Farewell To Lotus 1-2-3

Lotus 123

The program that helped bring IBM PC’s into offices across America will soon be no more:

Thirty-one years is a good run for any product and that is how long we have lived with the spreadsheet that defined the PC generation, Lotus 1-2-3.

Earlier this week IBM Lotus 1-2-3. Millennium Edition, IBM Lotus SmartSuite 9.x, and Organizer finally, quietly passed the date on which support was due to end, September 30.

So farewell 1-2-3. It may not have been the first computer spreadsheet, that honour went to VisiCorp’s, Apple II-based, VisiCalc, it was the first spreadsheet designed to run on the IBM PC which had launched two years earlier. But Lotus founder, Mitch Kapor made no secret of the fact that he wanted 1-2-3. to be the best in every category.

Commenting on the news of 1-2-3’s demise, Mitch Kapor told ZDNet: “Lotus 1-2-3 had a great run and I’m proud of what we accomplished at Lotus.  It was a landmark product of its era and set the standards for productivity applications for personal computers for a long time.”


Looked at with a 21st century perspective, it’s hard to understand what made it such a compelling package but compelling it was and Lotus 1-2-3. sold by the bucket-load. Lotus 1-2-3. was to prove an outstanding success – the business plan had called for $1m in sales in its first year, but actual results were $54m.

Under Kapor’s  leadership Lotus introduced other office products such as Ray Ozzie’s Symphony office productivity suite in 1984 and the Jazz office suite for the Mac in 1985. Jazz did poorly but thanks to products like Notes, Lotus continued to do well.

Kapor’s product did so will, in fact, that within a short period of time, Lotus Development ended up buying its Apple-based predecessor Visicalc and ending the product entirely. Eventually, of course, Lotus 1-2-3 found itself overtaken by Microsoft Excel in the same manner in which Wordperfect, which had been the market leader in the word processing software category, was overturn by Microsoft Word. At the time, though, 1-2-3 was a fantastically successful product that helped to greatly accelerate the introduction of computer technology in the workplace.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Science & Technology, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    I didn’t even know it was still around. I remember using 123 on a pre-Windows DOS computer. By the time I moved to next job Excel had taken over and that was over 25 years ago. My major objection to current office programs is they have 100’s of features I don’t really need and that includes word.

  2. James Pearce says:

    We still have WordPerfect……

    Don’t we?

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    @James Pearce: WordPerfect was much better than Word although in retrospect the pre Windows version before WYSIWG was a pain in the you know what. I think Correl is still selling WordPefect and I have been tempted.

  4. Matt says:

    wordperfect is still going strong. We have it installed on several machines here.

  5. James Pearce says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    WordPerfect was much better than Word

    It’s been probably 20 years since I used WP. The blue screen, a lot of F-commands. (Yes, the old DOS version.) I loved it.

    Damn you, Windows.

  6. al-Ameda says:

    I’m with Ron, I had no idea that it still existed.

    I still think it was (and is better than Excel) but really, who cares, right?

  7. @Ron Beasley:

    Wordperfect has always been a favorite of mine because it is much easier to draft legal documents on than Word.

  8. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Wordperfect has always been a favorite of mine because it is much easier to draft legal documents on than Word.

    I miss Word Perfect too.
    WordPerfect was a superior word processing application, I don’t think there’s any doubt. Word has too many features that are superfluous, plus Microsoft has complicated the interface and made menu surfing for basic functions really, really tedious.

  9. RGardner says:

    I probably still have a WP F-code template in a box somewhere. For spreadsheets, there was also dBase in the 1980s

  10. Jeremy says:

    Good riddance to Lotus in any form (minus the car company.) I had to use Lotus Notes at one job and it was an absolute pain in the rear to use. Worst e-mail client ever.

  11. DC Loser says:

    Certain government agencies still use Lotus Notes.

    I still remember some of the WP F commands. WP 5.1 is still hands down the best word processor ever designed.

  12. I had no idea it was still around.

    Funny that the piece mentioned VisiCalc–I used that back in middle school on an Apple IIe to help my Dad with data entry (it was an excuse to get to use a computer).

    And ah yes, WordPerfect (RIP). I wrote my dissertation in WordPerfect…

  13. Matt says:

    Seriously wordperfect is still around. I dunno why you guys are acting like it’s gone…

  14. DrDaveT says:


    I had to use Lotus Notes at one job

    There’s no more relationship between Lotus 1-2-3 and Lotus Notes than there is between Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Outlook. I agree with you that Notes was Abomination, but 1-2-3 was cutting edge stuff at the time. People who have grown up with computerized spreadsheets* have no idea the pain they have avoided.

    *Yes, there was a paper-and-pencil version of a ‘spreadsheet’ that predated and inspired the software version. Kind of like the way there were fax machines before there were telephones…