Apple Lisa personal computer 35 years today

In 1983, Apple introduced its first personal computer to the business market. The Apple Lisa was a revolutionary PC, equipped with a GUI and mouse.

Today, January 19, 2018, marks exactly 35 years since Apple introduced its first personal computer. The Apple Lisa made headlines last month after the Computer History Museum in California managed to recover the source code for the operating system of the original Apple PC. But what is Lisa really?

Origin of Apple Lisa

In 1978, Apple started its Lisa project, led by Steve Jobs. A year later, the Apple founder visited the Xerox factory. This was a visit of great consequence. Steve Jobs was so impressed by the Xerox Alto, the world’s first computer with a mouse, desktop, graphical user interface (GUI) and even an Ethernet port, that the American commissioned the development of an Apple computer based on the Alto.

The Lisa project would take a total of seven years before the first Lisa computer was introduced to the business user in 1983. It was a powerful personal computer and also the first computer with a GUI and a mouse to be made available to the public.

Incidentally, Steve Jobs was not the only one who visited the innovative American company Xerox, today better known for its printers and copiers. Microsoft CEO Bill Gates has also used the Xerox computer as the basis for his Dos and Windows computer systems.


Specifications for the Lisa computer

Officially, the name Lisa is short for Local Integrated Software Architecture. However, Steve Jobs’ first daughter is also called Lisa. Although Apple has always denied that this had anything to do with it, it is widely believed that this was not entirely coincidental.

Apple Lisa was equipped with high-quality technical specifications, although we can no longer imagine it today. The computer was equipped with a Motorola 68000 CPU with 512KB to 1MB of RAM memory. In addition, two double-sided floppy disk drives were integrated, each with 871KB of storage capacity.

Did you need more memory? No problem, you could use the optional Apple ProFile external hard drive that was offered in two capacities; 5MB and 10MB.

First Apple PC for the business market

The Apple Lisa was one of the first PCs with a user interface. This made it possible to display not only text on the computer, but also graphic images. Programs could also be provided with icons for the first time. NASA in particular became a major buyer of the Apple Lisa.

Lisa’s operating system offered multitasking and virtual memory. Virtual memory had never been used on a computer before. However, due to the use of virtual memory, coupled with a slower disk system, the system was often perceived as slow.

As a business computer, Lisa came with two user modes: Lisa Office System and Workshop. The Lisa Office System was the GUI environment for the end users. Workshop was a development environment that was almost entirely text-based, although it used a GUI word processor. To create programs for the Lisa, companies had to order additional software because it was not possible to develop software on the Apple Lisa itself.

Competition from IBM computers

Lisa was a computer with great potential, but there were also some drawbacks, so the computer never became a great success. The Lisa 1 computer cost about $10,000 at the time, which was simply too high a price tag for most businesses, despite the innovative interface.

Probably because IBM then offered cheaper computers for the business market, which were also at least as fast. Partly for this reason, the Lisa 1 was already replaced by the Lisa 2 after a year.


Introduction to the Apple Lisa 2

The Lisa 2 had a similar design, cost half the money, and featured a new micro-floppy disk drive from Sony, which also made the computer faster than its predecessor. Apple gave customers who bought a Lisa 1 computer an upgrade to the new Lisa 2.

The Apple Lisa is the forerunner of the Apple Macintosh

After all, the Lisa computer did not have a long life. Because in 1984, the American manufacturer also saw an opportunity to introduce the Apple Macintosh. Like the Apple Lisa, the Macintosh was equipped with a graphical interface and a mouse. At $2500 USD, this 9-inch black and white computer was considerably cheaper than the Lisa 2.

See old Apple computers in the Computer Museum in Zwolle

Would you like to see all the ancient creatures together? Both the Apple Lisa 2 and the Apple MacIntosh are on display in the computer museum in Zwolle. The old IBM computers can also be found here.

The Bonami GameComputer Museum in Zwolle has the largest collection of computers and game consoles in the Netherlands. As a user, you can see a large part of the units on display while you work and even play with them.

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