Feeds

Originator of Excel, Word leaves MS for startup

Simonyi finally Chucks it...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

Charles Simonyi, the man who laid the cornerstones of Microsoft's applications software empire, is leaving the company to do his own thing, a software startup. Simonyi was one of Microsoft's longest-serving employees, joining in 1981 from Xerox PARC, and has in his list of credits Multiplan, Word and Excel.

Which are pretty impressive things to have on your CV. But there's an interesting body or two buried there, if you go right back to the start of the process. When Simonyi joined, Microsoft was just at the start of its relationship with IBM, and the IBM PC was about to go mega. Microsoft was just becoming an operating systems company (remember, Dos was bought in), and he was basically setting up the apps division. And he and Bill bear a great deal of responsibility for the faulty vision that ensued.

In the early days Microsoft thought - and told a lot of hardware companies - that Dos was the platform. This notion spawned many different pieces of hardware running MSDOS, but until 'genuine' IBM clones were invented there was only one successful piece of hardware, the IBM PC running PCDOS. And specifically, the one piece of software that made the PC, and that was habitually used by the press in the 80s as a benchmark of PC compatibility, was Lotus 1-2-3.

With Multiplan Microsoft was atttempting to supplant VisiCalc, while with Word it wanted to bring Wordstar's reign to a close. The products that actually nailed the previous generation were however respectively 1-2-3 and WordPerfect. Multiplan in particular (which predated Word) was envisaged as a multi-platform product, and The Register once even owned a ROM version of it designed to run on the Tandy 100. That was before The Register was The Register, of course.

Simonyi had envisaged a more generalised form of software design that allowed the software to run on multiple platforms, whereas one of the reasons 1-2-3 did so well, so fast was that it hit the hardware direct and used every dirty trick it could. In addition to this slight disadvantage for Multiplan, the original Microsoft Word was designed to be compatible with the Multiplan UI (which explains why The Register could never understand Word 1.0). As Richard Brodie, who was on the original team, said: "My mission: write the world's first wordprocessor with a spreadsheet user-interface. It took five years to repair the damage."

Still, it all came out right (depending on your point of view, that is) in the end, and Microsoft apps now rule the world. Simonyi, who was chief architect until 1999, is now off to start the Intentional Software Corporation. This does not mean that his portfolio so far has consisted of unintentional software, but that he will be pursuing the "intentional programming" focus he's had at Microsoft for the past few years which, to cut a long story short, is intended to produce easier to use development tools. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Inside the Hekaton: SQL Server 2014's database engine deconstructed
Nadella's database sqares the circle of cheap memory vs speed
Oh no, Joe: WinPhone users already griping over 8.1 mega-update
Hang on. Which bit of Developer Preview don't you understand?
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
IRS boss on XP migration: 'Classic fix the airplane while you're flying it attempt'
Plus: Condoleezza Rice at Dropbox 'maybe she can find ... weapons of mass destruction'
Ditch the sync, paddle in the Streem: Upstart offers syncless sharing
Upload, delete and carry on sharing afterwards?
New Facebook phone app allows you to stalk your mates
Nearby Friends feature goes live in a few weeks
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.