named AVG (just like Lotus) but because Lotus sued MS for copying so many features --as well as look and feel-- one of the terms of the settlment was that MS Was forced to change the name of the AVG function.
Anyone familiar with this story/suit?