Computer Chronicles Revisited 70 — 101 Macros for Lotus 1-2-3 and Unnamed Lotus Symphony Adventure Game

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2024-06-06 11:30:02

If you’ve ever watched retro-tech YouTube videos, you might get the impression that the most widely used computer programming language of the 1980s was BASIC. While it’s true that BASIC was how most elementary and secondary school students learned the “basics” of programming, in practice you didn’t see a lot of commercial software developed in the language. Nor was BASIC something that was likely to be used day-to-day in a business.

Indeed, if there was a single most popular business programming language of the late 1980s, it was possible macros for Lotus 1-2-3. The spreadsheet program was at the height of its dominance during this period. And given the original DOS releases of 1-2-3 relied entirely on a keyboard- and menu-driven interface, macros were essential to avoid repeatedly typing the same sequences of commands over and over.

This next Computer Chronicles episode from November 1986 offered a “guide to macros,” not just for 1-2-3 but similar programs of the day. Stewart Cheifet’s cold open was from a local bookstore that displayed a shelf filled with books dedicated to the subject of computer macros. In the studio, Cheifet showed Gary Kildall one of those books, Simpson’s 1-2-3 Macro Library, which was authored by one of the guests on today’s program. Cheifet said there were about 75 macros in the book, ranging from a complete menu-driven database system to a macro to help you write other macros. A lot of people thought of macros as just a series of commands in one keystroke, he noted, but in fact macros had become a form of programming language.

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