Lotus 1-2-3 Day is celebrated annually on January 26. The day commemorates the release of the best spreadsheet program to grace the market. Lotus software took the personal PC world by storm and changed the way people calculated, well, everything.
This was a must-have office software that paved the way for other spreadsheets. You may have even heard of some — Microsoft Excel, anyone? Today’s the day we celebrate Lotus 1-2-3’s birthday and the ease it brought to most individual’s work life.
History of Lotus 1-2-3 Day
In the 1970s, when people wanted to calculate anything big (like office expenses, etc.), they had to rely on big pieces of paper — literally, ‘spreadsheets.’ Then, in the 1980s, a program called VisiCalc came along. It made number-crunching very easy and took its host computer, the Apple II series, to the top of the personal computer charts. Back then, all computer systems had a ‘killer app’ that made the whole system worth buying.
In this same period, two guys Mitchell Kapor and Jonathan Sachs, launched the Lotus Development Corporation. They developed an IBM P.C., and then our hero — the Lotus 1-2-3. Taking computing one step further, the Lotus 1-2-3 was a three-in-one tool that combined spreadsheet, charting, and basic database functionality – hence the name.
While the Lotus 1-2-3 was similar to the VisiCalc, it was much faster, boasted better features, and let people multitask. This allowed Lotus 1-2-3 to become the undominated market leader, which, of course, took IBM to the top too.
The company made a killing thanks to their ‘killer app’, bringing in a net worth of $150M in their first year itself, which increased to $156.9M by the next year.
A year later, Lotus 1-2-3 was bumped out of the top position by a program that became a household name — Microsoft Excel. By the 1990s, Lotus 1-2-3 was third on the list of topmost spreadsheet programs, and it was relegated into oblivion over the years.
Almost 30 years later, in 2012, IBM — which had taken over Lotus — announced they were retiring the Lotus brand. Lotus 1-2-3, the Lotus brand’s core product, was retired in 2013.
Lotus 1-2-3 Day timeline
The creators of VisiCalc, Dan Bricklin, and Bob Frankston, create the first spreadsheet.
Mitchell Kapor creates and releases Lotus 1-2-3 for $495.
The first Microsoft Excel program makes a debut in the Mac market, knocking Lotus 1-2-3 off its pedestal.
IBM discontinues customer support for the Lotus brand, including the core product, Lotus 1-2-3.
Lotus 1-2-3 Day FAQs
Does Lotus 1-2-3 still exist?
IBM discontinued sales of Lotus 1-2-3 in 2013. This spreadsheet program is no longer available.
What came before Lotus 1-2-3?
VisiCalc, designed for Apple II computers in 1979, came before Lotus 1-2-3.
How many rows and columns did Lotus 1-2-3 have?
The Lotus 1-2-3 had 256 columns and 8,192 rows.
How to Celebrate Lotus 1-2-3 Day
Celebrate the Lotus 1-2-3
You don't have to break out an old 1980s computer to run a program that has been discontinued. Instead, check out old videos of the Lotus 1-2-3 marketing campaigns, read up about this program, and check out how this one program influenced the trajectory of the spreadsheet world.
Make spreadsheets fun by putting down a list of books to read or movies to watch. Use them for a bit of organization (budgeting, grocery shopping, e.t.c.). Or simply use it to keep track of important days.
Throw Lotus 1-2-3 a birthday party
Maybe you can rustle up a computer from that period, or maybe not. Don't let that stop you from organizing an 80s-themed party, complete with tech-y decorations.
Fun Facts About Mitchell Kapor
Mitchell Kapor and VisiCalc
The founder of Lotus was a friend of its rival program's (VisiCalc) developers.
Kapor is a marketing guru
His ability to 'speak' to non-technical users contributed greatly to Lotus 1-2-3's popularity.
He relied on group feedback
Unlike most technologists of his time, Kapor used focus group feedback to cater his user instructions for a larger group of people.
Founding chair of the Mozilla Foundation
In 2003, Kapor became founding chair for the company that created the Firefox browser.
He attended Wikimania in 2005
The Wikimedia movement's annual conference — Wikimania — had a famous supporter that year.
Why We Love Lotus 1-2-3 Day
We love a good dose of nostalgia
This is exactly what the 30+-year-old software/spreadsheet brings us.
We also love tech
And we are seeing how technology and innovation have changed our world since Lotus 1-2-3's invention makes us marvel at what the future holds.
It makes us love current tech more
We are so thankful, even as we fire up Google Docs or Excel today, what the world would have been like had Jonathan Sacks not written the program for a spreadsheet? Would we still be counting on actual paper? Or would another invention have swept the PC world off its feet?
Lotus 1-2-3 Day dates