back to article Apple hardware priced so high that no one wants to buy it? It's 1983 all over again

Dearly beloved, please join us in taking a moment to remember the Apple Lisa, a 36-year-old experiment in seeing just how much Apple could charge for hardware. Sounds familiar? Named for Saint Steve’s daughter, the Lisa project kicked off in 1978, finally making an appearance on 19 January 1983. It was pitched as a graphical …

  1. MacroRodent

    As a dev system?

    I seem to recall that in the very early days of the Macintosh, you needed a Lisa to develop any software for it. (This from a some computer magazine article at the time).

    1. OnlyMortal

      Re: As a dev system?

      I developed on a Mac using MPW Shell. It had an assembler, C compiler and a Pascal compiler. It was circa 1989 though.

    2. Rudolph Hucker the Third

      Re: As a dev system?

      It was breathlessly given huge reviews in Byte magazine. The future had arrived. The price was in the small print.

      1. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: As a dev system?

        I had the opportunity to play with a Lisa for an hour or so shortly after it was released. My take away -- the one I used was incredibly, unusably, slow. And that was in a time when expectations were not high. I had a similar experience a few years later with Windows 2 run from floppy disks. Those systems may have been of interest as a harbinger of things to come. But as tools to do actual work, they seemed pretty much useless.

        1. Tom 7

          Re: As a dev system?

          Even mainframes were slow at the time. They made you think about how to make them work for you, rather than sending emails to someone else to get them to do it or writing a document to pretend you'd done some! I used to use my first at work IBM pc to craft scripts to do all sorts of editing to file listings that would then be modified by another script to create massive batches of jobs to tun on the mainframe, which while slow, could run for a couple of weeks at a time doing my work for me.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: As a dev system?

        The Motorola workstations we had in that era cost considerably more, around $15000, and were also 68000 based. When I pointed out the price of the Lisa to my boss he told me to keep quiet as he didn't want the FD asking awkward questions about whether enough research had been done before equipping the lab.

        Also the Motorola workstations sucked. When one of them went TITSUP the technician who replaced the motherboard admitted that the soldering on the original was terrible with dry joints all over the place, and we didn't get charged for the replacement. Motorola hasn't been in the workstation business for quite a while now.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: As a dev system?

          "Motorola workstation....the soldering on the original was terrible with dry joints all over the place"

          Motorola H/W problems. That rings a bell.

          I had a gig which involved adding some reports to a factory control system that ran on a Motorola server and then involved going to Italy to install them on site. Reports, no problem. Installation, no problem. But then the server kept crashing and what looked like leaving bits of memory dump in files in lost+found after running fsck. The client's client didn't want to let me go until it was all working & I was rapidly running out of Lira. I eventually escaped & heard later it was a hardware memory failure that was responsible.

        2. Cavehomme_

          Re: As a dev system? No, startup biz!

          This article has reminded me that the same Motorola 68000 chip was used in the massively under-appreciated Sinclair QL! My first business as an entrepreneur was wholly run on the QL, superb machine. Thanks Clive.

          1. JMcL

            Re: As a dev system? No, startup biz!


            "This article has reminded me that the same Motorola 68000 chip was used in the massively under-appreciated Sinclair QL! "

            The QL had a hobbled 68000 with an 8 bit data bus and some other oddities AFAI recall, and its own err... Idiosyncrasies (microdrives anyone?). It was a capable machine for the time though which didn't really reach its potential given the 16 bit offerings from Atari and Commodore a year or so later

            1. Tom 7

              Re: As a dev system? No, startup biz!

              It had a 68008 and 8 bit data bus but it was only half as fast as the 68000 which, as a 32 bit chip was actually pretty damn good. You could write code without worrying about 64k boundaries and if IBM had chosen it instead of 8088 (also 8 bit data) and they'd got CP/M 68K instead of MSDOS the first 15 years of its life wouldnt have been a complete fucking pain.

          2. unpale

            Re: As a dev system? No, startup biz!

            > My first business as an entrepreneur was wholly run on the QL

            I so hope you used Psion Xchange - the Microsoft Office of the 80's - ??

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: As a dev system? No, startup biz!

            "This article has reminded me that the same Motorola 68000 chip was used in the massively under-appreciated Sinclair QL!"

            I think it was a 68008. We produced a few very cheap versions of our expensive piece of 68k based kit (which was based on Thompson VME racks), and they worked reasonably well for a tenth the cost of the original. Sinclair's mistake was the Microdrive. With discs, the QL was reasonably reliable, though it really helped to have a mains conditioner to supply clean AC to the converter.

            1. timrowledge

              Re: As a dev system? No, startup biz!

              I know for sure it was a 68008 - I remember having a loud but friendly argument with Clive about it during my RCA degree show, which was broken up by his then girlfriend tell him “you know he’s right so stop arguing “. I was using an NS32032 for my project, which turned out to be about as bad an idea at the QL.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: As a dev system? No, startup biz!

                "I was using an NS32032 for my project, which turned out to be about as bad an idea at the QL."

                The NS32032 was an amazing processor for the period, way ahead of the 68k series but as with Windows Phone and webOS, it was a bit too late to market and without enough software support.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: As a dev system?

        I remember the reviews. I ignored the price. Even an Apple ][ would have been out of my price range back then.

      4. IceC0ld

        Re: As a dev system?

        It was breathlessly given huge reviews in Byte magazine. The future had arrived. The price was in the small print.


        about the only thing that Apple will go small on :o)

        1. jerwin

          Re: As a dev system?

          February, 1983.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: As a dev system?

            From that Byte review: "Computers are worthless if nobody uses them, and the Lisa has made great strides toward eliminating that possibility." True, if you chose the correct antecedent.

