Microsoft Multiplan

Microsoft Multiplan

Multiplan was an early spreadsheet program developed by Microsoft. Known initially by the code name “EP” (for “Electronic Paper”), it was introduced in 1982 as a competitor for VisiCalc.

Multiplan was released first for computers running CP/M; it was developed using a Microsoft proprietary p-code C compiler as part of a portability strategy that facilitated ports to systems such as MS-DOS, Xenix, Commodore 64 and 128, Texas Instruments TI-99/4A (on four 6K GROMs and a single 8K ROM), Radio Shack TRS-80 Model II, TRS-80 Model 4, TRS-80 Model 100 (on ROM), Apple II, and Burroughs B-20 series.

Despite the release of Microsoft Chart, a graphics companion program, Multiplan continued to be outsold by Lotus 1-2-3. It was replaced by Microsoft Excel, which followed some years later on both the Apple Macintosh (1985) and Microsoft Windows (1987).

Around 1983, during the development of the first release of Windows, Microsoft had plans to make a Windows version. However the plans changed a year later.

Multiplan for the Macintosh, available the month Apple released the computer, was the first third-party Macintosh software and the only spreadsheet for the Macintosh for its first year. Bill Gates was repeatedly heard in 1985 saying that Microsoft made more money on Multiplan for the Macintosh than any other platform. It was proficient at making graphs and charts and was often bundled with some Macs. However, Multiplan only lasted for about a year before being overtaken by the more successful Excel.

A fundamental difference between Multiplan and its competitors was Microsoft’s decision to use R1C1 addressing instead of the A1 addressing introduced by VisiCalc. Although R1C1-style formulae are more straighforward than A1-style formulae[4] — for instance, “RC[-1]” (meaning “current row, previous column”) is expressed as “A1” in cell B1, then “A2” in cell B2, etc. — most spreadsheet users prefer the A1 addressing style introduced by VisiCalc.

Microsoft carried Multiplan’s R1C1 legacy forward into Microsoft Excel, which offers both addressing modes; although A1 is MS Excel’s default addressing mode.