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Author Topic: How bad were the Lisa sales when they sold 100,000-(5k-8k) at ~$10K each?  (Read 401 times)

rayarachelian

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    • LisaEm

Simple math from articles I've seen says about 100,000 units were made, and about $50M was spent on R&D.
But 100K units at $10K each is a billion dollars (1983) dollars. With the Lisa being discontinued in 1985, that's a billion dollars gross over roughly two years. Sure they did drop the price at various points, but that should also coincide with memory prices (and requirements) going lower, so certainly there was still some margin of profit to these that was greater than zero. It probably still had a non-zero profit margin up to the point where they sold 5,000 Lisas to SunRem on consignment and decided to dump some 2700 units in a landfill as a tax writeoff, so that slightly lowers than $1B number to about $973M, which is still pretty damn huge.
I don't know if that 2700 number was taken from the 5000 units, or in addition to the ones on consignment.
Either way, that's between 100,000-7700 or 100,000-5000 units sold by Apple, so it's still nearing the $1B in gross from Lisa sales minus the cost to produce/market/ship them (and taxes) with only $50M in development costs (and 200 man years if you believe the ads.)

This article pointed to by the Wikipedia article says, they were given to SunRem on consignment, which implies that Apple would still make some profit off these sales, and that SunRem didn't pay for them outright, but we don't know if the prices of those were under, or above, the cost of manufacturing.

For sure, the Lisa 2's required a ProFile (it's possible that Lisa 1's might be usable without a hard drive, I don't know, or perhaps it required a ProFile), and that added to the cost, and dumping the Twiggies and "upgrading" to the single Sony drive was a loss, but it was a one time thing.

The fact that a 2/10 was introduced with an improved I/O board and motherboard, indicated that they were looking forward to increased rather than decreased sales despite that one time loss to the Sony transition. So I suspect that the introduction of the Mac cannibalized sales of the Lisa, rather than the other way around, at least until MacWorks was released.

Certainly Microsoft and it's Windows 1.0 might have had some part to play (vaporware announcement in Nov 1983), but that was released in November 1985, while the Lisa discontinuation announcement that Mike J. Posner just posted was from June 17, 1985. Sure, vaporware announcements would have played into lower Lisa sales. If anything, DRI's GEM was released in Feb 1985, a bit earlier than Windows 1.0, but still after the Lisa 2/10 was announced alongside the Mac. If anything Visi On was a more direct threat, being released Dec 1983 - but like the Lisa, it required 512K of RAM and a hard drive, so it couldn't have been that much of a threat. (Though, after all, "Nobody got fired for buying IBM", right?

Like the Newton (which wasn't super usable until the 130), if you look at LOS 1.0 and 2.0, since LisaGraf was pure Pascal at that point, they run much slower than LOS 3.0 where LisaGraf was rewritten in 68000 assembly - I can clearly see a dramatic improvement in response time between LOS 2 and 3 on real hardware as well as in LisaEm. (And yes, indeed, that assembly transition to essentially QuickDraw was essentially a backport from what the Mac team was doing, so kudos to the Mac team for that.)
Jobs quit Apple around September 16, 1985, (he wasn't fired, just like Apple didn't steal the GUI from Xerox, but rather bought it, he tried to get enough support to oust Sculley in return, but even after that the board didn't want him to leave) so the decision to scrap the Lisa was more than likely influenced/caused by him as that was 3 months earlier. Likely, in the same vein as trying to kill off the Apple ][ after advertising "Apple ][ Forever", even though it was making the most cash for Apple.

(Yes, the /// had a hand in the Apple ]['s downfall too, but separately, and weirdly enough the IIgs + GSOS was released which would have been a direct competitor to the Mac IIs, but that was in 1988, much later on, so Steve had nothing to do with that.)

I'm leaning towards thinking that Apple killed off the Lisa more because it was competing at the higher end with the Mac, and would just continue to cannibalize sales, I mean, why buy a 128K Mac when you could get a Lisa with a hard drive (much faster than the HD20, and you could boot off it), with a bigger screen, even though it was 30% slower (5MHz vs 8MHz) but a lot more RAM.  (This was a similar situation that would later play out with the PPC Mac clones.)