            This issue (as the cover proudly proclaims) featured reviews of both the Lisa and the Apple IIe. The latter would have been a better use for your money. And a complete IIe system, except for the printer, could be had for about $8K less than the Lisa.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: As a dev system?

              I know, replying to my own post ... but, dang, that old Byte is making me nostalgic. (I think I have some old issues lying around here, among my DDJs and the like; I should dig them out.) There's an ad for "Winchester subsystems". The CompuPro System 816/C. An S-100 memory expansion kit. Discount retailers like Ironsides. The IBM Instruments Computer with its softkeys and built-in printer! (Man, I always wanted one of those to play with.)

              Joel Swank's article on adding a reset switch to the VIC-20. A friend and I used that article to add that switch to his VIC.

              Look at the add for the QDP-300 on page 221. That is just an amazing piece of design. Light-up power switch! Runs MP/M! Serviced by GE!

              Computers today are so boring. "Oh, look how thin the bezel is on our phone!" Shove it, designers.

      5. fidodogbreath

        Re: As a dev system?

        The future had arrived.

        I used a Lisa 2 back in the day to produce proposals and docs for stage lighting control systems. I could create really attractive system block diagrams in LisaDraw, pricing tables in LisaCalc, and integrate them both directly into the LisaWrite bid package (complete with matching typefaces).

        LisaDraw was object-oriented drawing before most people had any idea what that was...

        Yeah, it was pokey, and I certainly didn't spend my own money on the thing; but our proposals and post-sale documentation were light years beyond what our competitors were able to produce, and presentation matters. The Mac wasn't able to do anything nearly that nice until years later, when Excel and MacDraw came along.

        Once Macs caught up with those capabilities, the company bought a blindingly expensive upgrade to run Mac software on the old Lisa. It soldiered on as a shared / backup computer for several more years.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As a dev system?

      Until the first early beta of MPW shipped in late 1985 all commercial shrink wrap dev for Mac had to be done on a Lisa using the Lisa Workshop. Or using cross compilers. Used both. Small projects could be done in various assemblers or tiny C compilers.

      I did the port of our dev codebase from Lisa Workshop to MPW 0.9 in late '85 and once it compiled and build we were very very happy to dump the Lisas. My dev machine at the time was a prototype MacPlus and HD20 which compiled and built about 4 times faster than the Lisa. Later on in 1986 I build the first full clean 32 bit version of the codebase on a prototype Mac II. Which built about 5 times faster than the MacPlus.

      MPW 1.0 shipped with the GreenHills C compiler which produced the best 68K I ever saw from a compiler. Still using it almost a decade later when I made the shift to the very first release of CodeWarrior. Almost 20 years later still install CW for Windows on every dev machine because it can still do stuff that no other IDE can do. At least not cleanly and easily. Still runs without any problems and is very very fast.

      So I have no fond memories of the Lisa.

    4. apepper

      Re: As a dev system?

      Yes, I remember that and also that to write programs for a Mac you needed to read 17 manuals, none of which made any sense until you read the other 16.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: As a dev system?

        > Yes, I remember that and also that to write programs for a Mac you needed to read 17 manuals, none of which made any sense until you read the other 16.

        You must have been pretty late to the game. Pretty much all you needed to know was in the phonebook Inside Mac. Read in chapter order. There was some color QD , HFS, etc stuff in later IM's but 95% of the needed API's were in the original phonebook. Wonderfully written by Caroline Rose. Still the most clear and useful tech docs I have ever read. The later rewrite was a bit of a mess.

        1. packetguy

          Re: As a dev system?

          No, you only had to read ONE manual: a three ring binder containing about 500 pages impeccably organized and clearly written, among the best computer documentation of the day.

          I was one of the earliest developers, and attended the Mac programming boot camp in San Jose (I lived in Minnesota at the time), taught by Guy Kawasaki. This was an entirely new computing paradigm, coming as it did into a green-screen, character-based world. There was understandably a lot to learn.

          I wonder what this article’s author would say about the first TV developed? It was, after all, just a radio with a graphical interface. Would he retain his haughty tone and snide vocabulary? He’s a know-nothing who was in gradeschool when the Mac came out.

          1. Ian Joyner Bronze badge

            Re: As a dev system?

            Yes, the old telephone book Inside Mac.

            Maybe the worst part was the example programs were very badly written and one used these as templates for other programs.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: As a dev system?

            I was at one of those bootcamps. Not terribly useful as it was based around questions that MacDTS was getting. Which was about stuff that had little to so with writing actual shrinkwarp. Mostly people getting lost in Macsbug. Still have the Mac Development Team T Shirt. and the MC68000 programmers manual we got as swag. The mug got lost in a move in SoCal. It was well chipped by that stage.

    5. jerwin

      Re: As a dev system?

      Chris Crawford said as much

      "Programming begins

      During this time I had been designing without programming. I had a Macintosh but no development system for the Mac. In those days, the only way to develop serious Macintosh programs was on a Lisa computer. I had ordered a Lisa from Apple in May, 1984, but I did not receive the machine until August 1. So I spent the first three months of the project doing paper design. Without a development system, all I could do was read the manuals, study my references, and write proposals. As it happens, this can be a good thing...If it does not go on for too long. Too many games are hacked together at the keyboard rather than designed from the ground up. In this case, however, three months of paper design was too long because during the process I needed to test some ideas on the computer before I could proceed with other aspects of the design. It was with great relief that I took delivery of my Lisa and set to work on learning the system."

  2. jake Silver badge

    The best thing about the Lisa was ...

    ... it ran Xenix moderately well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The best thing about the Lisa was ...

