Apple Lisa
Introduced:January 1983
Released:June 1983
Price:US $9,995
How many?100,000 in two years
CPU:Motorola 68000, 5 MHz
RAM:1 Meg
Display:12" monochrome monitor
720 X 364 graphics
Ports:1 parallel, 2 serial ports
mouse port
Expansion:three internal slots
Storage:Two 5-1/4 inch floppy drives
external 5 Meg hard drive
OS:Apple Lisa GUI

Officially, "Lisa" stood for "Local Integrated Software Architecture", but it was also the name of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' daughter.

The Lisa is the first commercial computer with a GUI, or Graphical User Interface. Prior to the Lisa, all computers were text based - you typed commands on the keyboard to make the system respond. Now, with the Lisa, you just point-and-click at tiny pictures on the screen with a small rolling device called a 'mouse'.

The Apple Lisa was an amazing advancement in a user-friendly computer system, but Apple didn't invent the idea of the GUI, it's difficult to say who did. But Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) created the first computer with a Graphical User Interface and a mouse, in 1973! This 'Alto' computer was never sold to the public, and in 1981 the 'Star', which cost $17,000, was far too expensive and sold poorly.

Although Apple spent an incredible amount of time and money developing the Lisa, four years and $50 million, it turned out to be an unpopular system, due to its high price and few available software applications. Additionally, it was rather slow, as the large and complex operating system was a huge burden on the 5MHz CPU.

In addition to the external 5 Megabyte "Profile" hard drive, the Lisa has two internal non-standard 871K 5-1/4 inch "Twiggy" floppy drives.

Unfortunately, the floppy drives were slow and unreliable. Because of this, after selling about 6,500 Lisa computers, Apple offered an upgrade path for Lisa owners, replacing the two "Twiggy" drives with a single 400K 3-1/2 inch Sony floppy drive. The new drive holds half as much data as the old one, but is much more reliable.

This new Lisa is refered to as the Lisa 2/5, with the "5" representing the external 5 Meg Profile drive. The Lisa can be run without any hard drive, using floppy disks only, but this is a slow and tedious method, and many applications won't even fit on a single floppy disk. The Profile hard drive has originally designed for the Apple III in 1981.

Apple also released the Lisa 2/10, with an internal 10 Meg "Widget" hard drive. The System I/O board was redesigned to support the new hard drive, and the parallel port was lost in the process. The external Profile HD can not be used with this system unless a parallel port expansion card is installed.

The upgrade from the original Lisa 1 to the Lisa 2/5 was free to Lisa owners until June 1984, after which it cost $595.
To upgrade from the Lisa 1 to the Lisa 2/10 cost $2495.
An additional 512K of RAM could be purchased for $1495.

About a year later, Apple again changed the Lisa. It would now be known as the Macintosh XL, and would run the Macintosh operating system instead of the original Lisa OS.

Sales did pick-up, but Apple discontinued the Lisa line with 100,000 units sold after 2 years. By this time, the popular (and cheaper) Macintosh line of computers was available, of which Apple sold 70,000 in the first 3 months.

The Lisa was a victim of politics as well as economics. With the advent of the portable, robot-manufactured Macintosh, the handmade desktop-sized Lisa became too costly to produce and was dropped from the Apple line.

The Lisa is very technician-friendly - once the back panel is removed, the entire electronics assembly slides out in one piece, and the circuit boards are easily removed from their sockets.

The power supply is just as easy to remove and replace, it is held in place by a single thumb-screw, and slides out with just a tug.

Related Links

  • Wikipedia entry on the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center
  • Lisa tribute
  • Washington Apple Pi
  • Apple Lisa from Obsolete Computer Museum
  • Apple Lisa at PC Museum
  • Apple Lisa at The Unofficial, Unauthorized, Apple Online Museum
  • WOZ Homepage

