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Author Topic: Exporting LisaWrite and other files to a modern Mac  (Read 2308 times)

ried

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Exporting LisaWrite and other files to a modern Mac
« on: January 21, 2024, 12:44:10 am »

Over the last couple of years, I've picked up 5 Lisas and 8 ProFile hard drives. It's been a great learning experience, thanks to several members here and elsewhere.

One of my recent purchases is a ProFile hard drive that worked for the usual 10 minutes before its RIFA capacitor let loose the magic smoke. That was long enough to verify the drive's functionality, confirm that it was already in the LOS 3.1 format, and see that it contains dozens of documents from the late 1980s. Most from LisaWrite, but others as well.

Interestingly, the documents were created by a college professor in Virginia. He was teaching courses about Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, as well as math. His course outlines are all on this particular ProFile drive - along with lots of significant personal and family-related documents. Truly amazing that this gentleman was teaching classes about AI and ML in the 1980s. It's a treasure trove of information.

Google searches lead me to believe that he's still alive and kicking at 79 years young. I plan to reach out and offer to send him these documents, but I would like to retrieve and translate them into modern file formats so they are accessible to him.

Questions:
  • What is the easiest way to convert files from LisaWrite to file formats that a modern computer can use?
  • How should I move files from the LOS 3.1 environment to a modern Macintosh? I can use a 400K floppy disk, but they'll be in the LOS format and Mac OS 9 cannot read them.

Advice would be greatly appreciated.
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ried

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Re: Exporting LisaWrite and other files to a modern Mac
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2024, 01:09:57 am »

A few screenshots.







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sigma7

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Re: Exporting LisaWrite and other files to a modern Mac
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2024, 03:50:55 am »

  • What is the easiest way to convert files from LisaWrite to file formats that a modern computer can use?
  • How should I move files from the LOS 3.1 environment to a modern Macintosh? I can use a 400K floppy disk, but they'll be in the LOS format and Mac OS 9 cannot read them.

The Lisa-to-Macintosh Migration kit was an Apple product that ran on LOS and would convert many 7/7 documents to Macintosh documents (on a Mac disk).

https://www.macintoshrepository.org/23298-lisa-to-macintosh-migration-tools

LisaWrite files are converted to (an early version of) MacWrite files, which still might take some fiddling to convert to something current.
LisaDraw files are converted to MacDraw (predecessor to MacDraw II and MacDraw Pro).

IIRC, the files that have no contemporary Mac equivalent are converted to text.

The conversion isn't perfect (particularly in the case of the Lisa's equivalent of OLE which allowed embedding documents from multiple 7/7 tools in one document) but useful and probably worth a try in this case.

Since the ProFile with the original documents may not have much lifetime left, I suggest the first priority is making a backup.

HTH & good luck!
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stepleton

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Re: Exporting LisaWrite and other files to a modern Mac
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2024, 09:10:44 am »

This is especially interesting to me as I've worked in artificial intelligence professionally for many years.

The early-mid '80s were an interesting time in AI, as some of the techniques which have powered today's AI boom were introduced to the field back then. The computers and data that could realise their full potential were decades away, however, and so for a time in the '90s and early '00s it was assumed that those methods were a dead end.

Of course the '80s also featured AI technologies that --- well, let's say that they have yet to enjoy a similar renaissance!

All that makes this ProFile an interesting time capsule indeed. It would be interesting to see where this professor worked in the AI field of their time, and what their outlook on the future of AI may have been. It would also be interesting to see whether the Workshop is installed on the computer, and whether there are any programs that the professor or an associate has written.

I echo sigma7 in saying that it's essential to get a block-level backup of the drive (e.g. with Blu) as soon as possible. Note that as the Office System apps don't really have a way of closing documents without saving them, I'd refrain from even opening more documents until you have a drive backup saved in a secure place. The ones you have opened already have probably already lost their original save dates+times, even if the file contents have not changed.

Thanks for sharing this with us!
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fri0701

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Re: Exporting LisaWrite and other files to a modern Mac
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2024, 12:03:02 pm »

Very interesting!

Yes, getting a BLU backup is priority #1. Once you have a backup, you can use LisaEm to pick through the contents without modifying the originals.

I know Ray’s lisafshtool has a utility for extracting files from the disk, but (1) I don’t know if it works on ProFile images, and (2) you’d lose all formatting, which would be nice to save somehow if possible.
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ried

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Re: Exporting LisaWrite and other files to a modern Mac
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2024, 12:12:00 pm »

Thank you. Everyone here will be pleased to know that I've successfully backed up the drive, using BLU to make an exact copy onto another (working) ProFile. I've also backed up the files to an ArcaneByte Profile emulator - thanks to the work from James, Tom, et al.

Looking into the Migration Kit next. More to come.

Update: Professor Clifford W. Gay from George Mason University is indeed alive and well. The screenshots above are from his Computer Science 699 course offered in Fall of 1988. We are in touch and I'll be finding a way to get at least some of this material back to him.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2024, 02:48:57 pm by ried »
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stepleton

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Re: Exporting LisaWrite and other files to a modern Mac
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2024, 06:23:23 pm »

Thanks ried, that is most of a relief. I'm obliged to ask (sorry!): is there a chance that you have an exact copy on something that is not a ProFile? The files on an emulated disk is a good start, but if you create and use a new ProFile image on the emulator, then you should be able to make an exact copy to that simulated hard drive just like you did with the ProFile.

I've tried to find some of Professor Gay's papers online, and there are two that come up from the 2000s having to do with indexing systems for text. It's possible that some of his earlier work is not known to search engines and paper databases --- computer science can have a short memory sometimes.

It's also interesting that the Professor was using the Office System in 1988. I wonder how many people were still doing that.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2024, 06:26:05 pm by stepleton »
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AlexTheCat123

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Re: Exporting LisaWrite and other files to a modern Mac
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2024, 12:36:56 pm »

Quote
It's also interesting that the Professor was using the Office System in 1988. I wonder how many people were still doing that.

Believe it or not, I have a ProFile with some LisaWrite documents that are dated all the way into 1998 and 1999! Of course, the modification dates won't go this high, but there are some dates mentioned within files that are from this timeframe. From what I recall, the files were the homework of an elementary or middle schooler, so the computer wasn't being used for "real" work anymore, but it was definitely still being used!
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stepleton

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Re: Exporting LisaWrite and other files to a modern Mac
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2024, 01:08:53 pm »

I suppose I have some high school essays from around the same time on my Lisas too, but of course I was doing that for fun after having installed LOS myself atop the previous owner's MacWorks setup :)
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