Ironically, the bespoke MMU that the Lisa had was, what allowed it to run MacWorks and be more Mac compatible and give the Lisa a bit more life as a Mac, but in doing so, and because of that compatibility, it now flipped the tables, caused it to compete with the Mac and lower Mac sales from when the Mac was cannibalizing Lisa sales.
But all this is moot because by Feb 1984 Steve had merged the Lisa+Mac teams, firing a lot of the Lisa folks in the process after calling them "B" players and "releasing some of [them] to give them the opportunity to work at our sister companies here in the valley".
We can only speculate what might have been had the Lisa been allowed to be developed further through the Whopper ERS document, and eventually getting color, etc. and assuming it would get at least as good marketing/ads as the Mac, which it clearly did not.

[I don't believe SunRem had the SCSI card until Apple already sold off most of its Lisa stock to SunRem, so the SCSI compatibility that the 512KE had didn't play a part in the decision to end the Lisa. More likely SunRem's MFM 20M/30M/40M drives came before the SCSI card. So this would limit competition between the Lisa and the Mac upto the 512K, but not including the 512KE.]
So, then, how is the Lisa financially a flop when it brought something like $300M-$500M in profit for only $50M of development costs (depending on what margins it was sold at)?

I'd guess margins would be 25%-50%, from just what it is industry wide at that time (this was before the PC clones and the race to the bottom after all.)
 
Does anyone know the actual cost of manufacturing a Lisa, and what its profit margins were? How do these compare to the total sales/margins of the Mac 128?
Sure, sure, in terms of Wall Street forecasts, if you tell your investors you'll sell millions per year and only sell 100,000 in two years this really messes up your stock price forecasts. Stonks and all that... But is that the definition of a flop, or just shitty forecasting from the sales/management teams?
I'm not discounting that the Mac sold 50K units in the first 100 days, but this was surely price/advertising driven more than anything else. Had someone tried a Mac vs a Lisa side by side, they wouldn't want a Mac unless they were willing to put up with a lot of slowness, floppy swapping, etc.
All this is, of course moot, because by Feb 1984 Steve had merged the Lisa+Mac teams, firing a lot of the Lisa folks in the process after calling them "B" players and inviting them to "the opportunity to work at our sister companies here in the valley".
We can only speculate what might have been had the Lisa been allowed to be developed further through the Whopper ERS document, and eventually getting color, etc. and assuming it would get at least as good marketing/ads as the Mac, which it clearly did not.

So, this folklore article says they sold 72K Macs by April. But that's at the $2.6K mark - so thats less profit per unit despite that. This clearly is a case of being able to sell far more burgers than steaks (and using really great advertising vs the shitty ads/informercials for the Lisa).

This is similar to why McDonald's makes far more money than Ruth's Chris Steakhouse though they're both chains that sell some form of (as DEC sales engineers would put it) "warm dead cow" (which is why there's no DEC around anymore either).
Another analogy with hat tip to the Lisa's advertising is that, you'll sell far more low end Ford Escorts (or bicycles if you wish), than you would high end Maseratis for the Mind. Plus the whole high end corporate office vs "for the rest of us" vibe.

Even with the Mac's relatively higher sales over the Lisa, we see rose-colored glasses forecasting once the early adopters realized they got fleeced, and that the majority of the profits were coming from the Apple ][ line anyway:

Quote
High sales spurred even rosier predictions for the upcoming holiday season.  But as summer turned into fall, Macintosh sales began to decline.   For a couple of months, the University Consortium (see What's A Megaflop?) kept volumes high by selling tens of thousands of low cost Macs to college students, but by Thanksgiving 1984, sales had slowed significantly.  The marketing team forecast selling over 75,000 Macs per month for the important holiday season, but actually they didn't even break 20,000 units per month.  In December 1984, the Apple II still accounted for about 70% of Apple's revenues.
As the new year dawned, Steve Jobs seemed oblivious to the slowing sales, and continued to behave as if the Macintosh was a booming, unqualified success.  His lieutenants in the Macintosh division, which had swelled to more than 700 employees, had to deal with a growing reality gap, reconciling the ever-changing audacious plans for world domination emanating from their leader with the persistent bad news from the sales channel.
 