  • History of the Apple Computer Corporation

    • 1973: Stephen Wozniak joins HP.
    • 1976: Wozniak proposes that HP create a personal computer. He is rejected.
    • 1976: March - Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs finish work on a computer circuit board, that they call the Apple I computer.
    • 1976: April - Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak form the Apple Computer Company, on April Fool's Day.
    • 1976: July - The Apple I computer board is sold in kit form, and delivered to stores by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Price: US$666.66.
    • 1976: August - Steve Wozniak begins work on the Apple II.
    • 1976: October - Wozniak remains at HP, but is soon convinced that he should leave and join Apple Computer.
    • 1976: December - Steve Wozniak and Randy Wigginton demonstrate the first prototype Apple II at a Homebrew Computer Club meeting.
    • 1977: March - Apple Computer moves from Jobs' garage to an office in Cupertino.
    • 1977: April - Apple Computer delivers its first Apple II system, for $1295.
    • 1977: May - 10 months after its introduction, 175 Apple I kits have sold.
    • 1978: Apple Computer begins work on an enhanced Apple II with custom chips, code-named Annie.
    • 1978: Apple Computer begins work on a supercomputer with a bit-sliced architecture, code-named Lisa.
    • 1979: June - Apple Computer introduces the Apple II Plus, with 48KB memory, for US$1195.
    • 1979: September - Apple Computer sells 35,000 Apple II computers for the fiscal year.
    • 1979: October - 2.5 years after the introduction of the Apple II, 50,000 units have been sold.
    • 1979: Apple Computer begins work on "Sara", the code name for what will be the Apple III.
    • 1980: May - Apple Computer introduces the Apple III.
    • 1980: September - Apple Computer sells over 78,000 Apple II computers during the fiscal year.
    • 1980: Apple Computer ships the first Apple III units in limited quantity.
    • 1980: Apple Computer begins project "Diana", which would become the Apple IIe.
    • 1981: September - Apple Computer introduces its first hard drive, the 5MB ProFile, for US$3499.
    • 1981: Apple Computer officially reintroduces the Apple III, with improved software and a hard disk.
    • 1982: Sales of Apple II Plus to date: 45,000.
    • 1982: Sales of all Apple II systems to date: 750,000.
    • 1982: Apple Computer becomes the first personal computer company to reach US$1 billion in annual sales.
    • 1982: Franklin Computer Corp. unveils the Franklin Ace 1000, the first legal (at the time) Apple II clone.
    • 1983: January - Apple Computer officially unveils the Lisa computer. Its initial price is US$10,000. During its lifetime, 100,000 units are produced.
    • 1983: January - Apple Computer introduces the Apple IIe for US$1400.
    • 1983: June - The one millionth Apple II is made.
    • 1983: June - Apple Computer begins shipping the Lisa.
    • 1983: June - Video Technology introduces the Laser 3000, an Apple II workalike microcomputer.
    • 1983: June - Unitronics shows the Sonic, an Apple II workalike microcomputer.
    • 1983: July - Apple Computer officially begins marketing the Lisa computer.
    • 1983: December - Apple Computer introduces the redesigned Apple III as the Apple III+, for US$3000.
    • 1983: December - Apple unveils the new Macintosh to the press.
    • 1983: Franklin shows an operating Franklin Ace 1200 Apple II compatible for US$2200.
    • 1984: January - Apple releases a new version of the Lisa computer, the Lisa 2.
    • 1984: January - Apple Computer's Steve Jobs introduces the Apple Macintosh.
    • 1984: April - Apple Computer unveils the Apple IIc, priced at US$1300.
    • 1984: April - Apple Computer retires the Apple III and Apple III+, with only 65,000 units sold in total (90,000 made).
    • 1984: May - Apple Computer announces that 70,000 Macintosh computers have been shipped in the first 100 days since its announcement.
    • 1984: September - Apple Computer introduces the Macintosh 512K for US$3200.
    • 1984: November - The 2 millionth Apple II computer is sold.
    • 1984: Apple sells the 250,000th Macintosh system.
    • 1985: January - Apple Computer officially renames the Lisa the Macintosh XL.
    • 1985: March - Apple Computer introduces the Apple Enhanced IIe.
    • 1985: April - The Macintosh XL (formerly called Lisa) is dropped from Apple Computer's product line.
    • 1986: January - Apple Computer introduces the Macintosh Plus. Price is US$2600.
    • 1986: April - Apple Computer discontinues the original Macintosh and the Macintosh 512K.
    • 1986: April - Apple Computer introduces the Macintosh 512K Enhanced, for US$2000.
    • 1986: July - Apple Computer discontinues the Macintosh XL.
    • 1986: September - Apple Computer introduces the Apple IIGS, with the Apple 3.5 drive, for US$1000.
    • 1987: January - Apple Computer introduces the Apple Platinum IIe.
    • 1987: March - Apple Computer introduces the open architecture Macintosh II, US$3900.
    • 1987: March - Apple Computer makes its 1 millionth Macintosh personal computer.
    • 1987: March - Apple Computer introduces the expandable Macintosh SE for US$2900.
    • 1987: March - Apple Computer discontinues the Macintosh 512K Enhanced.
    • 1987: Apple Computer begins shipping the Macintosh II.
    • 1988: September - Apple Computer introduces the Apple IIc Plus for US$1100.
    • 1988: September - Apple Computer introduces the Macintosh IIx computer, base price is US$7770.
    • 1989: January - Apple Computer introduces the Macintosh SE/30, US$6500.
    • 1989: September - Apple Computer announces the Macintosh Portable, for US$6500.
    • 1989: September - Apple Computer announces the Macintosh IIci, for about US$8700.
      Source: Chronology of Events in the History of Microcomputers

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