30 Years of Notes-Domino

Mat Newman  November 27 2019 22:00:00
Figure 1: Notes Release 1  

30 Years ago today, a milestone in the Software industry was reached. Lotus Notes Release 1 Gold Build was compiled on the 27th of November, 1989. While the launch itself wasn't until a few days later on the 7th of December, it's still one of the dates I always consider Notes' Birthday.

Many people ask: What has made this venerable piece of software last 30 years?

Consider this:
  • Notes was a NoSQL database, before NoSQL raised to popularity,
  • Notes security model is virtually unsurpassed, and trusted by organisations all over the world that heavily rely on that fact,
  • Notes had PKI before PKI gained popularity as the security model utilised by the WWW,
  • Notes has kept up with emerging standards, and is able to integrate with virtually any system,
  • Notes Replication technology has provided organisations with distributed environments the ability to synchronise information, regardless of the number of locations, or the availability of high-bandwidth network connections,
  • The Notes Server - renamed Domino in 1996 - has proven itself to be highly reliable, resilient, and extremely scalable,
  • The architecture of Notes, with the separation of the Software and Data layer, means an upgrade of the software has virtually no impact on that underlying data the software accesses and manages, ie: No Data Migrations - EVER! (yes, looking at you, Exchange and Sharepoint Admins ... ),
  • Domino's ability - due to it's incredible architecture - to be Partitioned, Clustered, and even Containerised, has provided high fault tolerance and virtually Zero (0) downtime in most implementations,
  • An application built in Notes Release 1, will work with the latest upcoming release of Notes and Domino Version 11 (more  on that later!), providing amazing Return On Investment (ROI)!
  • Notes was Rapid Application Development (RAD), before RAD was even a thing.

And of course, one of my favourite things about Notes; many organisations purchased Notes for it's Applications capability, and got enterprise grade Mail, Calendaring, and Scheduling - Free Of Charge!

In honour of Notes' 30th Birthday, today I decided to show how amazing that ROI provided by the platform is, by creating an application in Notes Release 1, Accessing that same application in the upcoming Notes Version 11 release, and then modernising that app with just a couple of clicks. Of course, it wouldn't do to finish there - we'll then access that 30 year old Database on an iPad - WITH NO FURTHER DESIGN CHANGES NECESSARY - to demonstrate how even a 30 year old App can now be accessed on a Mobile device.

Here we go!

File -> New, choose a template, give it a file name, and OK
Figure 2; New Database  

As usual, the first thing one sees is the Database About document, describing what functionality and features the selected template provides. In this case I have used a Discussion Template, think any online forum ever created.
Figure 3; About Document  

Accessing the design to make modification to the application was simple, Design -> Forms/Views/etc
Figure 4; Design  

In this case, I am going to modify the default Main Topic form, to change it's colour and add a new field
Figure 5; Select Element  

The Main Topic form, before modifications
Figure 6; New Form  

Accessing the Form Properties
Figure 7; Form Properties  

Creating a new field, and setting it's type, and values
Figure 8; New Field  

Modifying Formulas, in this instance to dynamically compute the Title of the Form
Figure 9; Fields and Formulas  

Close the designer, so we can use the modified Form to create a new entry
Figure 10; No Data  

Compose -> Main Topic (Ahhhh ... NOW you know why that formula is @Command([Compose';"":"";"Main Topic"))
Figure 11; Compose  

Our Modified form, with the new Security field and some data entered.
Figure 12; Document  

Ok, so that was pretty simple, we created a database, modified a Form to add a new field, and then created a new Note (document!). So let's do the time warp, and demonstrate how that application we developed 30 years ago today (courtesy of our Way-Back machine) is still providing ROI 30 years later in the latest release of Notes, the upcoming Notes Version 11.

Let's Just check, shall we ... HCL Notes 11 - Check!
Figure 13; Notes 11  

Database About Document, since we've opened it for the first time on this client.
Figure 14; About  

Content Complete, No Changes required ... Hmmmm, does look a little dated though, doesn't it?
Figure 15; About  

How about we put a Version 11 fresh face on this 30 year old app, Workspace -> Application -> Replace Design
Figure 16; About  

Choose the brand new Version 11 Discussion Template
Figure 17; About  

Yes, of course we want to Update it!
Figure 18; About  

Voila! A brand new look and feel for our database, No Data Migration Required, and a 30 Year old Notes application ready for the modern world!
Figure 19; About  

And Now - How about we take that 30 year old database and access it on a Mobile device (in this case an iPad)

Of course - open in Nomad for iPad for the first time, and we get the about document
Figure 20; About  

Standard Notes Database layout translates directly to the iPad
Figure 21; Database  

And seamless Document rendering
Figure 21; Database  

(Hat Tip to Erik Schwalb for the Nomad Screen-Shots)

How cool is it that I was an iPad developer, decades before an iPad was even invented!

There are many things I love about Notes, and have done for the 27 years that I have been working with the application. As we approach a new era, and the fourth re-branding of the product:
  • 1989 - Lotus Notes Release 1
  • 2003 - IBM Lotus Notes Version 6
  • 2013 - IBM Notes Version 9
  • 2019 - HCL Notes Version 11

I can honestly say that I have never been as excited about the future of HCL Notes and Domino than I am right now.

