Now THIS is a special machine......Not that I've wanted one for
long you understand, only since 1983 when Lisa was first released to an unsuspecting
and unprepared green screen DOS and/or CP/M facing market. Lisa was different
- aside from being one of the first 32bit "SuperMicros" utilising
the new Motorola 68000 processor there was this funny looking peripheral with
a big button on called a 'mouse', a WHITE screen that had funny little pictures
of folders and disks on called 'icons', and when you pushed your 'mouse' round
on the table a little arrow called a 'pointer' on the screen moved too! If you
pushed the pointer over a 'folder icon' and pressed the big button twice, a
'window' opened to let you see the contents, and if you 'clicked' on one of
the contents Lisa decided which application should run and did it all for you!
Imagine that! And the different portions and applications of the operating system
could *communicate* with each other. *gasp*. There was a spreadsheet, graphics
manipulation, word processor, project time manager, DEC VT/ansi terminal emulator,
calculator and test package available *all at the same time*.......to use eBay
speak for a moment - *WOW*. Just think of the possibilities. Prepare a spreadsheet
showing sales figures, then cut and paste it into a document that described
the department's performance. Add in a graph or two, some calculations from
the desktop calculator and possibly even a project definition that showed the
roadmap for the next quarter, then print it all out and it would appear in exactly
the same format you saw it on the screen.
"But" I hear you all think, "surely that's the same as what I'm
reading this crap on now!" and you'd be right. And wrong. I'm talking about
You see, both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple) both toured
the Xerox PARC facility in Palo Alto, CA in the late 70s and both saw a development
environment called SmallTalk running on the Xerox Alto that had said funny mouse
and icon-things. Even though development of the Lisa was well underway some
of SmallTalk's ideas were propagated and improved on, resulting in Lisa 1 (named
after Jobs' eldest daughter). It was interesting to read that a lot of the original
GUI development work for Lisa was done on an Apple ][, although given the reliability
problems of the Apple /// (I've been told Jobs designed the case before the
hardware boys had finished the boards) at the time I suppose there wasn't another
machine they could use really!
Microsoft apparently got the idea for Windows 1.0 from being at Apple while
they were being given help in writing software for another innovation - the
Macintosh (named after the chief designer's favourite type of apple, but spelt
slightly differently to avoid trademark infringement). Of course, a later court
case decided both M$oft and Apple took 'different approaches' to their respective
GUIs. Some of the Mac ideas were put into Windows 1.0 in the same way SmallTalk
ideas went into the Lisa. I don't remember whether 1.0 made it to the market
- the first version I ever saw was 3.0 in 1987 or '88 and even then thought
how bad it was compared it to the Lisa GUI (graphical user interface). Oh to
have had money in those days.
Lisa was designed to be as user friendly as possible without being TOO friendly.
The whole ethos everntually was like a real desk; you had drawers with folders
in, and documents within those folders. She had a unique power-off functionality
that put everything away before switching off, and when you switched back on
everything was put back where it was!
The interface for each app within LisaOS kept common elements in the same places;
nearly everything could be accomplished with only a couple of mouse strokes
since the keyboard was now only needed to actually type text or numbers. Need
a calculator? Call it up, do the maths, cut and paste the answer into a document
if necessary then put the calculator away again. Need to destroy a document?
Put it in the trash can. Need a document or folder that's not on the desk? Insert
the floppy with it on and it appears on the desk ready to be used! Unsure of
what your document will look like when it's printed? Not any more. Lisa was
the first WYSIWYG machine - What You See Is What You Get. The Lisa printers
were designed to reproduce an exact copy of whatever you had created on-screen.
Apparently even critics who complained about Lisa's slowness hovered next to
test machines just to have another go. When compared to something like WordStar
LisaWrite was light years ahead.
Unfortunately for Apple, Lisa had an achilles heel. Or two. Yes
she was groundbreaking, but bugger me did she cost - $9999 - although when you
add up the individual cost of the components and technology it wasn't THAT bad.
After all, how much did 1mb of RAM cost in those days? The 2nd and 3rd problems
were to be her downfall. She used proprietary 880K double sided 5 1/4 inch floppy
drives called 'Twiggy' because they were so thin (named after the 60's model
of the same name). While they were an excellent design in themselves they were
prone to repeated failure apparently because of the unique way they read data
from the floppy. An extra read/write hole was created opposite the 'normal'
one; rather than have a read/write head on either side of the disk surface at
the front like the DEC RX50 the Twiggy had one side reading from the front and
the other side reading from the back!
3rd and final problem was that there was little software available other than
Lisa Office System 7/7 which contained the aforementioned applications. She
also took ages to boot. Things were helped with the ProFile external hard drive
from the Apple 3, which could store a whopping 5 MEGABYTES of data....hell of
a lot in those days....but not by much. Only 10,000 were sold.
Apple's answer was a free upgrade to the Lisa 2, which lost half the memory
and the Jobs-designed Twiggy drives (Apple never made another floppy drive themselves)
replacing them with a single Sony 3 1/2 inch 400K floppy that still talked to
the Twiggy routines by virtue of an interface card called the 'Lisa Lite'. Also
there were now 3 models of Lisa - the bog-standard 2, the 2/5 (with the Profile)
and the 2/10 which had the original megabyte of RAM and an internal 10mb hard
drive called the Widget. They also slashed the cost to $3495 according to the
bumf I've got here, or $4495 if you wanted the 2/5. It must've worked because
Apple sold upwards of 80,000 machines. I also wish the people I bought mine
from had forked out the extra grand for the 2/5 *g*. Lisa 2 could only run MacWorks
since LisaOS needs more available at any one time that a 400K floppy could provide,
Lisa 2/5 couldn't run all of the OS owing to not having the full complement
of memory, Lisa 2/10 could do it all but still cost over 5 and a half grand.