      Apricots were cheaper if you wanted to run Xenix, Shirley...?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: The best thing about the Lisa was ...

        Stop calling me; surely I never said I wanted to run Xenix.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The best thing about the Lisa was ...

          In 1987 I joined Sphinx Level V in Maidenhead - the Xenix 'full width shelf needed' manual set was a big seller. I also remember that a secretary at the computer company downstairs (Altos?) had a red Renault 5 with the registration number YUP 1E.

  3. Wilco

    You think they were expensive then?

    One just sold for USD56K

    Wish I'd bought that one I saw in a junk shop in birmingham in the early 90's for £500

    1. jake Silver badge

      No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

      If you HAD bought it a quarter century ago, you would have had to move it however many times, only for it to wind up, un-used, un-loved and non-functional in your basement, attic, shed or garage, smelling vaguely of rodent droppings.

      You can imagine how I know this ...

      1. WallMeerkat

        Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

        Or a bit like the Mac Classic I bought as a curiosity, put in the loft only for the battery to leak and the capacitors to go pop.

        It's probably best now as a fancy Raspberry Pi case or something now.

        1. Rob Fisher

          Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

          You just reminded me of the RISC PC I have in my loft. Will I play with it now I've remembered it? Or just leave it there for a few more years...

          1. the hatter

            Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

            You will ask google, and if it has any form of battery cell in it, you will go get it now and at least snip out the old battery before it does any (more) damage.

          2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

            Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

            You could sell it, last time I looked Risc PC was going for silly money on ebay.

            Personally I think I'll just find an emulator to run ArcElite and a few other games

            1. Rainer

              Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

              > You could sell it, last time I looked Risc PC was going for silly money on ebay.

              Yeah. Dad gave mine to the electronic waste disposal site, when he cleaned out my basement room at my parents place.

              I had probably spent 5000 DM on it over the years, if not more if you count the (pretty high-end) Iiyma-displays, which were also disposed-of at the same time.

              It could run NetBSD/ARM and that was the first Unix I ran, after painstakingly downloading it on about 20-ish floppy disks at the university lab.

          3. PM from Hell

            Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

            or you'll finally decide to take that useless piece of junk you haven't touched for 10 years to the tip and go through with it.

            the following week something will come out of left field that would have been so much easier with the device you just threw away. It's happened to me every single time I had a clear out.

            or you'll get rid of a niche device because you can't find the interface cable / 13 volt power supply anjd thart missing part will turn up the day after you have skipped the kit.

      2. MyffyW Silver badge

        Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

        I've had this debate with my significant other and she has so far remained unmoved by the prospect that my garage full of junk will ever be worth anything.

        1. Cavehomme_

          Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

          You let your “significant other” rule your life? Utterly woeful! Equality is a minimum requirement.

          1. Martin

            Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

            "You let your “significant other” rule your life?"

            Clearly he doesn't, or the "garage full of junk" would now be empty.

      3. jelabarre59

        Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

        If you HAD bought it a quarter century ago, you would have had to move it however many times, only for it to wind up, un-used, un-loved and non-functional in your basement, attic, shed or garage, smelling vaguely of rodent droppings.

        I've managed to sell off almost all of my vintage computers, figured I was never going to actually DO anything with them other than stuff them in storage (at one time I had my Model 1 set up on a side table, not like I ever had company coming by to impress them with it). Just have a couple TI 99/4A machines left with some accessories; had someone interested recently but they never followed up (so I need to).

        The Lisa was one of those "i'd like to have one someday" machines, along with the Data General DG1, and an IBM PS/2 P70. Had the latter two eventually, in non-working states, and eventually got rid of them.

        Now what to do with the (still working) 32-bit PC laptops I have, since I've never been into vintage PC gaming (trying to set up one as a ReactOS test platform, if the ROS folks were even interested in regular validations on physical hardware).

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

          "Now what to do with the (still working) 32-bit PC laptops"

          Slackware still maintains a 32-bit version. It is as up-to-date as the 64-bit version. It is quite usable, and very stable, even in low RAM situations. Slack 14.2-stable is running as I type on this 15 year old HP Pavillion laptop. Last official update was January 14th this year. Try it, you might like it.

          1. Tom 7

            Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

            Who needs 32 bits? I got all nostalgic reading this stuff and got SIMH Altair CP/M running. Its amazing what you can do with a >1Ghz Z80 and virtual disks.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

          "IBM PS/2 P70"

          Is that the full height tower built from battleship armour plating you could use as an anchor for a super tanker? Or was that the model 80?

          1. b0hem1us

            Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

            I know I used tower which had 80 on it but IIRC there were also armoured desktops with 80 on them.

        3. c1ue

          Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

          If you were into vintage PC gaming - why not just run Dos Shell?

          1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

            Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

            Depending on the game, it's Not The Same (although some times it's better). Getting the video and audio just right can be tricky, and some games need a much faster system to emulate successfully.

            I presume you actually mean Dosbox, rather than the shell that shipped with DOS 5.

            For some old games that use Adlib sound, such as the Commander Keen games, I can't tell the difference between Dosbox and physical hardware. For other games that support Roland sound, the use of Munt is not the same as a real Roland sound module, and some graphical tricks just don't work as well under emulation.

            Then again, there are the times when Dosbox is better - when a USB joypad just magically appears as an analogue joystick. Alternatively, Copper is a well known demo from the mid nineties that performs various display tricks. It only runs on real hardware with a fixed frequency monitor (some TFTs will work, multiscan CRTs tend not to always), an ET4000AX (but not any other type of ET4000), and a fairly narrow range of processor frequency. Dosbox plays it perfectly!

            Personally I think it's worth the effort for some authentic retro gaming, but it did take a while to assemble and configure everything.

