Apple Lisa

From Academic Kids

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

The Apple Lisa was a revolutionary personal computer designed at Apple Computer during the early 1980s. The Lisa project was started at Apple in 1978 and slowly evolved into a project to design a powerful personal computer with a graphical user interface (GUI) that would be targeted towards business customers. Around 1982, Steve Jobs was forced out of the Lisa project, 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.



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. 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 (see backronym). Internally it was know as Lisa: Invented Stupid Acronym.


The Lisa was first introduced in January 1983 (announced on January 19) at a cost of $9,995 US. It was the first commercial personal computer to have a GUI and a mouse (after the Xerox Star.) It used a Motorola 68000 CPU at a 5 MHz clock rate and had 1 MB RAM. The first Lisa had two 5.25 inch floppy disk drives (nicknamed the "Twiggy" drive), and an optional external 5 MB Apple ProFile hard drive (originally designed for the Apple III). The later Lisa 2 models used a single 3.5 inch floppy disk drive and optional 5 or 10 MB internal hard disks. In 1984 at the same time the Macintosh was officially announced, Apple announced that they were providing free 5 MB hard drive upgrades to all Lisa 1 owners.


The Lisa operating system featured cooperative (non-preemptive) multitasking1 and virtual memory, then extremely advanced features for a microcomputer. The use of virtual memory coupled with a fairly slow disk system made the system performance seem sluggish at times. Conceptually, the Lisa resembled the Xerox Star in the sense that it was envisioned as an office computing system; consequently, Lisa had two main user modes: the Lisa Office System and the Workshop. The Lisa Office System was the GUI environment for end users. The Workshop was a program development environment, and was almost entirely text based, though it used a GUI text editor. The Lisa Office System was eventually renamed "7/7", in reference to the seven supplied application programs.

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 Lisa was also seen as being a bit slow in spite of its innovative interface. The nail in the coffin for Lisa was the release of the Macintosh in 1984, which helped discredit the Lisa since the Macintosh also had a GUI and mouse but was far less expensive. The Lisa, like many products, was a victim of being too far ahead of its time. Two later Lisa models were released (the Lisa 2 and the so-called Macintosh XL) before the Lisa line was discontinued in August 1986.

At a time when 96 kilobytes of RAM was considered an extravagance, much of the Lisa's high price tag, and therefore its commercial failure can be attributed to the large amount of RAM the system came with. Most personal computers only began shipping with megabyte-sized RAM beginning in the 1990s.

Historical importance

Though a commercial failure the Lisa was in one respect a marked success. 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. Though the performance of the Lisa was somewhat slow and the software rather limited, what the Lisa did, it did well. Using the Lisa software and an Apple dot-matrix printer you could write some very nice documents (compared to the other options available at the time). This one compelling usage drove the Lisa into a lot of larger offices, though the price limited the number in each office. Since 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 machine like the Lisa.

The end of Lisa

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

In 1989, Apple buried about 2,700 unsold Lisas at a landfill in Utah and got a tax write-off on the land they rented for it.

Like other early GUI computers, working Lisas are today fairly valuable collectors items, for which people will pay hundreds of dollars.


  • Note 1: It is a common misconception that the Lisa OS used preemptive multitasking; see Talk:Apple Lisa for a discussion and references.

External links

fr:Lisa it:Apple Lisa ja:Lisa pl:Lisa pt:Lisa


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