Happy Birthday Notes, here's to another 30 years!

So what's your favourite Notes and Domino feature or memory over the past 30 years?

Would love to hear from you in the comments!

1AJ Witt  11/28/2019 22:11:47  
30 Years of Notes-Domino

The thing with Notes is, for this kid born in 1970 it's a bit like the Moon landings, or photocopiers. They already existed and so seemed less special. It was the same when I first became a Notes Admin with version 4.5x - NoSQL, PKI, App templates, replication (over 28k dialup!), automatic failover - it was like "And? So what?"

It was only when I saw what the rest of the world was like (Exchange, NT, a host of back office systems) that I began to appreciate just how frickin awesome Notes technology was. It. Just. Worked. And was awesome. And put so much power into the hands of users. At least 20 years ahead of its time in that regard and perhaps fell victim to that Central IT vs Departmental IT battle that departments have finally won in the SaaS age. I remember advocating that we shouldn't try to centrally control the use of document libraries, Quickr, discussion dbs and so on - and should allow depts to have Domino Designer licenses if they wanted them, so long as they followed code standards and submitted templates for review. Sadly not a battle I won.

2Sachin Chauhan  11/29/2019 2:53:06  
30 Years of Notes-Domino

I am working on Notes/Domino from Last 8 years, I love this technology.

best part of Notes/Domino is that it can be run on mostly O.S platforms i.e Linux, Windows, MAC.

My fav O.S for Domino is SUSE.

3Chris Hudson  11/29/2019 12:47:43  
30 Years of Notes-Domino

Love the demo, but it doesn't go far enough.

You forgot to show your new Security field in the new client. And how you have to redo all the design steps in v11 to show said new field after replacing the design.

The data will still be there but your app just lost the functionality added by Marie-Lou in Reception when she had access to change the design 30 years ago.

One of the issues with modifying standard templates. ;-)

4Mat Newman

11/29/2019 20:49:50  30 Years of Notes-Domino

@1. AJ: Your experience matches mine, that I met so many admins of other systems moving to Notes/Domino who had no idea how easy it was to administer (I will never forget showing a former Exchange admin in the early 2000's how to move a user between servers, and the incredulous look on their face as they exclaimed: "No, it CAN'T be THAT simple!"). I am sure that no one is surprised that one of M$'s biggest headlines in moving Mail from on-premises Exchange to O365 is to reduce Administrative burden ;-)

@2, Sachin: You're not alone, we all LOVE it! :-)

@3, Chris: LOL mate, thank you for pointing out what a slacker I was in not fully completing the exercise :-) Perhaps I should have created a copy of the template, modified that, and then applied that Design to the 30 year old App. But hey, we all know how simple that would have been! ;-)

Mat Newman IBM Champion

5Marc-Oliver Schaake  11/30/2019 0:10:45  
30 Years of Notes-Domino

My favorite Notes moment?

I was sitting in a meeting with an IBMer and we were discussing possible leads for an asset we had.

She was scrolling through endless lists coming from probably Salesforce and Excel files with contacts.

It took me just one single look into our Notes based CRM I had on my Macbook to find the person and that we have been discussing other projects almost 15 years ago.

6Anthony Holmes  11/30/2019 14:46:46  
30 Years of Notes-Domino

The beauty of Notes is that it's constructed from a set of simple components (such as a "note") that get assembled to add more and more functionality.

When I was a kid I had a secondhand Meccano (US: Erector) kit and a bunch of Lego bricks. The Meccano pieces were a collection of differently formed pieces that could be screwed together to produce... something(!?) (I never figured out what, and I never built anything satisfying.)

Lego, by contrast, was a system where every piece could plug into every other piece and I could produce anything that I could imagine.

Lego and Notes both benefit from the genius that went into designing their basic building blocks.

7Debashish (DB) Shome  12/12/2019 17:58:33  
30 Years of Notes-Domino

Hey Mat,

Thanks for the blog. I started development in Notes in 1994, so I do not have 30 years yet. But looking forward to it.

Quick question, how did you create Notes 1 database? Are you saying that you have Notes 1 running in one of your machine? If yes, that is mind blowing and great achievement by you.

Cheers .. Debashish (DB)

8Debashish (DB) Shome  12/12/2019 17:59:42  
30 Years of Notes-Domino

Hey Mat,

Thanks for the blog. I started development in Notes in 1994, so I do not have 30 years yet. But looking forward to it.

Quick question, how did you create Notes 1 database? Are you saying that you have Notes 1 running in one of your machine? If yes, that is mind blowing and great achievement by you.

Cheers .. Debashish (DB)

9Dave allen  06/15/2024 8:11:49  
30 Years of Notes-Domino

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Mat Newman

THE Notes (formerly IBM/Lotus Notes) Guy. Productivity Guru. Evangelist. IBM Champion for IBM Collaboration Solutions, 2011/2012/2013. Former IBMer. HCLite. Views are my own.

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