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Lotus position: IBM kills the name, but software and founders live on

Julie Sartain | Feb. 5, 2013
Thirty-one years ago, Massachusetts-based software developers Mitch Kapor and Jonathan Sachs created a program — an electronic spreadsheet — that would change the world. A year later, on Jan. 26, 1983, Lotus Development Corp. released Lotus 1-2-3 for the IBM PC and grossed $53 million in sales. The following year, sales tripled to more than $150 million.

He's a board member at Level Playing Field Institute, a company that promotes innovative approaches to fairness in higher education and workplaces by removing barriers to full participation. "LPFI's Initiative for Diversity in Education and Leadership (IDEAL) assists exemplary underrepresented students at UC Berkeley to maximize their educational, service, and career opportunities," says Kapor.

According to Kapor, the Summer Math and Science Honors Academy (SMASH) is a three-year, summer math and science academy for high school students on the UC Berkeley campus that encourages students from under-represented communities to pursue studies and excel in science, technology, engineering, and/or math at top colleges and graduate schools.

In addition, he's the founder and trustee of the Mitchell Kapor Foundation, an organization that works to ensure fairness and equity, particularly for low-income communities of color. "We support organizations and activism that illuminate and mitigate the conditions and dynamics of inequality, which particularly impact vulnerable communities," says Kapor.

Asked about the demise of the Notes name, Kapor says, "I think 30 years was a really excellent run, and all things must pass.''

Jonathan Sachs

Jonathan Sachs was the co-creator of Lotus 1-2-3. He spent 10 months writing the program in Assembly for the IBM personal computer. He did such an excellent job, the program was almost completely bug-free. It was lightning fast and extremely efficient. Lotus introduced the onscreen, hierarchical, letter menus (accessed by typing the slash key prior to executing the commands), for example: keystrokes slash key, letter F, letter S means File Save. This user access design is still used in most Windows applications. Later versions of 1-2-3 were written in C, partially to accommodate the programs' growth and complexity and partially to make it easier for integration with other programs.

Sachs left Lotus in 1985. Currently, he owns a photo editing software program called Digital Light & Color. Based in Cambridge, Mass., Digital Light & Color's portfolio includes the advanced photo editing program Picture Window Pro 6.0; a color calibration tool called Profile Mechanic-Scanner; a plug-in program called Color Mechanic; and a post-production (frame and mat design) program called Frame Explorer.

"I am mostly retired now," he says, "But have been involved with Digital Light & Color since around 1993, a company that produces photo editing software for Windows."

Ray Ozzie

Ray Ozzie founded Iris Associates in December of 1984 to create Notes. Iris and Lotus had an agreement from 1984 until Lotus acquired Iris in 1994. Iris was responsible for all product development, and Lotus was responsible for everything else (marketing, sales, distribution, support, etc).

According to Ozzie, the Lotus brand was, initially, all about desktop computing; it was about tools for personal empowerment and personal computing. With the advent of Notes, the Lotus brand grew to be inclusive of tools for interpersonal empowerment and collaborative work things that today are regarded as "tools for social productivity."

 

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