Before there was an iPhone, iMac or even the Macintosh computer, Apple had the Lisa computer.
The Lisa computer — which stands for ” “Local Integrated Software Architecture” but was also named after Steve Jobs’ eldest daughter — was a flop when it released in 1983, due to its astronomical price point at $10,000 — $24,700 when adjusted for inflation. But in the grand scheme of Apple’s history, the Lisa computer’s software laid the groundwork for what was to be the macOS operating system.
Some time next year, Apple fans will be able to relive the early days of Apple — back when it was still a startup in Cupertino led by Jobs and Steve Wozniak — thanks to the Mountain View-based Computer History Museum.
The museum’s software curator, Al Kossow, announced in a public mailing list that the source code for the Lisa computer has been recovered and is currently with Apple for review. Once Apple clears the source code, the museum plans to release it to the public with a blog post explaining the code’s historic significance.
However, not every part of Lisa’s source code will be available, explains Kossow.
“The only thing I saw that probably won’t be able to be released is the American Heritage dictionary for the spell checker in LisaWrite (word processing application),” said Kossow.
The Lisa computer was the first computer with graphics user interface aimed at business users — hence its prohibitive cost. With a processor as fast as 5 MHz and 1 MB of RAM (the newest 13-inch MacBook Pro can process as fast as 4 GHz and a 64 MB of an evolved version of RAM), the Lisa computer allowed users the breakthrough technology of organizing files by using a computer mouse.
Apple spent $150 million on the development of Lisa and advertised the Lisa as a game-changer, with actor Kevin Costner in the commercials. But Apple only sold 10,000 units of Lisa in 1983 and pivoted to create a smaller and much cheaper successor, the Macintosh, which was released the next year.
“The Lisa was doomed because it was basically a prototype — an overpriced, underpowered cobbled-together ramshackle Mac,” said author and tech journalist Leander Kahney to Wired in 2010. “Lisa taught the Mac team they’d need to articulate a clear purpose for the Mac.”
The Lisa computer also set off another chain of events which helped define Apple’s history, according to Wired. Jobs was promptly kicked off the Lisa development team by CEO John Sculley and joined the Macintosh team. Sculley’s move against Jobs helped create the legendary fissure between the two which led to Job’s ouster from Apple in 1985 and his return to Apple in 1997.
Tags: Apple, Macintosh, Steve Jobs, steve wozniak