Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lotus - the end of an era

The Great Lakes Geek is sad that the Lotus name has been removed from the Notes/Domino name and the Lotusphere conference.  It’s hard to believe that it was way back in 1995 that IBM bought Lotus, essentially for the Lotus Notes product line. 

I don’t think you can overestimate the importance of Lotus 1-2-3 to the PC industry.  Jonathan Sachs had written a couple electronic spreadsheets and he and Mitch Kapor created Lotus in 1982 and released Lotus 1-2-3 for the IBM PC in 1983.

Lotus 1-2-3 is the main reason that businesses bought PCs.  It made the IBM PC the world standard.  In fact, the common test for a clone PC to be IBM PC compatible was that it be able to run Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Flight Simulator (to test the graphics).  There was even a rumor that Microsoft would intentionally change DOS just enough to mess up 1-2-3.  The motto was 'DOS ain't done till Lotus won't run.’'

If you are old enough, you may recall the first time you set up a spreadsheet and then changed a field (maybe a tax rate from 10 to 12%) and recalculated and watched the values update.  What power! The Geek actually first witnessed this with VisiCalc on a TRS-80.   1-2-3 soon eclipsed VisiCalc and Microsoft’s Multiplan never did offer much competition. 

The product was called 1-2-3 because it had 3 functions: Spreadsheet, Charting/Graphing and Database.  Of course the database and graphing functions seem prehistoric when viewed against Access or Excel but it was a big deal back then.  And many people used 1-2-3 as their only app, including as a word processor.  They loaded 1-2-3 in the morning and stayed in it all day.  The familiar A1 row/column screen was burnt into many CRT monitors.

Lotus 1-2-3 did not have the burden of accommodating modern GUIs.  The first versions were written in x86 Assembler Language (V 3.0 switched to C) and they wrote directly to video memory rather than slower OS or BIOS output.  It was fast!

As companies relied on 1-2-3 more and more, they soon reached the 640K limits of the PC and the industry developed expanded memory to break the 640k barrier.  I spent a lot of time on Quarterdeck’s QEMM eking out some precious extra kb of memory.

Lotus 1-2-3 was the first killer app and dominated for a decade.  The beginning of the end came when Lotus lost the famous “look and feel” lawsuit against Borland and their Quattro Pro spreadsheet.  The port from Assembler to C took more time than expected and in the meantime Microsoft launched Excel for the Mac.  As Windows grew market share, Excel for Windows grew with it.

Lotus Symphony was the successor to 1-2-3 offering an integrated suite including a word processor.  Symphony and the Lotus SmartSuite never gained the dominance and market share of 1-2-3 despite being excellent products.  I still find the dragging of a completed task in Lotus Organizer to a trash can and seeing it burst into flames as the most satisfying of any PIM/calendar. (remember PIMs?)

The Lotus name was revived with their revolutionary groupware program Notes which incorporated network communication and sharing.  It’s a terrific product but more for the enterprise whereas 1-2-3 was on every desktop, consumer or business.

Many software companies of that era could be identified with the CEO or other key player: Philippe Khan at Borland, Bill Gates at Microsoft, Gordon Eubanks at Symantec and so on.  These, and many others, were supporters of user groups and spoke at the Association of PC User Groups (APCUG) annual meetings at Comdex in Las Vegas. 

While Lotus had a presence, and some terrific user group reps (I remember Elena Fernandez – who else?), I don’t recall visits from Mitch Kapor, Ray Ozzie, Jim Manzi or other Lotus bigwigs.  Maybe my APCUG pals will correct me on this.

Just as we will never have someone like Walter Cronkite being viewed by most Americans, we will never again see a program dominate like Lotus 1-2-3.   For a trip down memory lane, you can download (legally) and play with early spreadsheets such as VisiCalc from Dan Bricklin’s page. 

Looking forward to other “mature” Geeks comments.

Monday, February 18, 2013

95th Lithuanian Independence Day

The Cleveland Lithuanian community gathered to celebrate the 95th anniversary of February 16, 1918 and the declaration of Lithuania's independence.

A slew of dignitaries and speeches was followed by a keynote address from Proctor and Gamble scientist Darius Sabaliunas who was born and raised in Klaipeda, Lithuania.

Then, kids from the Lithuanian Saturday School recited a poem in Lithuanian.  Other musical performers followed.

Photos and Videos from the Cleveland Lithuanian Independence Day celebration.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI

Brian Burch of CatholicVote.org posted the following sentiment this morning (and the picture)

“Catholic Americans join their brothers and sisters in the Faith around the world in humble acceptance of the decision today by Pope Benedict XVI to leave the Chair of Peter later this month. This historic decision comes fittingly as the Church prepares to enter the season of Lent, where marked with ashes, we are reminded of our human limits and utter dependence on the grace and providence of the Lord of history. We are mindful that the universality of the Church is particularly visible during these historic events where the prayer, tradition, and grandeur of Catholicism are on display for the world to see. We give thanks for the rich pontificate of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, and await with joyful hope and prayer the workings of the Holy Spirit in our Church in the weeks ahead.”

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cleveland Aikikai Dojo featuring Aikido Martial Arts

On the 2nd floor of Asian Town Plaza on East 38th Street in Cleveland's AsiaTown you can find restaurants, art and the Cleveland Aikikai Dojo.

The Aikikai is the original school of Aikido. It is centered on the Aikikai Foundation in Japan, and its figurehead is the Doshu (the family heir of the founder of Aikido). It is represented globally through the International Aikido Federation.

Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Aikido is often translated as "the Way of unifying (with) life energy" or as "the Way of harmonious spirit." Ueshiba's goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury.

Sensei Jim Klar of Cleveland Aikikai says that Aikido techniques teach one to prevent confrontation but how to deal with them if rational attempts do not succeed.

More about Cleveland Aikikai and Aikido

Sho-Jo-Ji Japanese Dancers

The Sho-Jo-Ji Japanese Dancers performance at the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration at Asia Plaza was very popular with the audience.

Chinese New Year in Cleveland Year of the Snake

The Year of the Snake was celebrated throughout Asia Town in Cleveland with day-long celebrations. Music, dance, Martial Arts, food, vendors, groups and, of course, a Lion Dance, were part of the festivities.

Photos and videos of Cleveland celebrations

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Happy Chinese New Year

Johnny Wu, President of the Organization of Chinese Americans - Cleveland Chapter and co-founder of the Cleveland Asian Festival, explains the Year of the Snake and how to say Happy New Year in Mandarin in this short video clip from the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration at Asia Plaza in Cleveland’s AsiaTown.