Lisa computer retrospective - Part 1 of 7

From: David Craig <dcraig_at_email.domain.hidden>
Date: Fri, 5 Jan 2001 16:18:25 -0700

> PART 1 OF 7
> Here is a retrospective history of the Apple Lisa computer. Thought the
> LisaList subscribers would find this interesting. The end of this paper
> contains a large reference section which lists many Lisa documents. The
> author (me) has a PDF version of this paper which includes several
> graphical diagrams.
> This paper version appeared in The ANALYTICAL ENGINE, Newsletter of the
> Computer History Association of California (CHAC), Volume 2, Number 1,
> July 1994.
> -------------------------------------------------
> -------------------------------------------------
> (c) Copyright 1993 - David T. Craig (1)
> 941 Calle Mejia # 1006
> Santa Fe, NM 87501 USA
> dcraig_at_email.domain.hidden
> 71533.606_at_email.domain.hidden
> -------------------------------------------------
> This paper is an attempt by a long-time Lisa user to clarify the
> significance of the Apple Lisa personal computer for the
> computing industry. The audience is anyone who has an interest
> in innovative computing technology, and wants to learn a little
> about Apple Computer's brief foray into this area via the Lisa
> computer.
> This paper hopes to show why the Lisa was significant in its
> time, and how some of what was called "Lisa Technology" is
> slowly migrating to other computer systems, notably the Apple
> Macintosh computer series.
> The author has never worked for Apple, and so is not privy to
> any "insider secrets" about this machine. All information
> contained herein was obtained from Apple's cornucopia of Lisa
> and Macintosh literature, from discussions with other Lisa
> owners, and through my personal involvement with and observation
> of both machines since 1984.
> This paper is loosely based upon the excellent article "The
> Legacy of the Lisa" (MacWorld magazine, Sep. 1985) as written by
> Mr. Larry Tesler, one of the Lisa's main designers and currently
> Chief Scientist at Apple Computer.
> -------------------------------------------------
> Apple began developing the Lisa in 1979. The Lisa's charter was
> to build a revolutionary device that was truly easy to use, and
> thereby mitigate the limitations of existing computers.
> Developing a computer which was an order of magnitude easier to
> use than traditional computers required several major
> departures, not all of which were obvious.
> Even the name "Lisa" has always been rather enigmatic for most
> computer users, including Lisa owners. To set the story straight
> (as far as I know) here are the facts: Officially, Apple states
> that "Lisa" stood for "Local Integrated Software Architecture."
> Unofficially, "Lisa" has been associated with the name of a
> child fathered by one of the Lisa designers. (2)
> The Lisa had several design goals:
> * Be intuitive,
> * be consistent,
> * conform to the ways people actually work,
> * have enough performance to do the jobs that need doing,
> * provide an open software and hardware architecture,
> * be reliable,
> * be pleasing, and
> * fit into an everyday work environment.
> The Lisa was based on sophisticated hardware technology. The
> single compact desktop unit contained a 12-inch black-and-white
> screen, and two revolutionary floppy disk drives called "Twiggy"
> -- after the English supermodel of the day, because she, and
> they, were so thin. The Lisa contained a Motorola 68000
> processor and 1 megabyte of memory, expandable to 2 megabytes.
> Cabled to the Lisa's case were a keyboard, and a (then) uncommon
> peripheral called a "mouse," which was a key element of the
> Lisa's design.
> Apple introduced the Lisa to the general public in January 1983
> at a price of $9,995. In April 1985, after only one and a half
> years, Apple discontinued the Lisa in favor of its sibling, the
> Macintosh.
> Lisa development was a tremendous undertaking for Apple and
> basically required most of the company's resources, both
> financial and personal. Apple reports that Lisa cost $50 million
> to develop and required 200 man-years of development effort. The
> story behind the development is fascinating and should be more
> fully recorded, but this paper can provide only a "Reader's
> Digest" version of the development history; a more complete
> history can only be written by the developers themselves, and
> this author, sadly, believes that such a treatment will never
> see the light of day.
> The Lisa may be considered a computer that sprang from the loins
> of a host of predecessor systems, and many of its
> "revolutionary" ideas were not really new -- notwithstanding the
> cries of Apple marketers, who think everything Apple does is
> new. Work by many computer companies over decades (yes, decades)
> was drawn on by Apple to design the Lisa. For example, Apple
> borrowed several key ideas from Xerox and its early Alto system.
> In 1979 Mr. John Couch, Apple's head of software, was made
> General Manager of a new Apple division called POS, Personal
> Office Systems. Mr. Couch's charter was to develop and promote
> the Lisa for the office system market, and provide a return on
> Apple's substantial Lisa investment.
> From meager beginnings, POS blossomed into a 300-person
> division, with around 100 people devoted to the software and
> hardware development effort. The Lisa had begun as a rather
> humdrum text based system, not a good sign for a "revolutionary"
> computer. Couch assembled a team of very talented people from
> within Apple and throughout Silicon Valley. After some field
> trips to neighboring Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), the
> developers (and some ex-PARC people who became Apple employees)
> embarked upon what became the Lisa computer as known to the
> public. Perhaps the key change at this point was the migration
> from a text-based system to a window-based system inspired by
> Xerox's Smalltalk development environment.
> Apple unveiled the Lisa in late 1982 to selected outsiders. On
> 19 January 1983, after repeated delays and two years beyond the
> originally projected introduction date, Apple officially
> declared Lisa a working system that would be deliverable in May
> 1983. Apple at this time hoped to mark the beginning of a new
> era in personal computers &amp; establish the software technology
> standard of the 80's.
> Apple's comprehensive Lisa introduction also included a suite of
> revolutionary and sophisticated programs called the Lisa Office
> System (later renamed "Lisa 7/7" by Apple). This suite consisted
> of 7 general application programs -- LisaWrite, LisaDraw,
> LisaCalc, LisaGraph, LisaProject, LisaList, and LisaTerminal --
> and was bolstered by extensive well-written documentation and an
> innovative self-paced training course for new Lisa owners, based
> upon the LisaGuide program, which Apple called an "interactive
> manual." For hardware diagnostic purposes Apple provided the
> LisaTest program, though Apple appears to have discontinued the
> release of this program to owners in favor of referring them to
> the local friendly Apple dealer for Lisa servicing. For a user
> "operating system" Apple created the Desktop Manager. This
> program was a file organizer and program manager which created
> the illusion of a "desktop," on which users could place, move,
> rename, and delete files, and run programs.
> Regards,
> David T. Craig
> ###########################################################
> # David T. Craig -- CyberWolf Inc. -- ACI 4D Developer #5
> # Aspen Plaza, 1596 Pacheco, Suite 203
> # Santa Fe, NM 87505 USA
> # voice 505.983.6463 ext 15 -- fax 505.988.2580
> # dcraig_at_email.domain.hidden
> ###########################################################

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