Re: Lisa's DNA

From: Ray Arachelian <ray_at_email.domain.hidden>
Date: Thu, 07 Jun 2007 09:57:29 -0400

Hi David,

Shirl wrote:
> >From my perspective it seems the key "expansions" Apple made to the Lisa UI
> was to make it simple to use by new computer users.
> Remember that Apple was trying to sell the Lisa to people who for the most
> part had never used a computer before. As such, the Lisa had to be simple to
> use.
Exactly. In the end, other industry people saw this and copied what they perceived as the best bits from the Lisa as well as from the Star. But since the Lisa extended the innovations from PARC, it was easier to grab what the Lisa had. As with most knock-offs, the copies were imperfect. So you can see the Lisa's DNA in those copies. Features such as a document centric desktop, and virtualized file names did not make it.

The purpose of this article isn't to list out all of the Lisa's history, nor every feature, but rather to serve as a counterpoint to it being included in "Biggest Flops of Computing" lists. As such, I limited the feature to list to just a few items: those that can be found in modern machines, originating from the Lisa.

> Recall also that Apple conducted lots of user tests to make certain the Lisa
> was really understood by its users. Larry Tesler, one of the Lisa designers
> and head of the Lisa application group, wrote a paper about Lisa user
> testing which provides lots of details.
Very true, and the fact the modern systems are copies of these seems to indicate that they've not undertaken the same degree of testing. It's also likely that the test pool is no longer composed of people who haven't used computers before, but rather is made up of those who are familiar with Windows or Mac OS, and therefore expect the machine to work in a certain way, which influences both the feature set and test results.

> Believe the ENTER key was needed to differentiate its function from the
> RETURN key. ENTER means "accept the item I just typed and do nothing else",
> RETURN means "accept the item I just typed and do something else".
> Spreadsheets need the ENTER key when you want to enter some data in a cell,
> accept the data, and remain in the cell. RETURN would do all this too but
> also move you to the next cell.
True. The point here wasn't the differentiating function of the Enter versus Return key, but rather its location in relation to the space bar. It serves as a physical reminder that this came from the Lisa. Now, while I only own a IIc and can't speak for other Apple II models, my IIc does not have a separate Enter key to the right of the space bar, nor does any other desktop keyboard for a Mac going all the way back to the original Mac 128. (My TAM keyboard does have it, but that's because it's really a powerbook keyboard.) So I believe the custom layout originated with the Lisa keyboard.

> Didn't the Xerox Star (circa 1981) have an office suite with at least a word
> processor, data base and spreadsheet? Not sure it had project planning.

Bravo is that word processor. If I recall correctly Charles Simonyi went to Microsoft and built their Word program based on Bravo.

The Star had a suite code named WORM - Wonderful Office Revolutionizing Machine. The Star also had things like drag and drop printing, ethernet networks, and email. More importantly, the Star and Alto had Smalltalk, which inspired languages such as C++ and Java (and of course Delphi and Classcal.) Indeed, Smalltalk's GUI class browser/editer was light years beyond the Lisa Pascal Workshop in terms of being an IDE. Someone once referred to it as "God's own development environment." :-)

But all of these are outside of the scope of the article, whose focus is that the Lisa's DNA can be found inside of modern machines. I'm sure that the article could easily be rewritten to make the same kinds of points about the Xerox Star. For example: optical mice, which didn't make it into modern PC's until nearly 2000 due to patents (presumably from Xerox), ethernet networking, laser printing, video capture (see Dealers of Lightning), one computer per user, and so on.

> Lisa's Office System was a remarkable achievement for its time. The people
> behind the design of this really did an excellent job and were really
> focused on making an application suite that worked well and solved people's
> computing tasks.
> The only negative comment I can make about the Lisa is too many later
> systems copied its WIMP (windows-icons-mouse pointer) UI which we still have
> today. It is disappointing that with today's much faster machines with
> gigantic resources that a better UI has not been developed and supported by
> the major players in computers today. Too bad ideas such as Apple's OpenDoc
> architecture were not accepted more.
Perhaps OpenDoc didn't take off because software companies have an interest in selling complete suites, rather than plugins. Perhaps there are a few folks who would pay for a suite piece meal, but most will not.

Either the public expects a suite, or the publishers feel that it is better to sell one. Too bad.

--~--~---------~--~----~------------~-------~--~----~ You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "LisaList" group. To post to this group, send email to lisalist_at_email.domain.hidden To unsubscribe from this group, send email to lisalist-unsubscribe_at_email.domain.hidden For more options, visit this group at -~----------~----~----~----~------~----~------~--~--- Received on 2007-06-07 07:11:31

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.4.0 : 2020-01-13 12:15:21 EST