HARDWARE

A Winning Combination for the Personal Computer

Mitch Kapor of Lotus discusses the advent of personal computing in the business world
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"Eighty percent of executive use of personal computers consists of four activities: financial analysis with an electronic spreadsheet, graphics production, data management, and word processing," says Mitchell Kapor, president of Lotus Development Corp., of Cambridge, Mass.

To suit a growing market, Kapor recently launched his fast-acting "integrated" software package, 1-2-3. The program, retailing for $495, offers all four functions on one disk for the IBM Personal Computer. In announcing the program, Kapor -- one of the most successful independent microcomputer software developers (see INC., January 1982, page 64) -- stressed how it would help Fortune 500 companies. But one small-business user who previewed it says 1-2-3 is likely to prove equally valuable to smaller companies.

"We use 1-2-3 in our own business as a wonderful spreadsheet for all our cash-flow projections and project estimates," says Tim Stein, senior partner of John M. Nevison Associates, in Concord, Mass., which teaches seminars in executive computing. The seminars included courses in using VisiCalc -- the original electronic spreadsheet program -- until 1-2-3 came along. "With VisiCalc you can't copy big sections of a model or insert rows quickly," says Stein. "We maintain a rolling four-month cash-flow model. And at the beginning of each month we have to both delete a month's figures and insert a new month's data. With VisiCalc, each of these operations must be done a line at a time. With 1-2-3, you can move a month's worth of figures at once."

But 1-2-3 is more than just an improved spreadsheet program. "Being able to instantly view graphic representations of your spreadsheet figures without switching disks can be very useful," adds Stein. "With a separate graphics program you would have to transfer your VisiCalc files onto a disk and then load another program. We never used the graphics program with VisiCalc, it was inconvenient. With 1-2-3 we can easily draw up line graphs comparing weekly project budgets with actual hours spent on a project-by-project basis."

The program's word processing functions aren't very sophisticated -- a user can't move blocks of text around or do formatting, for example -- but it does permit writing and simple editing. "For short notes and memos, it's more convenient to work with 1-2-3 than to pull out the disk and put in a word processing disk," says Stein's partner, John Nevison.

1-2-3 is dazzling for how fast its data management component sorts files. At its New York debut, the program drew gasps as it sorted a list of hotel branches in the blink of an eye, by alphabetical listing, then by region, then by income -- sorts that might have a microcomputer churning away for seconds or minutes. Says Tim Stein, this ability can shame even larger computers: "We had to sort the names of 400 program files on a Digital Equipment Corp. PDP-11 minicomputer. There was no simple way to sort a directory of that many file names on the PDP-11. We just downloaded our data to the IBM Personal Computer with a communications program and used 1-2-3 to do the sorting. Although there are other integrated spreadsheet programs on the market, and more on the way, nothing out there is as fast as 1-2-3."

Last updated: Feb 1, 1983




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