 Meanwhile, the Macintosh engineering team had not been very productive. The Mac was crying out for an internal hard drive, and some kind of high bandwidth port to attach it to, but there weren't any significant upgrades on the horizon, even though the basic hardware hadn't changed (except for additional RAM) for a year.....

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DAVID CRAIG

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Hi Ray,

Thanks for the interesting Apple Lisa computer comments and your LisaEM work to help keep the Lisa software spirit alive when the hardware spirit is quickly reaching its physical end. I will read what you wrote here closer this weekend, but wanted to reply to one of your comments. I will also read some other comments made about the Lisa history (which mention my name) and reply with additional comments that are hopefully of some value to this list's readership.

Ray wrote:
"Simple math from articles I've seen says about 100,000 units were made, and about $50M was spent on R&D."

I agree with your R&D expense of $50,000,000. BYTE magazine's 1983 Lisa interview article I recall says this, as does some Apple press releases.

But your comment that Apple sold around 100,000 Lisas I think may be wrong. I say this since Larry Tesler [RIP :(], the Lisa tools (applications) manager wrote in 2000 the following;

"Apple introduced the revolutionary Lisa computer in 1983, but only about 30,000 were sold."

Source (attached):
Tales from Tessler: History of the Lisa Computer
http://www.techtv.com/screensavers/print/0,23102,3013380,00.html
10 July 2003

Notes:
o TechTV site seems to not exist now
o Article misspelled Tesler's last name :(

Also, in the Lisa TWIGGY DRIVE lawsuit, the case file lists Lisa sales numbers for several months. I do not have these files readily available, but from what I recall the numbers were around 2,000 Lisas sold per month. Extrapolating these numbers for say 1.5 years, then the total sales numbers are around 36,000. I think this calculation seems like it could pass a reasonableness test for the total sales. 100,000 units sold seems a bit excessive. This higher figure may be confused with the Apple /// computer sales, but this is just a somewhat educated guesstimate on my part. Suggest contacting JOHN COUCH, Lisa POS general manager, and ask for Lisa sales (Wikipedia says Couch has written a book about his Apple years that will be released mid-2021 -- "My Life at Apple and The Steve I Knew" -- I will buy this book).

Hope this information is not "fake news" and helps a little here.

~ David Craig
~ Cochiti Lake, New Mexico, USA
~ dtc.bayern [at] gmail.com
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rayarachelian

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  • "But what's puzzling you is the nature of my game"
    • LisaEm

Hello old friend! Good to see you around these parts again.

Hope all is excellent in your neck of the universe.  ;D

I'm not sure where the 100,000 number came from, if it's much less than that, then it truly was a flop. Looking at wikipedia now, it's 10K, not 100K, not sure where that number came from either, but at 10K, it was a $50M loss, at 100K it wouldn't be quite a flop. I think the numbers from SunRem and the dump are likely correct, just don't know about the total units made.

Would be good to get some actual official numbers, and I certainly welcome your correction.

That article was captured by archive.org: https://web.archive.org/web/20030218223535/http://www.techtv.com/screensavers/print/0,23102,3013380,00.html
Look forward to John Couch's book. Many thanks for the recommendation, looks like it will out in about a week, so I've preordered it.https://www.amazon.com/My-Life-Apple-Steve-Knew/dp/1951805844
(For those that don't know, David was my mentor when building LisaEm, over the years he's amassed most of the Apple Lisa documentation, much of it internal, that exists out there, and is now on bitsavers, archive.org, and other places.)
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blusnowkitty

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Anyone ever thought about using the German tank problem to estimate how many Lisa were made/sold? AppleNet numbers were sequential, right?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_tank_problem
« Last Edit: May 02, 2021, 09:52:05 pm by blusnowkitty »
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rayarachelian

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    • LisaEm

Anyone ever thought about using the German tank problem to estimate how many Lisa were made/sold? AppleNet numbers were sequential, right?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_tank_problem

Good idea. I would guess we can assume all Lisa 1s, except for a few rare escapees were converted to Lisa 2s, and then once the 2/10s were built that there's no gaps in serial numbers (or AppleNet numbers) between them.

