Lisa History

As far back as 1978 Apple saw the need for a machine to replace the very successful Apple ][ line of computers. They felt that the Apple ][ could not be a bread winner for more than another year or two. So they started developing a new computer. They also started work on a different, more powerful computer that would use several identical microprocessor chips sharing tasks. The main advantage would be speed, and the ability to do high precision calculations.The code name for this project was Lisa, The Lisa was meant to only take a few years to develop, but because of Steve Jobs, the development continued and continued. The other design project I mentioned earlier turned out to be the Apple ///, which was a big flop.

The Apple /// flopped because it overheated and caused some of the chips to become unseated. Apple told people to pick the computer up off the desk a few inches and then drop it down! The keyboards also stopped working, and there was problems with the clock. Apple was very slow in fixing the problems with the Apple ///, the IBM PC stole most of the market for the Apple ///. Apple finally released a Apple ///+ which fixed the problems with the original model. The Apple /// has got nothing to do with the Lisa, so let me get that straight from the start. I have found that some people get confused between the two computers.

A major change occurred at Apple in 1979, Steve Jobs had been hearing about some interesting projects that had been going on at PARC. Many other apple employees where hooked on the ideas from PARC. To start off with Jobs thought that the idea was stupid. So in exchange for Apple getting a guided tour of PARC and using some of the ideas there in their office computer, Xerox would be allowed to purchase Apple stock at a bargain price. The Xerox PARC developments had been going on for almost 10 years and they had developed their GUI based system, programming languages and a networking system called Ethernet. They had basically developed the future of the personal computer but they had no driving force to bring these products to market. The Xerox management had little or no regard for what the PARC reachers had done.

Steve Jobs and company went to Xerox PARC in December, 1979, what they saw changed they want they thought about personal computers. At Xerox PARC they saw:

Within 10 minutes it was obvious to Steve Jobs that this would be the way forward for Apple. Xerox reachers had been showing the management these ideas for years and it did not click with them, but for Jobs it took less then ten minutes! He had been originally opposed to the whole idea. When Steve returned to Apple he knew that the Lisa project would have to adopt these ideas.

For a short while Steve Jobs was running the Lisa project, he added feature after feature pushing the price tag up and up. Delay after delay keep the project going and going. Jobs wanted this to be 'the' perfect computer. His determination eventually got him barred from the Lisa project at a early stage. He was no long allowed to participate.

When it come to the disk drive on the Lisa they run into problems, they could not use the 143KB drives on the Apple ][ because they didn't store enough data. So they decided to make their own disk drives. This was the only time that Apple ever made disk drives. They managed to end up with around 860KB per disk. They called the disk drive the 871 or "twiggy drive." They used the word twiggy because of their thinness. Remember the British model? The twiggy drive did not have the normal locking mechism. On the Lisa you pushed the button on the front of the Lisa and this would signal the CPU that you wanted the disk back.

In January 1983, Apple introduced the Lisa. Apple was proud of their new toy and they wanted everybody to try her out and then buy one. Everybody was excited, the felt that this was a great step forward in the personal computer. Everybody wanted one, but oh the price.... what did you say? $10,000 WHAT!!!!!! I'm not paying that for a computer, just so I can write a few letters and draw a picture or two! Apple stuck their ads in all of the Apple magazines and they were in a world of their own. They felt that the Lisa would 'blow IBM away.' When people heard the rumours that Apple was developing a baby Lisa code named 'Macintosh' they felt that they should wait and see what the Macintosh was and then buy a computer. People felt that if Apple was developing a $2,500 Lisa, they would wait. This was more in most peoples price range. Lisas were not available to most dealers until March 1983, and then they sold very slowly. The original Lisa had problems with the 'twiggy' disk drives. Apple decided when they released the Macintosh they should update the Lisa so that it could run Macintosh software and use the same floppy drive as the Mac.

In January 1984, Apple released the Macintosh 128k, with much celebrations. They also released the Lisa 2 range of computers. They did not give the Lisa 2 the same introduction as they did with the Lisa 1. Apple really wanted the Macintosh to sell well so they just stuck it on the market and said it could be used as a 'big Mac" Many Lisa 2's were sold to software developers, the original Macintosh was not powerful enough to run programming languages very well. Lisa 2's came in three models: Lisa 2 with no hard disk, Lisa 2/5 and Lisa 2/10. Owners of original Lisas could upgrade their Lisas to the new disk drives for free. This is one of the reasons why there isn't many Lisa 1's left. Lisa 2/5 featured external 5MB ProFile hard disks (same one as used on the Lisa 1!). While the Lisa 2/10's featured internal hard disks. Interesting that if you didn't have problems with your Lisa 1, you would be mad to upgrade the disk drives, Apple would replace your 2 twiggy 860KB drives with 1 400KB disk drive? Unless of course you wanted to run Mac software (who would???) With the Lisa 2 the price also came down, a Lisa 2 cost around $7,000 as opposed to $10,000 for a Lisa 1. Most people saw the Mac did what they wanted so they didn't buy a Lisa. Sales of the Lisa 2 were still pretty slow. In 1985 Apple renamed the Lisa 2, Macintosh XL to try and sell of the rest of the Lisas they had. Towards the end of Lisas production life she started to pick up in sales. Soon after Steve Jobs was kicked from Apple the Lisa was cut from the production line. Apple stated that they would support the Lisa for another 5 years. Apple sold Sun remarketing MacWorks and they continued to develop it and they released MacWorks Plus. In the late '80's Apple was under pressure from stock holders and being sued by them, so they decided to follow Atari teachings and chucked away nearly 10,000 Lisas in a secret landfill.



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Copyright 1997-1998 Desie Hay

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