        4. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

          Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

          Use one of them for basic network diagnostics, serial console, etc. Older 32 bit OS installs too, as not all of them work well on modern machines.

          Try something oddball such as Plan 9?

          Has to be said, though, it's generally easier to spin up a VM.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Like that's a problem

        I'd happily move a hunk of junk every year for a quarter century if it would sell for that kind of price!

      5. J. R. Hartley

        Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

        I sold off my Amigas (A3000, A4000T plus a lifetimes worth of Zorro cards) a few years ago to put a deposit down on a mortgage. It is a decision I still bitterly regret. I kept the CD32, for close encounters.

        Last year I bought an A1200, and I'm working my way back up again, at great expense.

        1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

          Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

          Close encounters? I found the CD32 somewhat underwhelming. I know it's basically an A1200, but there didn't seem to be many standout games, and more than a few were poor Amiga ports that occasionally asked for a keyboard!

        2. Martin

          Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

          I sold off my Amigas (A3000, A4000T plus a lifetimes worth of Zorro cards) a few years ago to put a deposit down on a mortgage. It is a decision I still bitterly regret.

          Presumably, if you hadn't sold them, you wouldn't have been able to get the mortgage? You made what seemed a good decision at the time - and probably WAS a good decision, in the grand scheme of things. Accept it, move on. Or do what you're doing, and restart.

          "If only...." - the two worst words in the English language.

      6. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

        Ah, the tech treasures rotting away in our attics and basements...

        A few months ago I hauled some electronics off to a recycler. They included the case, including power supply and backplane, for a 1988 IBM AS/400 Model B; and a dual-Pentium box from around 1996. I'd kept them because they seemed like they could make for some fun projects. (I particularly relished the idea of putting multiple modern motherboards and drives in the AS/400 case - the size of a half-height filing cabinet - and figuring out uses for its front-panel switches and LED display. "Oh, you don't have one of those?" I'd reply when anyone asked about it. Which no one ever would, of course, but it sounded good in my head.)

        For quite a few years I had a nifty thing I'd fished out of the trash when I worked at IBM. It was a pair of AT-bus cards cabled together, one with a NatSemi 160321 CPU, a couple EPROMs, and assorted logic,2 and the other with a bunch of RAM. It had a SRITech logo, and serial number 31 was hand-written on it. I talked to a few people at SRITech and no one could find any record of it; their guess (which matched mine) was that it was a 16032-based machine which acted as a bus master in the AT and took over processing, using the 80286 to drive peripherals, and very likely running some sort of UNIX. IBM used the same approach in the Outrigger, their never-released RC-PC-on-a-card for the PS/2.

        But I either threw away or misplaced the SRITech unit, and without the appropriate software I probably never would have been able to make it do anything anyway.

        1Or possibly a 32016. Same chip; National Semiconductor just renamed it at some point to make it sound better. In any case, at the time it was a pretty cool CPU - 32-bit addressing, CISC instructions to make hand-rolling assembly easier, etc. More VAX-like than anything else.

        2I think it may have had the corresponding NS MMU as well, which would mean it supported true paging rather than simple segmentation.

        1. jelabarre59

          Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

          ...I particularly relished the idea of putting multiple modern motherboards and drives in the AS/400 case - the size of a half-height filing cabinet - and figuring out uses for its front-panel switches and LED display.

          Was planning on doing the same sort of thing myself, except it was a Wang OIS-50 (one of the main boards was dead, and I didn't have a terminal anyway). Then I decided it would probably be too much work or even impossible to mod the case. Later on I saw all the wild and outrageous case mods and installs into anything you could hollow out a mini-ATX sized hole out of, and I realized it would have been dead simple to make an ATX board fit.

          Of course, the Mac G5 case, which would *seem* to be an easy mod, is a nightmare in the making (from the videos I've seen on it).

    2. Locky


      Was it purchased by US Robotics?

      Kids today, don't know their born etc

      1. TheRealRoland

        Re: 56k?

        Ahem. '

        1. Tigra 07

          Re: 56k?

          Ahem. "They're"

      2. Shane McCarrick

        Re: 56k?

        I still have a 14k ISA modem card in a box in the attic....... Along with a remarkable collection of other antiquities. I've few of the original 386 and 486 wafers from Intel, and enough old processors to melt down for wedding bands, if gold ever gets scarce. My favourite is an Ericsson 'mobile' phone from the Lisa era- it was mobile insofar as you theoretically could move it, if you were strong enough. Damn thing still saved me once out on the North Sea while I was fishing- and not paying attention to the weather. I really need to do a clearout- I did a massive donation to a teacher training college in Kenya a few years back- time to do another, I fear.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Wish I'd bought that one I saw in a junk shop in birmingham in the early 90's for £500"

      Yeah, but £500 back in the early 90's would have bought a decent 2nd hand car. Just adding some perspective :-)

      1. rcw88

        It still will if you shop around....- We had a 68k system running UCSD p-system - multiuser, at that time in 1984 I spent an entire year trying to get finance in BL Technology to approve 5k for an x86 clone [an Apricot, don't ask why]. I moved to EDS in 1985 and bought two IBM PC's within weeks of joining, at 5k a pop. My SLT386 is still in my garage, as is a gaming console with a box full of games, not sure what it is though, must have a look.... Many of my Apple machines come off eBay - you might knock the purchase price, but Intel ones retain value long after a windows box is fit only to run Raspbian Pixel x86.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Yeah, but £500 back in the early 90's would have bought a decent 2nd hand car. Just adding some perspective :-)"

        IIRC £20000 in those days (our company car budget) just about bought something that didn't suck when it should have blown. £500 would buy you an MOT failure.

