What were you doing when Lotus-1-2-3 launched 30 years ago...?

26 January 2013 was the 30 anniversary of the launch of Mitch Kapor's Lotus 1-2-3, (a spreadsheet, for those young 'uns who've never heard of it!) That's pre- MS Excel, just so you know! 'So what?', you might ask. Well, this was not the first spreadsheet incarnation, but it was the one that changed the world, triggering a move to bigger and faster personal computers, and instantly becoming a must-have application.

So much for that factoid, but the news that it's been 30 years led me to pause and reflect on what I was doing back in those days and how this piece of software ultimately came to affect me...

I'd long had a level of curiosity about computers but in the early 80's was working as an industrial chemist. At the time I was interested in finding a means to accelerate a lot of calculation work, by building a 'simple' model which would allow rapid formulation of a polymer matching certain characteristics.

Poking around with BASIC on a Radio-Shack TRS80 just didn't cut it, but one day, an IBM 'PC' arrived in the office, followed not long after by an invitation to attend a Lotus course. Sounded like a novel idea, so off I went, but without expecting too much. WOW! By the end of the first day, I could scarcely wait to get back to the office and get my hands on a copy of the software, because I could already see the 'model' taking shape in my mind!

Getting in to the office an hour earlier than the rest of the crew each day got me the computer time I needed to better familiarize myself with the rows, columns and macros I was going to need, and soon, the 'model' was ready for it's first test. And it worked - magnificently!

I guess that was the writing on the wall, though I didn't recognize it then, as it was only a matter of time before chemistry gave way before a tsunami of software, databases, programs, computers, networks and retraining, sweeping me down a path I could scarcely have imagined...