Lisa computer retrospective - Part 2 of 7

From: David Craig <dcraig_at_email.domain.hidden>
Date: Fri, 5 Jan 2001 16:25:13 -0700

> PART 2 OF 7
> Apple supplied three different printers for Lisa, all capable of
> printing exactly what the user saw on the screen. The dot-matrix
> printer could print both high-resolution text and graphics. The
> daisy-wheel printer was unique in that it could also print
> graphics, though the ribbon was used up very quickly for this
> task. Later in the Lisa's life Canon provided a color inkjet
> printer for it. Apple appears to have had plans to support a
> laser printer with the Lisa, but these plans were abandoned,
> although Apple did have a $30,000 in-house laser printer which
> was used by the Lisa developers.
> Apple's internal software development centered around the Lisa
> Monitor environment, which was text-based, and resembled the
> environments Apple provided for its Apple II and Apple III
> computer systems. The majority of Lisa programs were written in
> the Pascal language by Apple, except for a few written in 68000
> assembler. A COBOL and a BASIC were also available. To give an
> idea of the size of this effort: The Lisa operating system
> source contained about 90,000 lines of Pascal, and the Office
> System applications contained approximately 50,000 lines each.
> The programmers used a wonderful window- and mouse-based editor
> called LisaEdit. Outside developers were offered a development
> kit called the Lisa Workshop, a descendant of the Lisa Monitor
> environment. With the Workshop a programmer could develop rather
> sophisticated programs, primarily in Pascal.
> A major software development effort by Apple focused on the Lisa
> Desktop Libraries, a collection of about 100 software modules
> which provided the software foundation for Lisa Technology.
> These modules were used by all Lisa programs and were the
> mainstay of the Lisa's consistent user interface. A key
> component of the Desktop Libraries was QuickDraw, a fast and
> versatile graphics module written in around 40,000 lines of
> 68000 assembly language.
> During the Lisa's rather short life, very few programs were
> written for it by outside developers who could exploit its
> revolutionary user interface. The main reason for this was the
> lack of any fairly simple development environment that would
> allow outside developers to write "Lisa-like" programs without a
> tremendous amount of technical knowledge. After Apple developed
> the major Lisa programs, they attempted to develop a universal
> "framework" for programming called the Lisa ToolKit; but
> development of this, though basically finished, was halted when
> Apple withdrew resources from Lisa software development to
> accelerate Macintosh development. Apple had also not documented
> fully, nor designed in an easily understandable fashion, the
> code which formed the basis for the software component of Lisa
> Technology. Finally, third-party developers hesitated to commit
> to the Lisa given its high perceived price and its low sales
> numbers.
> A major headache for Apple during the development effort was the
> pair of Twiggy disk drives in each Lisa. The single 5.25-inch
> high density floppy (860K bytes) with software-controlled
> automatic ejection and micro-stepping technology proved a little
> too revolutionary, and held back the Lisa schedule. After
> introduction Apple wisely abandoned Twiggy in favor of the new,
> more reliable 3.5 inch Sony micro-floppy drives with 400K bytes
> per disk. Complementing the floppy drives was a ProFile hard
> disk drive with 5M bytes capacity, originally offered for the
> Apple III. A 10M byte ProFile was later developed by Apple for
> the Lisa 2.
> Apple spent a lot of time during Lisa's development testing Lisa
> features with real users. Apple's literature on this topic shows
> that the Lisa developers were occasionally surprised by the user
> testing results, but the end product of these tests was a better
> Lisa system. Apple also gave high priority to understandable
> foreign language translations for the Lisa software, developing
> a useful technical solution to the problem of "localization"
> through Phrase files which contained all the phrases that a Lisa
> program could display to the user. With access to the Phrase
> files, a translator with minimal computer skills could translate
> the program's messages and create a national-language version,
> without having to delve into the highly technical underlying
> source code. The Lisa at power-on also supported foreign
> language diagnostic messages, which could be keyed in from the
> keyboard.
> Apple projected sales of 10,000 Lisas in the last half of 1983
> and 40,000 in 1984. In retrospect, Apple was able to sell around
> 80,000 Lisas during its 18 month life -- an average of 4,500
> units a month or 13,000 per quarter, figures very close to
> initial sales projections. (I believe Apple's sales were less
> than expected in the first months after the Lisa's introduction,
> but sales picked up near the end of the Lisa's life).
> -------------------------------------------------
> Apple confronted several significant risks with Lisa's
> introduction.
> On the technical front, the software development effort was
> immense, and could easily have delayed the introduction. The
> Twiggy disk drive proved barely workable, but the more reliable
> Sony 3.5 inch disk drives were substituted. The Lisa's printing
> technology was a risk, since Apple was basically trying to get
> dot-matrix and daisy-wheel printers to emulate a high-resolution
> laser printer. Font and printer problems were eventually
> resolved.
> On the business front, Apple had several very high hurdles to
> jump. The company was unable to invest enough time in helping
> outside developers. The seven programs of the Office System were
> basically all the programs Apple had for the Lisa's
> introduction. Product planners were on the dangerous edge of
> confusing the Lisa and Macintosh product lines. Finally, Apple's
> data communications strategy appeared primitive; Apple did
> develop a network for the Lisa, called AppleBus (later
> AppleTalk,) but Lisa networking never achieved popularity with
> users.
> After a year with the Lisa product line, Apple's management came
> to the conclusion that Apple could only support one line of
> computer with a graphical interface. Lisa lost out to the
> Macintosh. The Lisa's name was changed to Macintosh XL (quoted
> variously as standing for "Extra Large" or "X-Lisa"). In April
> 1985 the Lisa was discontinued and the Macintosh became Apple's
> top-end computer; after the discontinuation Apple supported the
> Lisa hardware with a 5-year program of spare parts and repair
> services.
> To ease the transition to the Macintosh, Apple developed a
> program called MacWorks that allowed the Lisa to run most
> contemporary Macintosh programs. MacWorks supported Apple's
> strategy: to sell its remaining inventory of Lisas to the
> Macintosh public, which desired a Macintosh more powerful than
> the original 128K and 512K models.
> The bulk of Apple's remaining Lisa inventory was sold to a Utah
> company called Sun Remarketing. (3) Sun continues to sell the
> Lisa today as a Macintosh. Apple's final Lisa collection was
> placed in a landfill by Apple several years ago; I'm not certain
> of the reason for this, but believe it may have been a result of
> a lawsuit concerning the Lisa brought by several Apple
> stockholders.
> The Lisa legacy at Apple is still somewhat alive, at least in a
> physical sense. The Apple Corporate Museum houses a few
> functioning Lisas for display purposes, but I believe they may
> be running Macintosh rather than Lisa software. [Unfortunately,
> the Apple Museum is currently closed indefinitely. -- Ed.]
> 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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