        I'm all for nostalgia, but not about the 1990s.

  4. big_D Silver badge


    And Mac users had to wait until 1987 for multi-tasking, in the form of MultiFinder. This replaced Andy Hertzfeld's Switcher, which allowed task switching (multiple tasks open, but only the one in the foreground "ran").

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Multi-tasking

      MuiltiFinder was purely desktop. Adding WaitNextEvent() to the Event Manager was System 5. But nothing stopping you running multiple applications using GetNextEvent(). If you had controlled the runtime environment. If you did not use Launch() you can have lots of applications instances running at the same time. I think I was able to run about a dozen at the same time before the 8Mhz 68000 fell over. Now Low Memory Globals was a problem if using the Toolbox Managers but as I was writing fully native compiled code for a functional language that had full access to the Toolbox it was possible to enforce many applications running but only one could do Toolbox stuff.

      Made for a fun demo. Pity I did not realize that my test code for the first beta release of Appletalk, multi machine realtime text messaging, would have been a much better demo. I think it was about 20 lines of code. Full native support of the MacOS API within CLOS and natively compiled Lisp made for very compact code. Thats the sort of stuff we were doing 30 plus years ago. And not thinking it was anything that special.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Multi-tasking

      It must have helped Apple that Commodore and Atari both couldn't market snow to Eskimos. The ST was more-or-less on a par with a Mac, the Amiga technically superior, but it took Apple two years and Jobs' firing to finally get a colour Mac out.

      1. Wilco

        Re: Multi-tasking


        Eskimos are unlikely to be in the market for any snow, what with it lying around all over the place round their gaff


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Multi-tasking

        It's much easier to sell Apples to Penguins, as soon as they start to earn enough. The bling factor works even on some anarco-penguinistas I know....

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Multi-tasking

        Neither the Amiga nor Atari held up well when you actually did technical due diligence when it came to supporting real shipping software. I did this for both platforms in 1988. For porting shipping products from MacOS. For the biggest consumer software company at the time. GEM was a godawful mess (but better than Win 2.0) and AmigaOS was a mishmash more like a game consoles hardware libraries than a PC OS.

        As for colour. The original 64K ROM Quickdraw supported colour. In 1984. There were companies in both the UK and US who modified 128K/512K Macs adding an external colour monitor. I saw them demo'ed at trade shows in London and San Francisco in 1985. And by the end of 1986 I was using a Mac II with 2 colour monitors. When we got a bunch more monitors a few months later we found it had no problems with 4 monitors on the same machine. One contiguous desktop. In theory we could have added up to 6. But as monitors started at around $1k back then so not exactly plentiful around the office so never got to 6.

        1. Cavehomme_

          Re: Multi-tasking

          Why on Earth would you be anonymous for such a benign comment???!!! Paranoid or what?

          1. MrMerrymaker

            Re: Multi-tasking

            Well, he still got down votes for that harmless comment. Perhaps not being anonymous would have made that worse!

            Cue down votes

          2. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: Multi-tasking

            Perhaps because QuickDraw supported colour, but only for the printer and limited to a few applications and The Mac II was the first colour Macintosh and it came out in 1987. They may have been some Frankenstein's monster consisting of a Mac 128K and external colour monitors set up before the release of the Mac II but if it existed it hardly had a commercial impact.

            The Mac II was late because as Jobs believed in the purity of a black and white screen as he thought it best reflected the printed page, and because he wouldn't budge on this subject Apple had to fire Jobs to get a colour Macintosh out (see From Bedrooms to Billions: The Amiga Years), two whole years after the Amiga and ST.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Multi-tasking

              > Perhaps because QuickDraw supported colour, but only for the printer and limited to a few applications and The Mac II was the first colour Macintosh and it came out in 1987.


              Thats a a bit like saying that BBC 2 was not a colour TV channel in 1969 because almost nobody had a colour telly at the time. Everyone still had a black and white one. Still mostly 405. We got our first color telly in 1973 and it was still a novelty at the time.

              Again. Wrong. There was color support from the start. Read the source code for Quickdraw. Its out there now. I also have my annotated disassembly from 1985 if you 'd like me to post listings. Although it gets gnarly after you go from Andys StdCall wrappers written in asm to Bills hand optimized Pascal compiler output. Where it does the LINK(A5) for the QDGlobals.

              What was added to System 4 was direct support for Pixmaps as well as the original single layer Bitmaps and the Color Manager. Which made both indexed color and direct color a lot simpler. But the only reason you could not see color on the 128K/512K/512KE/MacPlus was because they shipped with b/w CRT's. Stick on a color CRT, and make the right calls, and voila, color. Not the sophisticated stuff you could do with the Mac II. But still color. I first saw a color paint program demo at a trade show in summer of 1985 and one of the first commercial color paint programs for the Mac demo'ed at Macworld in January 1986. The guys on the stand that they sold to people who had bough a Mac512K modified for an external color monitor. Not a huge market at the time.

              I remember talking to the Levco guys, at a Mac tradeshow in Long Beach in '86, when both Andy Herzfield and Burrel Smith dropped by the stand. To talk about the 68k accelerator cards they sold. If you had taken a photo of that very interesting chat you would have seen a bunch of Macs + accelerator cards in the background running very nice color demos on MacPlus's with external color monitors. Using the original 128K ROMS.

              Everything got a lot easier the following year with the SE. Which had an expansion slot. But pre MacSE compact macs had a whole ecosystem of internal expansion cards, internal hard-drives, and external monitors. I got my first Radius Full Page Display on a modified MacPlus in the summer of '86. It had a smooth case so it must have been an engineering prototype. They never shipped a color external monitor for the Plus but I am fairly sure there were a few kicking around. Think I saw one at Macworld. I was on a stand so a bit of blur.

