The Lisa is 40 years old today

I had mentioned in the story behind your avatar thread that my “first” tech job was a summer internship at one of the big three automakers.

That was also my original exposure to Macs or in this case the predecessor to them, the Lisa.

In this case the company I was interning for used them for modeling wind tunnel data, visually. It was at the time extremely impressive, all the more so as the application was created in house.

Now of course the application could likely run on a first gen Gameboy…

These articles really make me feel my age :frowning:

BTW: The Lisa, Apple II, and Newton were all cited as examples by various bosses and consultants I’ve worked with over the years as examples of Apple creating great and/or promising technology, only to totally botch the execution.

A narrative that only really changed with the iPhone.

Revisiting Apple’s ill-fated Lisa computer, 40 years on | Ars Technica

PS: there is a link in the Ars article to a Lisa emulator, “LISAEM”. If you don’t think UIs have come an extremely long way, trying that will disabuse you of that notion.


Oh wow - takes me back a long way. I got to see one at the only “computer store” in Midland in 1984 (shortly after the Super Bowl Mac). They were an Apple/HP Printer store, basically formed by four guys who partnered so they could “deduct” a Lisa 2, and I think it had a hard drive, so it was in the $6-7k range (lead by the head of the local high school and junior college math departments). It wasn’t even on the showroom floor but in their upstairs office for “software development.” It was BEAUTIFUL, but a lot bigger than a breadbox - more like a 70’s era microwave oven, and made the $2500 Mac look like a bargain.


The $2,495 original 128KB Mac was quite the bargain, compared to what was then available. Regret not keeping mine.

That said, I really wish that we could get back some of the innovation/effort the early systems had.

A good insight on the early days of the Lisa and Mac is:

I wish my Kindle Scribe had the Newton’s Handwriting Recognition and Intelligence and calendaring system.

I wish my Samsung Galaxy Book 12 had the graphical consistency of NeXTstep, and that more NeXT apps than just Macromedia FreeHand née Altsys Virtuoso and Quantrix had survived.

I’m writing this on a MacBook Pro, 13-inch, 2020, Two Thunderbolt 3 ports which I don’t use as much as I should, because I haven’t yet shelled out for either a Wacom One or Wacom Cintiq, because I just don’t find an iPad and Apple Pencil as nice to use as a unit w/ Wacom EMR.


I waited till near the end of 1984 for the 512KB “Fat Mac” to come out. It had a good life, upgraded a couple times and in the early ‘90s given to a couple of nieces who grew up with it.

I think it was a Businessland where I bought the Mac and they originally tried to sell me the 128KB Mac with a free motherboard swap to 512KB when available. To get back on topic, they had a Lisa on display and I played around with it, but even putting aside the price differential I liked the Mac better.


For a moment I though The Lisa was @lisaMobileTechReview. :slight_smile:


Millennial much @JoeS ?

And to think now I turn up my nose if a laptop doesn’t have 16 gb!

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Yeah, I really wish that there was a light-weight OS which would just load into RAM and stay there, and where applications were coded so as to be efficient — it kills me how many different programming toolkits my Mac has to have loaded at any given instance — I’d pay money for a mode where it was only possible to run Cocoa apps.


Interestingly, the source was just released for the Lisa:

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I never got to see a Lisa in person. My first experience with Apple, (after the Apple ][) was a Mac in the school library. My Junior High. I was 14.

They had a bunch of Apple ][s, and one Mac. I got to use the Mac because I was making cool pics on the Mac paint program. A little kicking ninja, if I recall.

I thought it was the very height of fancy clean line computing. My lack of enthusiasm for Apple came many years later, after the Amiga arrived in my life and and blew up every preconceived notion of the stodgy computer world. (It was with dragging feet that I finally bought a freakin’ PC 486. I wish Commodore computers had managed to survive beyond its initial hay day.)

But the Lisa always stood out, from magazine ads, as the epitome of computing coolness and power back in the day.


That pic of Steve Jobs posing beside the Lisa reminds me of the actor from “Halt And Catch Fire”. But with Hollywood hair and James Bond cool. Still…, deliberate casting, I’m sure…

Halt And Catch Fire is a great overview of the history of computers, albeit fictionalized in that they all happened to the same group of people. But there are easily recognizable aspects of the stories of Apple, Microsoft, Tandy, Compaq, Activision and Gateway among more.

Plus, it has one of my favorite new actors in Mackenize Davis.

Lots of fun to watch !

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The Amiga and Atari ST 520 were SO FAR AHEAD of their times it is freaky. Had either or both succeeded, they would have buried MS and Apple.

She was the engineer who discovered Mark Watney was alive in The Martian - great job - the casting overall for that movie was great…

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I haven’t seen The Martian yet though I’ve read the book, but that gives another reason to watch it.

You’re going to love it - very engaging even if you read the book.

Yeah it would seem that Matt Damon would be great in the role of the astronaut who go stranded

Not in RAM only (though I’m sure you could) and the desktop environment selection is lacking.

Oh, and they use Discourse for their forum too.

Never thought much of BeOS — couldn’t get a preview copy to run on a Mac which it was supposed to be compatible w/ (though it ran fine on a co-worker’s different model Mac) — and was all but bodily ejected from a user group meeting when I asked the presenter how he had printed his transparencies (at that time, the BeOS did not have printer drivers).

I suppose I should look into RiscOS for a Raspberry Pi or one of the small Linux distributions or something.

Apparently Haiku runs quite well.

But browsing their forum, the community does seem a bit uptight. Someone had the temerity to suggest the OS have a mascot and many were happy to pile in on them about how ‘that’s a waste of time’. A sadly rather common attitude on projects like that.

We’ve experimented with Haiku a bit and as an OS in and of itself, it runs well even on fairly low end hardware.

OTOH memory management and driver support is “challenging” . People tend to take for granted the level of low level tasks support built in to modern OSs’ even something as basic as how to swap code between main memory and virtual(pagefile).

The upside of that is that it makes the OS smaller and lighter weight and allows an app developer (assuming they have the skills) to provide an optimized solution for their device.

One of our custom devices has Haiku as a purchase option, but to date non one has taken us up on building one and instead opted for either a Linux or Windows build despite the cost and performance delta.

And that’s the broader issue with anything that not Windows. Mac or mainstream Linux faces. In other words, it’s niche that may be fine to tinker with, but you have to commit yourself to being an ongoing sysadmin.

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Going back on topic (what?! heresy!), this Lisa/Mac ad brings back memories.

Look at the size of that freakin’ 5MB external drive atop the Lisa! We’ve come a long way…

Also, the 128KB Mac was introduced for $2495 MSRP, $7300 in today’s USD. Just in case you were wincing at how much you recently shelled out for a computer. :smile_cat: