Apple Lisa

Apple Lisa

: "For the MOS 6502 assembler for Apple II computers, see Lisa assembler."

Infobox Computer
name = Apple Lisa
developer = Apple Computer, Inc.
type = Personal computer
photo =
caption = Apple Lisa, with an Apple ProFile external hard disk sitting atop it. Note the dual 5.25-inch "Twiggy" floppy drives.
first_release_date = January 19, 1983
discontinuation_date = August 1986
processor = 5 MHz Motorola 68000
baseprice = USD$9,995 (1983)

The Apple Lisa was a personal computer designed at Apple Computer, Inc. during the early 1980s.

The Lisa project was started at Apple in 1978 and evolved into a project to design a powerful personal computer with a graphical user interface (GUI) that would be targeted toward business customers.

Around 1982, Steve Jobs was forced out of the Lisa project [From the book," iCon. Steve Jobs, The greatest Second Act in the History of Business"] , so he joined the Macintosh project instead. Contrary to popular belief, the Macintosh is not a direct descendant of Lisa, although there are obvious similarities between the systems and the final revision, the Lisa 2/10, was modified and sold as the Macintosh XL.

The Lisa was a more advanced (and far more expensive) system than the Macintosh of that time in many respects, such as its inclusion of protected memory, cooperative multitasking, a generally more sophisticated hard disk based operating system, a built-in screensaver, an advanced calculator with a paper tape and RPN, support for up to 2 megabytes of RAM, expansion slots, and a larger higher resolution display. It would be many years before many of those features were implemented on the Macintosh platform. Protected memory, for instance, did not arrive until the Mac OS X operating system was released in 2001. The Macintosh, however, featured a faster 68000 processor (7.89 MHz) and sound. The complexity of the Lisa operating system and its programs taxed the 5 MHz Motorola 68000 microprocessor so that the system felt sluggish, particularly when scrolling in documents.


While the documentation shipped with the original Lisa only ever referred to it as "The Lisa", officially, Apple stated that the name was an acronym for Local Integrated Software Architecture or "LISA". Since Steve Jobs' first daughter (born in 1978) was named Lisa Jobs, it is normally inferred that the name also had a personal association, and perhaps that the acronym was invented later to fit the name. Hertzfeld [cite book|author=Andy Hertzfeld|title=Revolution in the Valley|date=2005|publisher=O'Reilly|id=ISBN 0596007191|chapter=Bicycle|pages=36] states that the acronym was reverse engineered from the name "Lisa" in autumn 1982 by the Apple marketing team, after they had hired a marketing consultancy firm to come up with names to replace "Lisa" and "Macintosh" (at the time considered by Rod Holt to be merely internal project codenames) and then rejected all of the suggestions. Privately, Hertzfeld and the other software developers used "Lisa: Invented Stupid Acronym", a recursive backronym. It is also important to note that Lisa team member Larry Tesler's daughter is named Lisa.


The Lisa was first introduced in January 19, 1983 at a cost of $9,995 US ($21,482.26 in 2008 dollars). It is one of the first commercial personal computers to have a GUI and a mouse. It used a Motorola 68000 CPU at a 5 MHz clock rate and had 1 MB RAM.

The original Lisa has two Apple FileWare 5¼ inch double-sided floppy disk drives, more commonly known by Apple's internal code name for the drive, "Twiggy". They have a capacity of approximately 871 kilobytes each, but required special diskettes. The drives have the reputation of not being reliable, so the Macintosh, which was originally designed to have a single Twiggy, was revised to use a Sony 400k microfloppy drive in January 1984. An optional external 5 MB or, later, a 10 MB Apple ProFile hard drive (originally designed for the Apple III) was also offered.

The first hardware revision, the Lisa 2, released in January 1984 priced between $3,495 and $5,495 US, was much less expensive than the original model and dropped the Twiggy floppy drives in favor of a single 400k Sony microfloppy. It was possible to purchase the Lisa 2 with a ProFile and with as little as 512k RAM. The final version of the Lisa available includes an optional 10 MB internal proprietary hard disk manufactured by Apple, known as the "Widget". In 1984, at the same time the Macintosh was officially announced, Apple announced that it was providing free upgrades to the Lisa 2 to all Lisa 1 owners, by swapping the pair of Twiggy drives for a single 3½ inch drive, and updating the boot ROM and I/O ROM. In addition, a new front faceplate was included to accommodate the reconfigured floppy disk drive. With this change, the Lisa 2 had the notable distinction of introducing the new Apple inlaid logo, as well as the first Snow White design language features.

There were relatively few third-party hardware offerings for the Lisa, as compared to the earlier Apple II. AST offered a 1.5 MB memory board, which when combined with the standard Apple 512 KB memory board, expanded the Lisa to a total of 2 MB of memory, the maximum the MMU could address.

Late in the product life of the Lisa, there were third-party hard disk drives, SCSI controllers, and double-sided 3½ inch floppy-disk upgrades. Unlike the Macintosh, the Lisa features expansion slots. It is an "open system" like the Apple II.

The Lisa 2 motherboard is a very basic backplane with virtually no electronic components, but plenty of edge connector sockets/slots. There are 2 RAM slots, 1 CPU slot & 1 I/O slot all in parallel placement to each other. At the other end, there are 3 'Lisa' slots, parallel to each other. This flexibility provides the potential for a developer to create a replacement for the CPU 'card' to upgrade the Lisa to run a newer CPU, albeit with potential limitations from other parts of the system.


The Lisa operating system features cooperative (non-preemptive) multitasking [ [ Evolution of Memory Management in Mac OS] ] and virtual memory, then extremely advanced features for a personal computer. The use of virtual memory coupled with a fairly slow disk system makes the system performance seem sluggish at times. Based in part on advanced elements from the failed Apple III SOS operating system released 3 years earlier, the Lisa also organized its files in hierarchal directories, making the use of large hard drives practical. The Macintosh would eventually adopt this disk organizational design as well for its HFS filing system. Conceptually, the Lisa resembles the Xerox Star in the sense that it was envisioned as an office computing system; consequently, Lisa has two main user modes: the Lisa Office System and the Workshop. The Lisa Office System is the GUI environment for end users. The Workshop is a program development environment, and is almost entirely text-based, though it uses a GUI text editor. The Lisa Office System was eventually renamed "7/7", in reference to the seven supplied application programs: LisaWrite, LisaCalc, LisaDraw, LisaGraph, LisaProject, LisaList, and LisaTerminal.

Third-party software

A significant impediment to third-party software on the Lisa was the fact that, when first launched, the Lisa Office System could not be used to write programs for itself: a separate development OS was required called Lisa Workshop. An engineer runs the two OSes in a dual-boot config, writing and compiling code on one machine and testing it on the other. Later, the same Lisa Workshop was used to develop software for the Macintosh. After a few years, Macintosh-native development system was developed. For most of its lifetime, the Lisa never went beyond the original seven applications that Apple had deemed enough to do "everything."


In April 1984, following the success of the Macintosh, Apple introduced MacWorks, a software emulation environment which allowed the Lisa to run Macintosh System software and applications. [ [ GUIdebook > Articles > “The Lisa 2: Apple’s ablest computer” ] ] MacWorks helped make the Lisa more attractive to potential customers, but did not enable the Macintosh emulation to access the hard disk until September. In January 1985, re-branded MacWorks XL, it became the primary system application designed to turn the Lisa into the Macintosh XL.

Business blunder

The Apple Lisa turned out to be a commercial failure for Apple, the largest since the Apple III disaster of 1980. The intended business computing customers balked at Lisa's high price and largely opted to run less expensive IBM PCs, which were already beginning to dominate business desktop computing. The largest Lisa customer was NASA, which used LisaProject for project management and which was faced with significant problems when the Lisa was discontinued.

The Lisa is also seen as being a bit slow in spite of its innovative interface. The release of the Apple Macintosh in 1984, which received far better marketing, was the most significant factor in the Lisa's demise. The Macintosh appeared, on the surface due to its GUI and mouse, to be a wholesale improvement and was far less expensive. Two later Lisa models were released (the Lisa 2 and its Mac ROM-enabled sibling Macintosh XL) before the Lisa line was discontinued in April 1985. ["Back In Time", A+ Magazine, Feb 1987: 48-49.] In 1986, Apple offered all Lisa/XL owners the opportunity to turn in their computer and along with US$1,498.00, would receive a Macintosh Plus and Hard Disk 20 (a US$4,098.00 value at the time). [ [ Signal 26, March 1986, circulation 45,013 ] ]

Historical importance

Though generally considered a commercial failure, the Lisa was a marked success in one respect. Though too expensive and limited for individual desktops, there was a period of time when it seemed that nearly every moderate-sized organization had one or two (shared) Lisas in each major office.Fact|date=April 2008 Though the performance of the Lisa is somewhat slow and the software selection is limited, what the Lisa can do, it does well. Using the Lisa software and an Apple dot-matrix printer, one can produce some very nice documents (compared to other options available at the time). This one compelling usage drove the Lisa into a number of larger offices, and due to the price, the number of people who had used a Lisa was much larger than the number of Lisas sold. This meant that when the lower-priced Macintosh came along, there was a notable pool of people pre-sold on the benefits of a GUI-based personal computer and the WIMP interface (Windows, Icons, Menu, Pointer) with its point-and-click, cut-copy-paste and drag-and-drop capabilities between different applications and windows. These people quickly bought the cheaper Macintosh and continued to buy new upgrades that gradually approached the Lisa's capabilities—and have now greatly exceeded them.

An often overlooked feature the Lisa system used is document-centricFact|date=April 2008 computing instead of application-centric computing. On a Macintosh, Windows, or Linux system, a user typically seeks a program. In the Lisa system, users use stationery to begin using an application. Apple attempted to implement this approach on the Mac platform later with OpenDoc, but it did not catch on. Microsoft also later implemented stationery in a limited fashion via the Windows Start menu for Microsoft Office. Document-centric computing is more intuitive for new users because it is task-basedFact|date=April 2008. A user is familiar with the taskFact|date=April 2008 and does not have to know what program is used to accomplish the task.

International significance

Within a few months of the Lisa introduction in the US, fully translated versions of the software and documentation were commercially available for British, French, German, Italian, and Spanish markets, followed by several Scandinavian versions shortly thereafter. The user interface for the OS, all seven applications, LisaGuide, and the Lisa diagnostics (in ROM) can be fully translated, without any programming required, using resource files and a translation kit. The keyboard can identify its native language layout, and the entire user experience will be in that language, including any hardware diagnostic messages.

Curiously, although several foreign-language keyboard layouts were available, the Dvorak keyboard layout was never ported to the Lisa, even by Dvorak users inside Apple, as had already happened on the Apple III, IIe, and IIc, and as later happened on the Macintosh. Keyboard-mapping on the Lisa is a black art, known to only a few of the Lisa engineers; and changing or adding layouts required building a new OS/kernel. All kernels contain images for all layouts, so due to serious memory constraints, keyboard layouts were stored as differences from a set of standard layouts, thus only a few bytes are needed to accommodate most additional layouts. A notable exception is the Dvorak layout that moves just about every key and thus requires hundreds of extra bytes of precious kernel storage regardless of whether it were needed.

Each localized version (built on a globalized core) requires grammatical, linguistic, and cultural adaptations throughout the user interface, including formats for dates, numbers, times, currencies, sorting, even for word and phrase order in alerts and dialog boxes. A kit was provided, and the translation work was done by native-speaking Apple marketing staff in each country. This localization effort resulted in about as many Lisa unit sales outside the US as inside the US over the product's lifespan, while setting new standards for future localized software products, and for global project co-ordination.

The end of the Lisa

In 1987, Sun Remarketing purchased about 5,000 Macintosh XLs and upgraded them. Some leftover Lisa computers and spare parts are still available today.

In 1989, Apple threw away approximately 2,700 unsold Lisas in a guarded landfill in Logan, Utah in order to receive a tax write-off on the unsold inventory. [ [ American Heritage magazine article on the Apple Lisa] ]

Like other early GUI computers, working Lisas are now fairly valuable collectors items, for which people will pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The original model is the most sought after, although working ProFile and Widget hard disks, which are necessary for running the Lisa OS, are also particularly valued.


See also

* Macintosh 128K
* People: Bill Atkinson, John Couch, Steve Jobs, Rich Page, Jef Raskin, Wayne Rosing, Brad Silverberg, Larry Tesler
* Technology: History of the graphical user interface, Cut and paste, Mouse, Mouse gesture, Xerox Star, Visi On, Apple ProFile, NeXT, QuickDraw, Pascal programming language
* Computer Acronyms

External links

* [ A LISA Filmed Demonstration from 1984]
* [ Apple Lisa and others] at Old Computer Museum
* [ 23-year-old Apple Lisa 2 still going strong, hosts website you can visit today]
* [ Using Apple's Lisa for Real Work]
* [ Apple Lisa spotlight at GUIdebook]
* [ Birth of the Lisa]
* [ Lisa 2/5 info.]
* [ Original Lisa Owners Guide (Warning: 67.9 MB PDF)]
* [ Lisa links]
* [ mprove: Graphical User Interface of Apple Lisa]
* [ Rare images of screenshots and prints of first Apple Lisa Prototype GUI still without icons]
* [ Archive of an early publication for Lisa users]
* [ Busy Being Born] : A visual history of the development of the Lisa/Macintosh user interface
* [ Inventing the Lisa User Interface] by Rod Perkins, Dan Keller and Frank Ludolph (1 MB PDF)
* [ The Legacy of the Apple Lisa Personal Computer] by David T. Craig
* [ Apple's John Couch with the Lisa Project Team] (Photo, 1981)
* [ A Lisa emulator]
* [ Video of a Lisa 2/10 booting and working with documents] Navbox with columns
name = Navbox with columns/doc
state = uncollapsed
title = Apple Model Navigation
colstyle = text-align:center;background:silver;
colwidth = 25%
col1header = Replaced
col2header = Current Model
col3header = Successor
col1 = none
(Apple III)
col2 =
Apple Lisa, Lisa 2
col3 = Macintosh XL
col1footer = Preceding Family Model
col2footer = January 19, 1983
col3footer = Following Family Model

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