So then next chance I get when I go through my Lisas I'll collect all the serial numbers from all the CPU boards I have and note which are 2/10s vs 2 or 2/5s. Actually since the CPU board is identical, it won't matter much, with the exception of the video modded ones which don't have serial numbers - these would count as "modded" anyway. It's too bad the SNs aren't printed on the CPUl board as well as it would be easier than popping them into a Lisa and powering on and going to service mode to test.

I'll also get the numbers off the chassis. So that should provide a small set of data. I've got 4 physical Lisas, so I should be able to get 8 serial numbers - though I think one of those is a 3A. On top of that I do have some spare CPU boards so will try those too. So I should be able to get a sample of about 10 Lisas, presumably some of the CPU boards should match the chassis ones.

Maybe after that we could ask the members of LisaList2 to provide their serial numbers if they wish and note the highest one. That might help size things.

Obviously if we find a Lisa with serial number 99,000 then 100k is the ballpark, but if all the serial numbers are less than 9,999 then it's 10k. I'm not sure I understood the math in that German Tank Model, but possibly it could be used as well. So the point here would be to get the highest serial number we can and see what that value is.

I don't know if the Lisa SNs are consecutive or just the AppleNet ones, so will collect both and see what patterns, if any, show up. It might be interesting if we see two Lisas with sequential serial numbers as well. That would be useful too.

What we don't know is whether there was a pool of serial numbers for each factory. i.e. plant 1 goes from 1-1000, plant 2 goes from 5000-10000 and so on, that could throw things off, or if Apple had an actual sequential list and the plant number didn't actually affect the serial/AppleNet number. Perhaps the math in that article could help there.

I expect that the majority of Lisas out there wound up in a landfill or recycled after 1990s before people started to collect them. I myself threw out one dead chassis that I couldn't repair, and did throw out many computers (mostly commodores) from the 1980s as I moved on to the Mac II line and PCs. Ofc, at some point nostalgia kicked in after ebay existed and I bought some back. :) I expect most other people also threw out their Lisas making them even more rare.

Another factor to consider or not is that Apple would have set aside some spare number of parts, not sure if these would have some really out of range serial numbers that may mess up this effort. (US law says manufacturers should keep some stock for at least 5 years after manufacture for repairs, likely these went to SunRem.)

I know at least one of mine has the "VintageMicros" SN that came with the X/ProFile I bought from John many years ago, so that one will show up as a duplicate for a few people, but it should be the only one. The only other synthetic one is the magic zero serial number, which James Denton burned me one of, but this is not going to be in the census.

Maybe we could set up some database/census of Lisa serial numbers and owners (with an optional anonymous flag).

Something like: chassis serial number and model, CPU board and model number if known, owner. I don't know if location matters, it probably doesn't and shouldn't be collected in order to avoid privacy issues. For the CPU entries it should be from service mode addresses 240-280.

Aside: One thing I'm not clear on is how LOS calculates the serial number of the Lisa from the values. The DTC papers on this don't seem to match what LOS says, and also what LOS serializes the tool with. I do have code in LisaEm to tell you info about the serial number, but this value doesn't seem to match what LOS says when you ask it, nor the tool number, so not sure what to make of that. (Obviously if/when LOS source is released that q will be answered, or if not at some point when it bothers me enough I'll reverse engineer it.)

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rayarachelian

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  • "But what's puzzling you is the nature of my game"
    • LisaEm

Based on this: https://lisalist2.com/index.php/topic,185.0.html it looks like the real number is <10K, possibly much smaller, but we'd need more serial numbers to figure this out. Thanks to @bluesnowkitty for this 2nd thread.

