If the singer Andrey Gubin created in the early 80s, he would certainly have dedicated his song “Lisa” to the personal computer of the same name manufactured by Apple. This legendary machine, which was both a breakthrough and one of the biggest failures for an American corporation, has its 40th anniversary today.
Apple Lisa was the first commercial computer with a graphical interface, which was conceived as a high-performance machine for business, capable of revolutionizing the way the user and personal computers interact. Officially, the name of the machine is believed to be an abbreviation that stands for Locally Integrated Software Architecture, unofficially it is believed that Steve Jobs named the PC after his daughter Lisa Nicole. There is an opinion that the abbreviation was invented after the computer entered the market by a marketing firm hired by Apple in order to avoid unnecessary personal associations.
The design team for the Lisa project was led by Apple Vice President John Coach and also included UI specialist Jeff Raskin and Trip Hawkins. The team was given a non-trivial task: to move away from the “standard” PC layout of the early eighties “system unit + monitor + keyboard”, offering some new, fresh solution instead. In fact, it was in the process of creating Lisa at Apple that a separate department was formed with its own office, dealing exclusively with the company’s industrial product design and UX solutions.
Apple’s previous product, the Apple III personal computer, largely failed to meet the expectations of its creators: the machine regularly broke down due to overheating caused by the design features of the aluminum case, invented personally by Steve Jobs. In addition, periodically there were problems with the compatibility of programs for a modified version of the Apple SOS operating system. As a result of all these unfortunate circumstances, the computer has earned itself not the best reputation. Since in the Apple product line, the cheapest PC model for private users was considered Apple II, Lisa was originally designed in 1978 as a business workstation with advanced design and improved performance. The not-too-successful Apple III also focused primarily on the commercial segment of the market, so high hopes were pinned on Lisa. Apple believed that this machine would compete with the rapidly gaining popularity of IBM PC personal computers.
Lisa could be called a revolutionary computer of its kind, which combined a number of advanced hardware and software technologies. The heart of the new PC is a 16-bit Motorola 68000 processor with a clock frequency of 5 MHz and a 32-bit internal data bus. The computer was equipped with 1 MB of RAM (expandable up to 2 MB), a 2 MB hard drive and a black and white 12-inch display with a resolution of 720 × 364 pixels. The computer case housed two 5.25-inch variable-speed read-write drives for Apple FileWare floppy disks with a capacity of 871 kilobytes, which at that time was considered a fairly large amount of disk space. Competing IBM PCs could store only 360 KB of data on a floppy disk (later it became possible to store up to 720 KB on double-density disks using a special driver), but they had higher reliability than Apple FileWare. Later, Apple Lisa II computers began to be equipped with one Apple FileWare drive and one Sony 3.5-inch floppy drive: a replacement drive for Lisa I users was even offered free of charge.
You could connect a mouse to the Apple Lisa, which in 1983 was considered quite innovative technology. Peripheral devices available to users were an Apple dot-matrix printer and an inkjet printer manufactured by Canon – despite the fact that inkjet printing was also considered a novelty at that time.
But the most interesting novelty in this computer was certainly the LisaOS operating system with a graphical interface based on the then innovative idea of the “desktop metaphor”. With it, the user could interact with the computer in a more natural, intuitive way, using the mouse and icons to navigate the system. In 1979, Jobs visited the Xerox Polo Alto Research Center and was fascinated by the Xerox Alto computer’s windowed GUI. As a result, he agreed on a deal: Xerox received Apple shares, and she, in turn, received the existing developments in the window interface, which formed the basis of Lisa OS, and later System 1.
Lisa OS introduced many features that have become standard in modern operating systems, such as overlapping windows, drop-down menus, and the ability to move and copy files using the mouse. The OS was supplied with a built-in LisaWrite text editor, LisaCalc spreadsheet program, LisaDraw and LisaGraph graphic editors, LisaProject project management program, LisaTerminal terminal client and LisaList database program, which made this machine a powerful business tool. . Apple believed that such a set of applications could close the whole range of tasks for corporate users.
The computer went on sale on January 19, 1983 for $9,995 (a little over $27,000 at current exchange rates). However, the machine did not become a bestseller: the price was too high (more reliable IBM PCs with MS-DOS and a bunch of available software for them were cheaper), the lack of software compatible with Lisa OS and the low reliability of FileWare drives, which led to regular data loss . In addition, sales were also influenced by the marketing policy of Apple, which for some reason decided to compete with itself: the simpler, but at the same time more reliable and cheaper Macintosh computer, which appeared shortly after the debut of Lisa, literally forced Lisa out of the market. Within two years, Apple managed to sell only 10,000 copies of the Apple Lisa. The personal computer underwent several modifications designed to improve the characteristics of the computer, but even they, together with the price reduction, could not “rock up sales”, and in the end, Lisa was finally discontinued.
Despite the fact that the Apple Lisa is considered one of the unsuccessful projects in the history of Apple that did not have commercial success, this computer laid the foundation for the Apple Macintosh, which revolutionized the personal computer industry.