              In the end this is just historical trivia. A few years later Thomas Knoll approached Barneyscan with this program he had developed with his brother to edit color images on a Mac. They bundled it with their high scanners but soon a lot of people once they saw it wanted to buy the program separately. The guys at Barneyscan, nice guys. suggested to the Knolls that maybe they should talk to a really nice guy they knew down in Mountain View who might be able to better sell their Mac application. John Warnock. And thats how Photoshop came to be sold by Adobe. And the Mac became the default graphic design platform for the next decade.

        2. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Multi-tasking

          In 1998 Kickstart 2.0 wasn't out, which was a vast improvement on 1.3.

          I've programmed System 7 in the early 90s and don't recall the experience to be particularly user friendly, so I have my doubts over previous versions of the Mac's OS. Meanwhile the AmigaOS just clicked with me, it was just the right balance between simple and powerful and probably the last PC that could be understood competely. But again, that was post-1.3.

      4. J. R. Hartley

        Re: Multi-tasking

        I still baffles me how Commodore managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. David Pleasance's new book drops a few bombshells in that regard.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Multi-tasking

      But it was 'cooperative' multitasking, just like 16 bit Windows. Macs didn't see real, pre-emptive multitasking until OSX. Not a big issue for them, as probably most Mac users spent most of their time in a single application and needed very few background tasks.

      With the lack of true protected memory support, it was one of the main weaknesses Apple software had and where it truly lagged a lot behind Windows for years, that had pre-emptive multitasking and protected memory since NT, even though to have the full benefits it required a quite powerful hardware for the time, as Windows 95 implementation was a compromise.

      And those deeply technical details mattered only a few, and were ard to sell as marketing points. People prefer to look at the icons.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Multi-tasking

        > But it was 'cooperative' multitasking, just like 16 bit Windows.

        Wrong. MacOS had full preemptive multi tasking from System 7 onwards. From 1991. I used the Process Manager API for a shipping product in 1993. Had full VM too.

        This is the System 7.5 era docs.

        It was just that almost all applications took the easy way out and used the WaitNextEvent() model rather than creating a full multi-threaded application architecture. All the API was there to do it.

        The problem back then was retrofitting protected memory at the system level to badly behaved existing applications without breaking them. MS, as usual, was the worst offender. Easily solved, using the MMU pager, but Apple management was in total disarray at the time so nothing was ever shipped.

        As for MacOSX. All you need to known about what a total mess NextStep 5.x really is that it has five different Process/Task Manager API's. Three of which funnel down to pThreads. Even WinNT kernel, which is its own kind of mess, only has two. Well two and a half.

        MacOS 7.x is still the best desktop OS I have ever developed for. And MacOS X is easily the worst. Even worse than Win3.0. So now all cross platform desktop OS dev work is in QT. Not so much to insulate myself from Win32. But to avoid the mind numbing stupidity of MacOSX and its NS swamp. Amateur hour at its finest.

        1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

          Re: Multi-tasking

          The only Mac Classic preemptive multi-tasking was running off various interrupts. The state of the entire system was always undefined at this time. You could only touch memory and devices that you had previous allocated and locked to a fixed hardware address. You could only call a handful of interrupt-level OS APIs, and most of those could only put your request into a queue for processing later. PowerPC was especially broken at the interrupt level because compiled code used CPU registers for program state.

          All other backgrounding was cooperative. There was also a minimal cooperative Thread Manager that would do context swaps for you. You had to provide your own scheduler and communications mechanisms.

          Yes, MacOS 7 was very nice to develop for but its API defined its own expiration. I ditched MacOS development when that mess of Objective-C was declared the official API. Swift's lame GC implementation didn't win me back either.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Multi-tasking

            > The only Mac Classic preemptive multi-tasking was running off various interrupts. The state of the

            > entire system was always undefined at this time. You could only touch memory and devices that you

            >had previous allocated and locked to a fixed hardware address.


            Trying to work out what you were trying to do and when you were trying to do it. The PPC runtime world before subsumed by Carbon was a bit confusing at times but none of what you describe matches the 68K world I knew of 1984 to 1995. And I was working at the asm / bare iron level from late '84 onwards. Wrote huge amount of 68k asm, compiler prims, device drivers, INIT's, trap patches, knew Low Mem Globals ($100 to $400) inside out as well as writing end user shrinkwrap.. Even reverse engineered most of the 64K ROM in the early days. Before there were proper docs.

            I wrote a spec / proof of concept prototype for a protected memory / full application space VM third party utility in '94 and for typical consumer applications keeping tabs on the LowMems, the A5 globals, and patching a few of the OS traps covered all bases. I was working at the PMMU / 68851 instruction set level. If people were trying to run screwy applications that mucked around with undocumented stuff or buggy device drivers or INITs then I just sand boxed them as badly behaved applications. Which they were. Which is why they were so unstable. When third party applications crashed on my machine it dropped into Macsbug and a quick IL and SC soon discovered the culprit. Always the application code, never the OS. But in the wider world it was the OS that always got the blame when badly written applications crashed.

            But if you followed the rules and knew what you were doing then things very rarely went belly up. Very very different from the Win16/32 world at the time. Where the first thing you had to do was QA the API call to see if it matched the docs. Quite often it did not with very interesting edge conditions. It was only when I read the Win16/32 source code years later that it became all too obvious why its API's were such a pain to use.

          2. ThomH

            Re: Multi-tasking

            Swift doesn't implement garbage collection any more than C++ does, so that may be your issue.

