Ressurecting Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheets from 30 years ago

My first job as a coder, when I was 14 years old, was for Skycraft Hobbies, a small hobby shop that used a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model III to manage its inventory using a Radio Shack program called Inventory Control System; through a connection of my father’s I was hired to modify the BASIC code for the system to allow the shop to do things like customizing its receipts.

My second job as a coder was for G.W. Line Canadian Tire in Burlington; I’d started off selling Commodore VIC 20s on the sales floor during the Christmas season, and the next summer I was hired to work out of the Comptroller’s office upstairs to create spreadsheets using Lotus 1-2-3, which was only a year old at the time.

Lotus was the first bona fide PC application I’d ever used, and I thought it was magical, especially when I learned how to use macros to manipulate the spreadsheets programmatically.

My work focused on enabling the Comptroller to analyze things like store sales, wages, and garage mechanic productivity. I was the perfect candidate for the job: I was inexpensive, curious and eager to learn, knew my way around the keyboard, and was, at the same time, mostly blind to the data that was sifting through my fingers.

This morning I was poking through my collection of backup CDs, and I came across one labelled “Important Data Files,” and on the CD was a file named CANTIRE.ZIP.

I copied the file onto my Mac, unzipped it, and, fresh as the day I created them more than 30 years ago, were all those Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheets. Apparently at some point in the past I presciently copied the backup floppies onto a backup CD.

As a credit to the longevity of the Lotus WK1 file format (and to the power of open source software), I was able to load the spreadsheets into LibreOffice without any problem. Here’s a screen capture of what some of the macros look like:

Screenshot of Canadian Tire Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, circa 1984

There’s a bunch more interesting-looking stuff on the “Important Data Files” CD, including Turbo Pascal code that I wrote to manage accreditation for the Canadian Association for Pastoral Education, and Catherine’s correspondence related to her work on the Ontario Training and Adjustment Board in the early 1990s.

Backup disks are fun.


Ton Zijlstra 's picture
Ton Zijlstra on January 25, 2018 - 17:26 Permalink

the boss key! did you use it much?