Search Not Just Numbers

Wednesday 26 January 2011

How long have you been using Excel?

I came across this short video celebrating the first 25 years of Microsoft Excel and it got me to reminiscing about my early days with spreadsheets.

I didn't start using Excel myself until 1998 when the company I was working for went through a management buyout and I decided to do the forecasts for the post-buyout company in Excel rather than Lotus-123, and bring the rest of the accounts department across afterwards. This put ridiculous pressure on me to convert the management accounts into Excel immediately after we completed the buyout. This is when I came up with the basis of the approach I outlined in my first ever post on this blog, back in September 2008 (read it here).

I first used Lotus-123 during my 3 years training in an accountancy practice (1992-1995) on an ancient 'portable computer' that looked like a sewing machine and was shared by all of the accountants in the practice. I remember it had orange text on a black background and we only really used it for Fixed Asset Registers!

Would love to hear any stories of early Excel (or Lotus-123) use from any of you. Please share in the comments below.

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  1. Dear Glenn,

    I'm afraid I started on Visicalc on a Commodore Pet - we used to have to book the time. One hour each, most of which was taken up with loading from and saving to 5.25 floppies.
    Next Visicalc on an IBM pc doing actual costs of production for a plant;spent most of the time sello-taping the printouts together.
    Onto Lotus123 for management accounts and macros and then to the wonders of Excel.

    In each case the info produced changed the way we thought about the various businesses.

    I think spreadsheets have played a large part in business decisions since their beginning.

  2. Kevan

    Sounds like you've been there since the very beginning! It's amazing to think how ubiquitous they have become over the last 25 years. Still most small businesses don't really get past the functionality that Visicalc had!

  3. Dear Glen,

    You are right and much of today's training just concentrates on going through the menu options.

    Show people some simple techniques such as filtering and basic graphs and their data becomes real information they can use in their business. Explain pivot tables and see "the light go on" as the information comes alive.

    I'm sure you must see this in your training?

  4. I started with Framework in 1986, had a short look at Lotus 1-2-3 (which was long considered as the better spreaedsheet tool) and then switched to Excel in 1993. Excel has been my daily work horse since then.

    In 2005 I discovered Quantrix Modeler a successor of Lotus Improv with the multidimensional paradigm. In short: You are working within a pivot table directly and formulas are always visible. Version 4 of Quantrix Modeler will be released soon and has a scripting engine (Groovy). More here:

    Quantrix is an interesting addition to a financial modelers toolbox.


  5. Kevan - I agree. You can know your car's manual back to front but it doesn't make you a good driver. Knowing how to use a few key tools effectively (Pivot Tables, VLOOKUP, etc.) is far more useful.

    Dominik - Thanks for the info. I might need to take a look at that.