            For automatic handling of heap objects, it uses close logical equivalents of std::shared_ptr and std::weak_ptr, but elevated to being the default semantics and therefore obviating the syntactic burden. Classic Apple stuff: the way they want you to do it is easy, the other ways are absent.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: a matter of interest..

          ..have any of you down voters actually shipped any commercial cross-platform and / or MacOSX shrikwrap?

          In my case shipped first commercial MacOS product in 1985. Shipped last commercial product on platform a few years ago. Only 600k plus activations, all platforms, worldwide in first three months. As for NextStep, tried to bum a ticket for the launch in '89, I was user number three of Interface Builder so I knew people. Did platform product viability projects for NS 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. None made the cut. Only 60K units ever sold. No market. Quite separate from the technical problems. Like the Mach kernel calls never working properly. So they are now mapped to pthread wrappers. Or every dot release breaking the SCSI driver. And I know the real story of the Darwin fiasco.

          So to someone trying to get product out the door, and has been doing it for decades, MacOS X is just a swamp. With every .n release breaking something important. Just like in the NS days. MacOS 8.x and before was fairly benign. Stuff worked. So its QT all the way for the very very occasional MacOSX project that come up nowadays. Always cross platform. The unit market share is about what it was 25 years ago. And the software market share is far less than half of what it was back then

          Oh well. The first 10 years or so were fun. While it lasted.

          1. J. R. Hartley

            Re: a matter of interest..

            The first rule of downvotes...

          2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

            Re: a matter of interest..

            'worked'. It might have done from a programming perspective, but it's an awful OS. Coming to Mac OS late (as at the time it was out it was ridiculously expensive, and almost no-one at any of the many customers we had used one), and comparing it to OS/2 (which I was using at that time period) it's a horrid mishmash of components which work extremely well (multimedia and colour support), and those that don't (multitasking, on any version of Mac OS - 7.6, 8.6, or 9.2. Also fecking resource forks and Mac compression standards are such a pain).

            I'll grant that from what I can see OS X is hardly perfect either, but at least they stuck a fairly solid kernel underneath it (although, again, under any PPC version of OS X the spinning colour beachball appears more than you'd expect).

            (To be fair, viewed from a modern perspective, OS/2 is also incredibly creaky. The latest versions only bring up to being mildly irritating)

          3. ThomH

            Re: a matter of interest..

            It could be a result of those voting actually having read the documentation? Here's a quote directly from the Process Manager documentation that you linked to, to substantiate your claim that "MacOS had full preemptive multi tasking from System 7 onwards":

            This chapter describes the Process Manager, the part of the Macintosh Operating System that provides a cooperative multitasking environment.

            As mentioned by several others, the classic OS wouldn't go anywhere near pre-emptive multitasking until 8.6 in 1999 via the Multiprocessing Services. To quote the engineer that actually wrote the thing:

            I rewrote the nanokernel in OS 8.6, adding multitasking, multiple address space support, fully protected memory, multiprocessing support, a high performance scheduler, enhanced power management. ... The upper layers didn't exploit much of that support in 8.6,

            So people are probably reacting negatively to your post because it's counter-factual.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: a matter of interest..

              > It could be a result of those voting actually having read the documentation?

              Nah. Its the result of none of them actually doing professional Mac programming at the time. Not actually knowing how it worked. At the bare iron level. Writing a 30K lines program in MacAPP, TCL or later PowerPlant does not qualify.

              The documentation mentions cooperative MT in the *implied* context of WaitNextEvent() being used by the application main event loop. Which I mentioned earlier. I also mentioned exactly how to run multiple *preemptive* MT applications using the published API's at the time. How do you think background events were dispatched to background applications when another application was foreground? Deep in the bowel, below the Toolbox event Manager, below the OS Event Manager, was a process table. With a tick tick tick through it. Almost all of the time. If you knew what you were doing you could write a device driver which grabbed 100% of CPU, forever. But you can do that on any microprocessor OS, once you are in Ring 0 or equivalent. Or in the case of NT4.0 and after, a video driver.

              Now a badly behaved application could block on WainNextEvent() preventing the high level event manager dispatching events to other background applications. But the way to get around that possibility was to write you own device driver which guaranteed a badly behaved foreground application blocking the high level Event Manager would not block you. If you were foreground then none of this mattered. The only reason to call WaitNextEvent() if you were doing this yourself, the stuff I described, was to be a good neighbor to any other application that might be running in the back ground. If you really wanted to enforce discipline on all other running applications you just patched out WaitNextEvent() and added some extra management. Thats what SetTrapAddress() was for, If you knew what you were doing. Always head patch, not tail patch.

              The 8.6 guys name you linked to is vaguely familiar, but from much later,. Not one of the big names from back then. The names that turned up in the docs or the tech notes or the header files / source files. Or who we talked to in person. He did not write any of the stuff I am talking about. I dont know if he was even in Apple in the period 1983 to 1990 when that stuff was written.

              Again, hands up from all the down voters those who actually shipped commercial MacOS shrikwrap back then, stuff that patched out traps, dynamically patch running applications, loaded custom device drivers, worked at the asm level on a regular basis. You know, when it dropped into Macsbug somewhere in the $400000's and a quick IL and S and you knew which trap you were in.

              In the end none of this really matter. All ancient history. I learned a lot of very good technology and design practices. Shipped some applications that sold well or very well. Led some very good people in some very interesting dev teams. And enjoyed pretty much all of it. Which was the important bit.

        3. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Multi-tasking

          You can claim System 7 is many things but preemptive multitasking is not one of them, that was introduced in 8.6.

          Memory management was pretty terrible in 7 too, the user had to get info and reserve a fixed block of memory that other apps couldn't use and the app itself couldn't go over.

