Happy Gerbitz Day

This is the first year you can sing “Happy Birthday” to Excel without having to pay a royalty, so that’s nice.

Here’s my uninteresting Excel story: My first spreadsheet program was SuperCalc. I remember we had orange screens on our PCs. Eventually we graduated to VGA monitors and Lotus 1-2-3 v.1A. I stuck with that version for a long time. I had tons of keystroke macros – whatever the heck those were called in Lotus – and I wasn’t giving them up. Excel burst onto the scene and I barely blinked. I don’t need that fancy new stuff. I used v.1A until 1992 and I think 1-2-3 was on v4 by then.

In 1992, I miraculously got a job at KPMG (nee Peat Marwick). Apple was a client of KPMG, so everyone got a Mac and used Office. It was like living in hell. I was a PC, Lotus 1-2-3 guy and I was forced to use these toys in business. Over time, I got used to my Mac Plus, then my SE30, then my PowerBook. And, of course, I got used to Excel and its obviously superior features to the version of 1-2-3 I was using. I don’t remember what version of Excel that was, I just know that most people in my office sucked at using it. Thankfully 25 years later, every office worker is, at a minimum, competent at Excel. What? That’s not true, you say? There are still people who work with Excel and aren’t competent? What the hell have they been doing for the last 25 years? It’s not like learning Excel is exactly cutting edge. End rant.

Being forced to use Office was probably a pivotal point in my life. (Using Macs in an accounting firm in the early ’90s was just stupid.) Pivotal though it was, I think what really turned me into an Excel geek was an intranet message board that KPMG had. I think they called it the KPMG Knowledgebase, but my memory isn’t so good. I could go on the message board and answer people’s questions about Excel. And I was hooked. Then it was on to newsgroups (nntp), a blog, and the crazy post-Microsoft newsgroup period that has mostly meant StackOverflow.com for me. What the heck did I do after MS closed the newsgroups but before SO? I don’t remember. I know I visited answers.microsoft.com once, saw a terrible answer from a moderator, and saw that the moderator had selected his own answer as “the” answer. I haven’t been back.

When I first started on the newsgroups, I was more of an Access guy than an Excel guy. I was surely answering more Access questions than Excel at the beginning. It was when I started reading Chip Pearson, Rob Bovey, Stephen Bullen, and others posting about VBA that the tables turned. I realize that Access has VBA, but the Excel object model was, and is, a thing of a beauty. I still do plenty of Access work, but it pales in comparison to the time I spend in Excel.

Other random memories:

  • At my first MVP Summit, everyone thought I was going to be a 60-year-old guy and I was in my mid-thirties. I guess I came off as cantankerous mature in my newsgroup postings.
  • I remember after a year of DDoE, a bunch of fellow Excellers joined as authors. There were some great posts back then.
  • I remember applying for a job and taking an Excel and an Access test. I aced them both. The secretary was looking at me like I was a witch. (If you’re reading this blog, you could ace them too.)
  • I remember planning an Australian Excel conference over beers and actually going through with it. If I had a nickel for every plan I made over beers that came to fruition, I’d have a nickel.

7 thoughts on “Happy Gerbitz Day

  1. “•I remember planning an Australian Excel conference over beers and actually going through with it. If I had a nickel for every plan I made over beers that came to fruition, I’d have a nickel.”

    Well it’s about time you had another beer, and made yourself another nickel :)

  2. I wrote some Lotus macros, but can’t remember what for, probably just for school. This tutorial brought back a few memories of how they work(ed): http://lynnbob.com/bob/articles/Lotus123Macros.htm

    Chip Pearson’s site is probably the best overall online reference for intermediate to advanced Excel VBA, but DDoE gets the most hits for the semi-random stuff you really want to know that’s not covered anywhere else. I’m still learning from posts you wrote 10+ years ago – ran into a helpful one the other month while trying to figure out how to delete MS Query parameters.

    Good use of the word “nee”. Made you sound like Arthur Conan Doyle for a second.

    According to Wikipedia Gerbitz Day is June 6, but of course the “article does not cite any references or sources” so I’m keeping an open mind.

  3. Its my turn to have planned some Australian/New Zealand Excel conferences over beers:

    Auckland March 3-4 2016
    Sydney March 7-8 2016
    Melbourne March 10-11 2016

    Does that make it 3 nickels?

  4. Cool story and thanks for sharing it. Personally I must thank the online community and MS (for MS Excel) as I was able to learn better English and got connected with people all over the world. Quite fascinating, people are connected due to an unwanted (death) wish to understand MS Excel!

    Spreadsheet has been around for a while now. Much pioneer work was made in the 90’s and in the early 20′. After that it’s just about reinventing the wheel, except for Big Data related to MS Excel which is a new kid in town since 2-3 years back. Looking back I believe version 4.0 made MS Excel a winner in the Spreadsheet field.

    MS Excel and spreadsheet was very hot in the 90′ and evolved a lot. Version 95 (aka 5.0) introduced VBA coding in all languages that the Office suite included. What a poor idea! Thank good MS realized it so it was quickly dropped.

    Running version 1.0 of Windows and using MS Excel 2.1d was, at that time, very cool. Compared with today’s overworked UI it was not even the stone age…

    The future is in the cloud. Microsoft have come a long way and have manage to reach the front line again with Office365. But it’s too early to say that the desktop platform is dead. Last time I checked (some nano seconds ago) it was still kicking and alive. The desktop platform will exist for many years ahead although no longer be the #1 platform for Microsoft.

    Good luck with the future MS Excel!

  5. Great story, I was the opposite from yourself, I went from using Excel and being very competent to having to use Lotus 123 (1995), took me a while to figure out Lotus 123 but got there in the end and did some pretty cool stuff, THEN, yip, you guessed, the company I worked with moved to MS Office and by this time Excel was way more advanced, was not easy converting all my stuff from 123 back into Excel, got there in the end and it has been Excel ever since and will be until the day I retire.

  6. Hi,

    (Possibly off-topic)

    I used to haunt official Microsoft Newsgroups (Excel) a lot but have been out of it for past couple of years.

    Can somebody tell me what happened to MS Excel newsgoups? Why was it closed.

    In the past it was considered as a “gold” standard and the place to get reliable/quick responses. Which forum is recommended for beginners (my brother is starting on excel and I would like to direct him to the right one so that he can learn from what others are asking/responding).

    I looked at Stackoverflow (“excel”, “microsoft-excel” and “worksheet-function”) but the quantum of activity is nowhere close to what I have seen in the past in MS newsgroups and also the nature of question in SO seem to be much more of very advanced user?


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