Mac the knife
Unfortunately for Lisa there was the problem of a younger sibling.
At the same time Lisa 2 was released the Macintosh entered the market. Mac was
a whole $1000 cheaper than Lisa 2 ($2495 here) and did a similar job with a
little speed sacrifice so you can guess which one sold the best even though
it couldn't multitask or do any of the powerful sharing that Lisa could do.
Macintosh had its operating system on a single 400K floppy and introduced things
like floating toolbars.....in MacDraw from 1984....and you could easily
carry one! Poor Lisa weighed in at a hefty 53 pounds (well, mine does) while
Mac had a carrying handle in the top of its case and sported an optional shoulder
bag. I wouldn't fancy lugging one round on a long trek mind you, but Mac was
still a damn site more portable.
Because of the increasing popularity of the Mac, Lisa 2 was upgraded again by
adding newer ROMs, a screen ratio update (Lisa used rectangular pixels, Mac
used square) an enhanced version of MacWorks and called the Mac XL. (Xtra Lisa?
Xtra Large?). MacXL ran OS6 and applications just like it's little brother did,
but in a bigger box with a 10mb hard drive :)
Unfortunately, the Mac Plus snowball was gaining momentum and charging down
the slope. When the last Mac XL came off the production line in Carrolton Apple
gathered all remaining stocks and buried the lot in a landfill they'd bought
in a little place called Logan, Utah. And to all intents and purposes they're
still there.......not many people know of the exact location according to the
little information that's available on the web.....and I imagine what's left
will be in a pretty poor condition by now!
Also in Logan, Utah were an Apple dealer by the name of Sun Remarketing; they
took over maintenance and some development for the remaining Lisae and did their
own peripherals, such as SCSI cards and extra internal SCSI drives. They also
provided a Lisa 2 - Mac XL upgrade service. And they're still doing small amounts
of work for the Lisa now, as is another Apple dealer and Most Excellent Help
to me, Sigma Seven Systems.
No disks = No Lisa
Of course - the biggest problem I had was getting working Lisa
disks. My own came with all the books but no disks and the owners never found
them when they sold their house so I had to find them on the web. Fortunately
there's at least 4 locations all offering the Stuffed disk images of everything
from LisaOS to LisaTest and MacWorks 1.0, some of which are mentioned below,
but unfortunately none of my compact macs are internet capable so I had to figure
a way of getting HQX and SIT files from my PC onto a 400K floppy.
I knew utilities like StuffIt and Disk Copy existed (the former from Aladdin
Systems and the latter from Apple). Both
are either sufficiently old enough to be in the public domain (Disk Copy 4.2)
or free - StuffIt is available in a 'lite' version that has reduced functionality.
Trawling for PC-Mac converters I came across TransMac from Acute
Systems, the unregistered shareware version of which will copy files less
than 1.44mb quite happily which was more than enough for me.
The next problem was creating a 400K floppy. Various experiments with my Mac
LCII wouldn't produce one and I discovered that my IIci had a duff floppy drive;
plus TransMac only seemed happy with a 1.44 disk, so after a brief self-tutorial
with AppleTalk I linked a Mac Plus to the LCII and used Disk Copy to create
the floppies from the Plus......
.....and it worked! All that effort just to discover the vanilla Lisa 2 can't
run LisaOS and can in fact only run MacWorks as mentioned above! <beats head
off wall>. Cue lots of auction searching for an extra 512K board, and I was
lucky enough to get a ProFile too, so swift cable buying from the local Tandy
produced a Lisa 2/5 that I could finally install OS 7/7 on. More stuffing and
copying later results in a happy Lisa and a happy me, just before the video
card died :o((
*Update* - 19/11/2000 Lisa 2/5 is alive and well!
So! Onto the picturefest :o) 99% of these and the printed articles are from
my own collection; one or two pix have come from that there web.....I hope the
Apple peeps don't mind me reproducing some
Apple - the company that
changed personal computing forever IMO. Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, the Lisa
and Mac team et al deserve all the credit they get! Makes you wonder where we'd
be now as far as desktop machines go doesn't it. Steve Wozniak's homepage with
a link back to me :) Apple History contains
good info on Lisa as well as an excellent discussion about the GUI and it's
is the development of the GUI from 3 of the original team - Frank Ludolph, Rod
Perkins & Dan Smith The Mothership is
a site dedicated to the Lisa and the Compact Mac. Excellent reading. Rob Bedeaux's
repository of all things Lisa including Office System disk images, also available
from me. Tom Stepleton's Lisa
Web site. Sun Remarketing can still
get Lisa parts, at a cost. Sigma Seven
Systems can too. James McPhail has been a great help in getting my Lisa
Xerox Star - A Retrospective - excellent history of where the keyboard/mouse
GUI came from. The Lisa FAQ at sunder.net. Excellent reading.
Software (right-click-save-as (PC) or option-click-save-as (Mac))