zebra print barcode vb.net Bob Frankston (standing) and Dan Bricklin, circa 1982 in Font

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Bob Frankston (standing) and Dan Bricklin, circa 1982
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Mitch Kapor founded Lotus Development with Jonathan Sachs in 1982. Their spreadsheet software, Lotus 1-2-3, quickly surpassed VisiCalc to become the new industry standard. VisiCalc had been the original killer app for personal computers. Kapor was a VisiCalc product manager at Personal Software when he wrote VisiPlot and VisiTrend, companion products to VisiCalc. He left to found Lotus just as legal conflicts were distracting VisiCalc s developers, and the arrival of the IBM PC opened a window of opportunity for a better spreadsheet. Lotus 1-2-3 could handle larger spreadsheets and added integrated charting, plotting, and database capabilities. It became the killer app killer. Lotus went public in 1983. Kapor served as president and CEO from 1982 to 1986, and as a director until 1987. IBM acquired Lotus in 1995 for $3.5 billion. Kapor cofounded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in 1990 and now leads the Open Source Applications Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes the development and adoption of open source software.
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Livingston: How did Lotus get started Kapor: I bought an Apple II in the summer of 1978 because I had become obsessed with personal computers and just had to have one. I didn t know what I wanted to do. I very quickly and fortunately started generating some consulting income, writing programs for individuals who had bought them, like an ophthalmologist who wanted to use it in his practice and an investment analyst who wanted to look at stock market data. And I met other people in those days that had Apple IIs, because it was very much a hobby phenomenon. Several of us started an Apple II user group called New England Apple Tree.
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One of those people was Eric Rosenfeld, who was a graduate student in finance at MIT. As a favor to him, and because it was kind of a challenge, I helped write a statistics routine that ran on the Apple II that he could use to analyze data in his dissertation. It took me a weekend. He actually had to explain the math to me; once he explained it, I understood the math. Afterwards, we kind of realized, hey, this might actually be useful to other people if we built a statistics and graphics product on the Apple II. It was called Tiny Troll after something called TROLL, which was a time-sharing thing at MIT. At the same time, Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston were developing VisiCalc, also in Cambridge, and when it came out, it set the world on its ear. It was far and away the most useful piece of software ever done for a personal computer. It was incredibly innovative. It started generating sales of Apple IIs, and it was a cut above everything else. The authors of VisiCalc were Software Arts. The publishers were Personal Software, which then changed its name to VisiCorp somewhere along the way. I knew the VisiCalc authors because they came to the meetings of the Apple II user group that I had cofounded, and that s where I first saw VisiCalc in probably 1979. They introduced their publisher to me this is Dan Fylstra and Peter Jennings and they said, We would like you to take Tiny Troll and rewrite it and clean it up so that we can bring it out as a companion product to VisiCalc. They wanted to have more offerings since they had such a hot product. And I agreed to do that. I still had a partner, but I think he was probably beginning to teach at Harvard anyway, he was otherwise engaged. I was at business school; I decided, when this happened in November 1979, that I needed to learn about business because that s where the market was going to be. I thought I was just going to clean up this little product over Christmas break so I could finish my education. I would make some money and that would be that. And I only thought that because I was totally ignorant about how long things took. I had no background in computer science. I was self-taught I was still writing in Basic. I had no management experience; I was in business school at the time. In fact, I had spent my years after college as a radio disk jockey on a progressive rock station. I was a transcendental meditation teacher, and a mental health counselor at a psychiatric unit of a community hospital. That was OK, because there wasn t really a personal computer software industry. It was still kind of a hobby thing becoming a business, and nobody really took this stuff seriously, so I wasn t ludicrously unqualified by the standards of the day. But I was wrong about how long it was going to take to do this thing. I was inspired to want to do a really great job by VisiCalc, which was so much better than anything I could ever write. But I said, I want to try to do something that could stand up well. And I faced a difficult decision because school was starting again. I took a leave of absence from school to finish the product. It then came to be the spring of 1980, and I thought I was done, and I wasn t done. I didn t know what done was with software. I had, roughly speaking, an alpha version of the product it had some demonstrable features. I decided
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