Microsoft celebrates 25 years of Excel

By David H. Ringstrom

Microsoft Excel has come a long way from its humble beginnings in September 1985 as a spreadsheet program for the Mac environment. This year, Microsoft is celebrating 25 years of Excel with a Facebook-based contest that encourages users to post their favorite Excel memory – with a social media twist.
 
Contestants must, in turn, encourage their friends to vote for their memory.  Two winners will receive an Xbox & Kinect package. Be sure to read the rules and conditions for the contest, which runs through January 31, 2011.
 
Microsoft Excel was actually a late-comer to the spreadsheet party, preceded by Visicalc in 1981, Microsoft’s MultiPlan in 1982, and Lotus 1-2-3 in 1983. In November 1987, Excel 2.0 for Windows debuted, along with an updated Mac version. At the time, Lotus 1-2-3 continued to rest on its MS-DOS laurels, and within a year Microsoft Excel sales began outstripping Lotus 1-2-3.
 
Several catch-up attempts were made by Lotus – does anyone remember WYSIWYG? – but Microsoft Excel already had won the spreadsheet war. Interestingly, Lotus 1-2-3 still can be purchased today as part of IBM’s Lotus SmartSuite, although the last update to the software was in 2002. To get a true sense of how much spreadsheets have evolved in the past 30 years, give Visicalc a quick spin (Tip: press the / key to access the menu, and use /SQ to exit the program).
 
There have been 11 Windows-based versions of Excel over the years, culminating with the latest version Microsoft Excel 2010. In the past 25 years, the competitive landscape has changed dramatically, with the head-to-head competition with Lotus 1-2-3 and Quattro Pro shifting to a face-off between free alternatives such as OpenOffice and GoogleDocs.
 
Who knows what the next 25 years will bring with regard to spreadsheets?
 
Read more articles by David Ringstrom. 
 
About the author:

David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at david@acctadv.com or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, and presents webcasts for several CPE providers, including AccountingWEB partner CPE Link.


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