30 years of Excellence: Microsoft Excel 1.0 creators came together to talk about development

Vu Anh Nguyen

Excel 2016 new Data capabilities

This year marks the 30th year since Excel was introduced to the world with version 1.0, and has been helping people excel at their jobs (pun intended). GeekWire has an exclusive talk with the original developers of Excel 1.0, who shared many interesting tidbits about its inception, as well as the people behind one of the most successful and influential Microsoft products ever.
Present in the interview were Excel 1.0 Lead Developer Doug Klunder, Microsoft’s first Program Manager Jabe Blumenthal, and team members Jon DeVaan and Mike Moss. The topic included Microsoft’s decision on switching platform from DOS to Mac, which caused Klunder to quit his job (he did come back). Cross-platform development has never been a new thing at Microsoft, a software company first of all, and this piece of history is a strong proof. In fact, the listed reason for the demise of Excel’s strongest competitor at the time, Lotus 1-2-3, was the decision to not port their software to the Mac right away.

“Microsoft really bet its future on two programs at right about the same time: Excel and Windows. If both of them had failed, Microsoft wouldn’t be here today. Both of them succeeded. It really helped cement Microsoft’s role,” – Doug Klunder, Excel 1.0 Lead Developer

The story then continued to the novel features of Excel 1.0 that put it firmly in front of the competitors at the time, including “intelligent recalc” and “array functions.” In an interesting note, Blumenthal almost killed the original Print Preview feature for Excel. He trusted his team member and kept it however, characteristic of the best program managers, commented DeVaan who left Microsoft in 2013 from a high-ranking position in Microsoft Windows and Office engineering.

“I’m so, so glad that I don’t go down in history as the person who killed Print Preview,” – Jabe Blumenthal, Excel 1.0 Program Manager.

Other interesting details include the originally planned names for Excel which includes “Master Plan” and “Mr. Spreadsheet,” and a party for Excel’s 30th birthday held by former team members, which happened last week.
In the end, just like Blumenthal remarked, the world would have had a dominant spreadsheet program, regardless of whether Excel had been successful. But its inception, and its success, has changed the lives of its creators, and in turn, changed the lives and works of millions more all over the world. And for that, to Excel, we give our thanks.