I don't recall where I got 100K from, likely it would have been from an earlier wikipedia article or some other source. Sorry, at some point I recall looking it up and thinking, wait, if there were 100K at $10K@ then Apple had gross sales of $1B. But if I misremembered or if in the meanwhile the numbers were updated this obviously the gross was ~$100,000,000 which is 2x the R&D but doesn't account for the materials, so profit could well have been negative especially since the tail end was sold off to SunRem and also destroyed.\

Googling around, this article has the 100K number: https://www.inexhibit.com/case-studies/different-fate-apples-lisa-macintosh-design-matters/

Randomly going back in time to ~2017 yielded a wikipedia article that stated 100,000: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Apple_Lisa&oldid=778768096
In reference #1 on this revision, it points to http://oldcomputers.net/lisa.html as the source of the sales number, but that page on Old Computers doesn't say where it got it from, only "
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. "


So this indicates that the 100K number was floating around there for a while - but ofc not whether or not it's correct.

Anyone know if Apple's reports to Wall Street in 1983, 1984, 1985 mention Lisa sales numbers? (or where to even find these?)

This would also mean a couple of things in the form of a double edged sword:

1. for people who want Apple Lisas, they're far more rare, therefore far more expensive (especially due to the M1 money supply printing due to covid and thus ultra-inflation), and

2. for people who own Lisas, please take good care of them, they're worth a lot more when you sell them.

* I used ultra-inflation rather than hyperinflation (as hyper would indicate a higher order) because the USA isn't quite yet at hyperinflation yet, let's hope we don't go there as that would mean collapse of empire similar to what the USSR saw, and the coming of evils of the great reset where you'll rent everything, own nothing and have zero privacy.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2021, 02:24:14 pm by rayarachelian »
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rayarachelian

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  • "But what's puzzling you is the nature of my game"
    • LisaEm

Amazon moved the release date for John Couch's book to  July 13, 2021. (For a while it had said "May 7" then on that day it went to "out of stock" and then was June something.)
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rayarachelian

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  • "But what's puzzling you is the nature of my game"
    • LisaEm

So today I ran across an article that DTC collected in his papers about the Logan burial saying that 2700 went into the dump, and another 5000 went to SunRem (on consignment).

I also ran across: http://www.classiccomputing.com/CCPodcasts/CC_Show/Entries/2012/1/15_ClassicComputing.com___Bob_Cook_interview.html where Bob Cook confirms he received 7000 Lisas on consignment and he didn't have much room and wound up storing some in a beekeeper's warehouse.

From the interview, Bob Cook said "Apple required complete systems to be destroyed" and left him with systems that were broken or were missing keyboards which is really sad.

So looking at our experiment with the AppleNet numbers, if ~10K is the number made, then that leaves ~2300 that Apple managed to sell on their own. Sun Rem was left with close to 3000. So yeah, Bob managed to do what Apple couldn't so for sure, sales wise, was a total flop for Apple.

Eventually John Woodall of VintageMicros bought the remaining stock (and that included the Steve Jobs faceplate one that Bob Cook mentioned was used as a template to make a Lisa 1 faceplate for the "Pirates of Silicon Valley" movie - the Lisa that Gates rolled around):
http://vintagemicros.com/catalog/jobs-lisa-front-panel-p-125.html


So basically the world supply of Lisas is now far less than 7000, many of those were probably thrown out by their owners.

Apple Confidential 2.0 says on page 83 of their timeline that there was a base of 60,000 units.

