Lotus Jazz

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Release 1 Package.
Contents of Release 1.

Lotus Jazz was an integrated suite of word processor, spreadsheet, database, graphics, and communication software designed for the Macintosh 512K. It was released in 1985 and retailed for US$595.00. The Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet was the killer application for the business-oriented IBM PC, and Jazz was an attempt to recreate that success for Macintosh. With the tagline "The software Macintosh was invented for," and promoted on TV at great expense,[1] it was poorly received by reviewers and consumers and became a high-profile flop. In 1988, Lotus was on the verge of releasing an improved version as "Modern Jazz," but the project was cancelled.[2]


Jazz shipped on four 400K 3½" diskettes: one to start up and one to operate the program, along with a copy protected backup program disk and a disk with sample files. This required the need for multiple swaps of the Start-Up and Program or Backup floppy disks. Lotus Jazz Release 1 cannot be run from a hard drive or dual 400K floppy disk drives. If the Lotus Jazz Start-Up disk, Program Disk, and Backup Disks failed, the program could not be used and another unit of the software would need to be purchased for continued use.

One notable feature was the integration of its terminal emulation module with the spreadsheet module, allowing users dialing into corporate mainframes to have onscreen reports be parsed directly into spreadsheet columns for later editing and refinement.


Lotus sold 20,000 copies of the original version of Jazz, while Microsoft sold 200,000 of Excel.[3]

Creative Computing's John J. Anderson wrote, "There is nothing wrong with Jazz that a few healthy software revisions can't patch. Then again, not much of it is really right, either—right in the way it really should have been if it could have been."[4] He called out the $600 price tag and the 512K RAM limit of the Mac as major issues.

In a retrospective column, John C. Dvorak blamed the failure of Jazz on the high price, copy protection, not calling the product 1-2-3, weak import/export functions, and a misguided ad campaign.[3]

In 2014, Lotus co-founder Mitch Kapor said, "We were doing business products, and a spreadsheet was an enterprise product. The Mac in 1985 and the enterprise was a complete nonstarter."[1]


  1. ^ a b Farber, Dan (January 3, 2014). "Mitch Kapor remembers Lotus' Macintosh bomb". CNET.
  2. ^ Markoff, John (June 16, 1988). "Modern Jazz Software Is Canceled by Lotus". New York Times.
  3. ^ a b Dvorak, John C. "Whatever Happened to Lotus Jazz?".
  4. ^ Anderson, John J. (October 1985). "Gall that Jazz; Lotus' Macintosh product is a clinker". Creative Computing. 11 (10): 46.