The glory years of Excel (and how to recreate them)

This is a blog post for those who want to “wow” people with computers.

London was a good place to be in the summer of 1995.  The weather was hot, for ages, a specific kind of heat faceted by not only temperature but music, too.  The heatwave actually sounded like Blur, Oasis and, erm, The Boo Radley’s.  Cool Britannia was not only where we lived but how we lived it.

Best of all, though, computers were still scary.

At this remove, this needs some illustration. Believe it or not there was a time before the ubiquity of the PC was an inevitability.  The computer was some twisted entity designed by mad scientists to (supposedly!) make you more efficient.  Untrusted. When the technologists of Generation X entered the working world, this was what we found.  A world where changing a font was considered novel, the SUM functionality miraculous; as for PowerPoint, heads verily boom-squelched.  A member of the Excel cognoscenti could, back then, look way better than they actually were.  This was brilliant.  This was way cooler than Britpop. This was the nineties: the place where you could put in the least effort for most reward.

Time, alas, moved on.  Computers became less scary; experience normalised, skills democratised.

For shame!

At some point between 1995 and 2015, everyone got good.  Excel in particular became, ugh, common.  That which gave me my place amongst the cognoscenti became the norm.  There is no such thing as a normal cognoscenti, you’re just normal.  The very thing that had happened to computers had happened to…me!

For double shame!

Thank God, then, for the Excel Macro.  Impervious to the vicissitudes of progress, democratisation and education, it has just lurked in the background, unused, an ignored menu item.  Untrusted. Even those that love Excel, stay clear of the dreaded Macro.  Somehow, the Macro stayed in the nineties.  Which is brilliant.  Better than Britpop.

My advice then, is simple.  If you want to find a place where you can wow people with computers.  Open Excel (it doesn’t matter which version).  Stick Definitely Maybe on your headphones.  Learn how to code macros properly and party like it’s 1995.  This is the Excel Macro: the place where you can put in least effort for most reward.

Every Generation X-ers dream.


PS Learning to code macros is relatively easy and there are loads of great online resources to help you, be warned though, supporting an Excel Macro can be a job for life, even harder than supporting Excel formulae, and this is not only hard, this is hardcore.

(Excel splash screen taken from: