Lotus 123 is like a digital treasure hunt for Linux

Ever heard Lotus 123? It is an old spreadsheet program that dominated the early PC market, taking the crown from those responsible. Visceral. [Tavis Ormandy] Under Linux the older software was managed to run natively – a notoriety for the software that was almost 40 years old and for a different operating system. You can see the results of the glorious green text on a black screen in the video below.

If you’ve been converting to Linux recently, you may not remember the hassle of installing software “in the old days”. But in this case, it’s worse because the software isn’t even for Linux. The whole adventure started with [Tavis] Find the API kit used to add plugins Lotus. Theoretically, you can use it to add modern features to reputable spreadsheet programs.

The $ 395 software development kit was not very common and had a UNIX version Lotus 123But no one seems to have a copy. [Tavis] Eventually someone was found who ran data around 1990 BBS and had data on tape. It turned out that there was a hot copy of the SDK that he was able to use. But he noticed something else in the BBS file list: the long-lost Unix version Lotus!

An investigation found that the installer used the TD0 file which some research has done. Fortunately, there is a utility that can convert these into raw disk images. Inside was a very large object file. Apparently, without dynamic loading, that object would be attached to the plug-in module for installation.

All of its debugging information was intact in the object file which sheds a lot of light on the internal activities of the program. Older executables use the COFF format but it is possible to re-link to an ELF file. Of course, it’s not that simple. [Tavis] The old-fashioned Unix system wrote a small program for removing calls so that they could be re-routed to Linux system calls. Some calls are only passed, but others require some translation because of differences like structure format, size and alignment.

In the end, it all worked but didn’t have a valid license. However, [Tavis] Apparently since he had the license and the software was abandoned, he was in the right to crack the license check.

We are the well-known abusers of spreadsheets around here. Of course, we are not alone.

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