Happy 30th Birthday “GroupWise”

In 1989 I was working for a small law firm in Englewood, Colorado.  The attorneys had had an “Apple Talk” network for about 6 months, because they wanted to have email between themselves.  Unfortunately, every time they got an email notification, the entire network crashed.  As you might have realized, Apple is no longer in the networking business 😉 .

The legal secretaries had a Wang OIS system with a whopping 30 MB hard drive, and even with only 5 attorneys and 16 total employees, we were struggling daily to keep enough hard drive space.  We were constantly archiving files to floppy disks to try to keep enough space to continue working.  A consulting company came in and told us that we could have this “NetWare network with WordPerfect” and replace that Wang system once and for all – oh, and it had email.  And a 320 MB hard drive plus a memory card with 8 MB of memory.  That would last use forever!  Or maybe a year or two – but I digress.

Just a few months before, on August 8, 1988, WordPerfect Corporation had come out with a new product that had a menu system, calendar, email, text editor (maybe something else?), and renamed it from Library 1.0 to WordPerfect Office 2.0.  It, in combination with WordPerfect 5.0 (the WordProcessor) and DataPerfect 2.0, would solve all of our computing problems. What we now know as GroupWise, albeit by another name, was born.  It really did solve all of our problems for many years.  So much so that that law firm didn’t even bother to upgrade to Windows until about 1998.  Who needed Windows when you could be typing in a WordPerfect document, press a couple of keystrokes to pop to DataPerfect, look up an address, and have that address populated into the address block of a letter.  Or be in the middle of composing a document, have an email arrive, and swap out to your email client, read the email, reply, and then pop right back to where you left off in WordPerfect.

My “GroupWise” experience is almost as old as the product itself!  And while I wasn’t there in 1988, I did indeed start with WordPerfect Office 2.0, the first iteration of GroupWise.  In 1994 I was on the WordPerfect Office 4.0b beta when Novell, Inc. bought WordPerfect Corporation.  Many of us on the beta were slightly annoyed when a beta drop seemed to include absolutely nothing but a dozen or so 3-1/2″ floppies with the only noticeable change being all of the splash screens and branding changing to “Symmetry”, and then smirks when about 10 days later we had another drop named “GroupWise 4.1”.  Novell had neglected to check to see if the name “Symmetry” was trademarked before making all of the branding changes to the product.

My GroupWise (WordPerfect Office 2.0) anniversary won’t be for about 6 months or so.  But I can say that WordPerfect Office 2.0 changed my life.  Not that many people can say that about a 1980s software!

Happy birthday GroupWise!


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