Date : September 1, 1988 To : The Editor
From : R. H. Flast
Subject : Hype(rbole), Hysteria, Hypocrisy and Agenda
Unlike columnists and other journalists who do not reveal their "hidden" agendas (no pun intended), let me begin by stating that as an author of the Lotus Guide to Agenda (Addison-Wesley, 1988) and a third-party developer of Agenda applications which we have called Agendaware(tm), I have a stake in the future of Lotus Agenda. However, that does not blind me to the realities of the product, since it was due to my beta user exposure (see attachment), that I became convinced that this was the first important, new category of software to emerge since VisiCalc.
What most of the critics of Agenda have in common is a decided loss of innocence and objectivity when it comes to their opinions about ease of use and niche applicability.
Their comments about the difficulty of learning and using Lotus Agenda reveals how little they remember about the difficulties that beginners had learning VisiCalc, 1-2-3, dBase, Wordstar, etc. However, as regular use has shown us, you quickly become familiar with a subset of the command structure and along with the product's efficiency enhancing capabilities, such as automatic completion and categorization, and dynamically updating views, a feeling of competence is easier and faster to come by than with almost anything that has come before. What we must remember is that ten years ago, people bought $2,500 computers in order to be able to buy and utilize a $195 product called VisiCalc (I know this because I was one of those many people). While the printed copies of my spreadsheets were authentic replicas of my old paper and pencil versions, that is where the metaphor ceased being useful. In the paper-based world, I didn't have a tiny, 20 row by 8 column window with which to view a larger spreadsheet. I could look at the whole thing at once. Nor did I have to "type" slash commands followed by single letters to erase entries, or columns, or rows or the whole spreadsheet itself. But in spite of all these extra-metaphorical trappings, I and millions of others have become comfortable with our electronic versions of our paper-based spreadsheets. The same experience will be true for users of Lotus Agenda.
With respect to Agenda's niche applicability, there may be no single word with which to describe a metaphor for Agenda, but the range of applications to which it is well if not ideally suited is every bit as broad as the range of applications to which spreadsheets have been applied. We have just begun and already we have 22 products being readied for market this September. As soon as these products are out the door, we will begin work on a longer list of products, which will not only appeal to users of Agenda but may also cause people to buy Agenda, and even PC's, to obtain access to these applications.
Agenda is the first PC product that I have found where I do not feel like a slave to the computer. Rather than a human-assisted application for my computer, which describes most of the highly and overly structured PC products today (including retrofitted outliners), I have finally found a true computer-assisted application for humans. I am confident that all the hype(rbole), hypocrisy and hysteria will disappear as millions of others come to appreciate this unique new tool.