Farewell, Lotus 1-2-3

By David Ringstrom, CPA


IBM recently announced that Lotus 1-2-3 will no longer be available for purchase. Most readers of this article will likely have one of two reactions: “What is Lotus 1-2-3?” or else an incredulous “Lotus 1-2-3 was still on the market?” If you're of a certain age, you may wistfully remember Lotus 1-2-3 as your first spreadsheet program.

Lotus 1-2-3 has had a suggested retail price of $352, but it soon will no longer be available for purchase. Although it wasn't the first spreadsheet – VisiCalc has that distinction – Lotus 1-2-3 owned the spreadsheet for a number of years. Although Lotus did outlast Quattro Pro, Microsoft Excel eventually won the spreadsheet wars.

Lotus was slow to innovate and clung valiantly to its DOS-based heritage by way of feeble desktop publishing efforts like WYSIWYG. That wacky acronym stood for “What You See Is What You Get” with regard to applying fonts, colors, and other formatting to data and getting the same output on paper as one saw on-screen. If you want a sense of how spreadsheets looked “back-in-the-day,” you can download and run VisiCalc.

Lotus 1-2-3 was first released in 1983, so its discontinuance this year marks the end of a thirty-year run. IBM bought Lotus Corporation in 1995 and still sells Lotus Notes, among other offerings, but will soon be dropping the Lotus name entirely. Lotus Corporation had a storied past, including innovative spreadsheet alternatives such as Improv and Symphony that never gained traction in the marketplace.

IBM will still provide support for Lotus 1-2-3 until June 2014, so die-hard users have a bereavement period during which they can transition their spreadsheet affairs to Apple's Numbers, Google Docs, OpenOffice, or perhaps even Microsoft Excel.

A previous version of this article first appeared on www.accountingweb.com .

About the author:

David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at david@acctadv.com  or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, and presents webcasts for several CPE providers, including AccountingWEB partner CPE Link