Page 80 says "Apple officially discontinued the Macintosh XL, nee Lisa, on April 29, 1985, and the last Lisa rolled off the assembly line at the Carrollton, Texas, factory on May 15"

Would be really neat if we can locate that very last Lisa made on May 15, 1985 and get its AppleNet ID as that would tell us the total, but most likely that one may have wound up in the landfill.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2021, 06:50:42 pm by rayarachelian »
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nick

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Photograph courtesy of John Woodall of the signed Lisa case top dated 5/30/85 of the last Lisa ever made at the bottom of the page at the link below. Sadly no serial / applenet number included.

https://guidebookgallery.org/extras/spotlights/lisa/photos/secrets

Story on discovering signatures mentioned 24-mins into the following interview with John http://www.classiccomputing.com/CCPodcasts/CC_Show/Entries/2018/1/8_ClassicComputing.com___John_Woodall_interview.html
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blusnowkitty

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Photograph courtesy of John Woodall of the signed Lisa case top dated 5/30/85 of the last Lisa ever made at the bottom of the page at the link below. Sadly no serial / applenet number included.

https://guidebookgallery.org/extras/spotlights/lisa/photos/secrets

I was looking for that, I knew there was a high-res picture of that! It appears that at one time, that lid had a serial number sticker on it. http://adam.trideja.com/Apple%20Computer%20Pics/Lisa/LastLisaLid.jpg
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rayarachelian

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  • "But what's puzzling you is the nature of my game"
    • LisaEm

Photograph courtesy of John Woodall of the signed Lisa case top dated 5/30/85 of the last Lisa ever made at the bottom of the page at the link below. Sadly no serial / applenet number included.

https://guidebookgallery.org/extras/spotlights/lisa/photos/secrets

Story on discovering signatures mentioned 24-mins into the following interview with John http://www.classiccomputing.com/CCPodcasts/CC_Show/Entries/2018/1/8_ClassicComputing.com___John_Woodall_interview.html


Yeah, I was aware of this interview, like the one with Bob Cook, it's likely going to be part of the "Before Macintosh: The Apple Lisa Documentary" that David Greelish is in the process of finishing up. I do recall seeing the Lisa 1 faceplate with the gold Steve Jobs nameplate and the signatures on the last lid of the Lisa, but didn't realize that there was the serial number plate on it on Adam's site, sadly, it doesn't have enough resolution to get the AppleNet and serial # off it.

Likely the serial number will just contain the date which we already now and the number of the day which is like 300-500 or so, what we're after is the absolute highest AppleNet one since they're sequential. The serial numbers are prefixed by the date they were made and how many were made that day, so each day there's a serial #1 for what that factory made that day, but the date tells you when it was. But apparently as others have noted, the AppleNet ID is sequential.

It's possible Apple inflated the numbers, or someone somewhere misinterpreted the number by 10x which started the whole sold 100K units. Or someone may have estimated based on "Apple's factory can make 300-500 a day, the Lisa lasted for about 2 years so if they made them daily at this rate at X factories, it would add up to 100K"

I think Apple Computer Inc (not today's Apple, Inc.) was a publicly traded company back in 1982-1985, however their reports to wall street don't have a break down of how many of each computer were made/sold, but rather just total profit and total sold, so we don't know how many of those were Apple ]['s, vs Macs, vs Lisas. We do have some numbers from Folklore.org, but that's mostly for the Mac with an occasional anecdote that they expected to sell X Lisas in a year, but only managed to send Y% with that time, etc.

If anyone can find a highres photo of that LastLisaLid with that sticker where the AppleNet number is readable, that would really help us figure otu what the actual numbers are.

They all seem to start with the same 001 prefix, so if we lop that off, it would tell us the exact count. Well, it might off by some number, but it would help.

The other path we could take is that there's also a serial number inside the VSROM on every CPU board, but that's not necessarily going to tell us how many Lisas are made even if we find the last VSROM made, because like all companies, Apple Computer Inc. would have made a reservoir of spare parts, including CPU boards and VSROMs. The tech is supposed to transfer your existing VSROM to your new CPU board if your CPU board has failed, so that way the DRM'ed software on your ProFile/Widget hardrive would still work.

So if we find a VSROM with an AppleNet of 100K or 50K or 30K that would be a useful datapoint that would tell us, oh yeah, more than 10K were made. But it could also be a false data point if it was the only one and there's no matching serial number sticker with an AppleNet that high.
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