          1. The Sprocket

            Re: Multi-tasking

            Oh brother, does that ever bring back fond memories. Challenging days at times, but still fond. I miss the whole System 7x - 8x 'thing'. Time to crack out my PowerBook 3400 w/8.1 for a flit around, and maybe a game or two. Where did I put that NeXT mouse?

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Multi-tasking

          All the CVs that come in which have QT instead of Qt go directly to the round filing cabinet.

      2. punk4evr

        Re: Multi-tasking

        I used Desq View on my 386 and 486 for multitasking! Only bad part was the loss of some ram space. Had only at max like 590k ram available. too little for some apps, but ran RBBS just fine!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I used to own an Apple III and ended up swapping it for a Camputers Lynx, this was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Ooh, the Lynx, I drooled over that PC. I really wanted one, but I'd just upgraded to a Memotech at the time - that was also a stonking machine, for its time; it even had solid state drives (250KB SSD, if I remember correctly), as well as 3.5" and 5.25" floppy drives and a traditional hard drive unit.

      Although I never managed to get the disk expansions, being a lowly student. I had to make do with a tape deck.

  6. trashsilo

    PUB Underflated Inflation ALERT

    Fantastic article. That $25,000 in today’s money is according to US gov figures of course.

    Does it pass the 'PUB Test'(Asking average pub punter his thoughts).

    Q ) Is $9,995 in 1984 dollars more likely :

    -> $24,156.06 in today’s money as per US Gov.Consumer Price Index CPI figures)


    -> $137,047.93 in today’s money as per the [well respected]Shadowstats US price

    inflation figures.


    Really enjoyed reading that article and surprisingly I am no a fanbois.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "well respected" by whom?

      The idea that prices have gone up 13.7x in the past 35 years doesn't pass the smell test, since I was alive 35 years ago and was old enough that I had begun paying for some things with my own money and knew the prices of other things my parents were buying.

      Other than health care pretty much nothing has gone up anything like that. Not even college tuition, which I began paying that fall...

      Shadowstats is fake news for financial wonks.

    2. ThomH

      Re: PUB Underflated Inflation ALERT

      In 1983 a loaf of bread cost about $0.65. Nowadays it costs around $2.40. A stamp cost $0.20, it's now $0.55. A gallon of milk has risen from around $1.90 to $3.80.

      Let's be absolutely clear about this: ShadowStats alleges large-scale international governmental data manipulation. It's basically climate change denial for economists.

      Due to its frequent citing by Fox News et al for a period, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has taken the time to lay out its methodology at length, and debunk many of the specific allegations made by ShadowStats, such as that they substituted hamburgers for steaks in the inflation basket (spoiler: they didn't).

      So it's up to you: have all the governments joined in a massive conspiracy so that inflation since 1983 has been around 1370% but, ummm, bread, milk and stamps have somehow only gone up by an average of around 250%, or is the US government, along with those other governments that track the US economy, right to say that inflation has been about 250%?

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: PUB Underflated Inflation ALERT

        Yes, I'd be interested to know what now costs 13x what it cost in 1983.

        Let's see... a Honda Civic cost $6900 in 1983; today one goes for $21500, or a bit more than 3x. And fond though I am of the third-gen Civic, today's car is much safer and more capable.

        US median housing prices peaked (before the crash) at around 4x their 1983 value, according to Shiller's data. And today's houses are, on average, significantly larger than they were in 1983.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: PUB Underflated Inflation ALERT

        Fox News only cites ShadowStats when a democrat is in charge. They quit doing it once Trump took over. Suddenly the inflation rate that was double digits was down to 4% - no wonder the brainless twits who get all their news from Fox think Trump has totally transformed the economy!

        If we get a recession in 2020 which more and more people are predicting we will due to the signs they are seeing, no doubt Fox will find a web site with 'alternative facts' so they can tell viewers that the official government numbers showing a recession are fake news from deep state / career democrats and in reality the economy is stronger than ever!

  7. Jim 59

    1 MB of RAM ?

    A little more research could make this an interesting story. Check the bill of materials. My first Google hit for "price of 1 mb of ram in 1983" leads to a site listing the price of 1MB in January 1983 as $ 2,296. And at the start of the quoted Lisa development period (1978) said item was priced at $24,000 (July 78).

    Then you have the 2 x twiggy drives, Motorola 68000 and other chips. No doubt Apple could get good deals from suppliers, but even so, components were eye wateringly expensive in that era.

    1. timrowledge

      Re: 1 MB of RAM ?

      Look at the August 81 Byte - yes, the Smalltalk edition, relevant here since that is what a lot of the Lisa/Mac ui was replicating - and boggle at the adverts for a 64kb ram card for a mere $695.

  8. Mage Silver badge

    Limped after Apple II

    Visicalc and in the UK, the Schools funding in late 1970s made the Apple II a success. I bought one and by the time I'd upgraded to 80 column screen, better disk drives, a 5 Mbyte HDD and a Z80 card an S100 box would have been cheaper. I believed the computer sales people in those days.

    Actually Apple nearly went bust. The Pippin failed. The Newton was an almost nice PDA, but the handwriting over hyped.

    The original iMac (late 1998) was a massively cost reduced all-in-one so sold well to people that "HAD" to have a Mac. Mac found a niche in DTP which the PC was slow to get back. Also cunningly promoted in USA schools. However by 1998 there was no actual need to buy a mac for DTP. NT4 was excellent and 2 years old. Win98 was good for cheaper HW, games & consumer USB. Professional scanners & external HDD etc tended to use SCSI then which unlike USB was supported on NT 4.0

    "Aug 6, 2009 - 1997: Microsoft rescues one-time and future nemesis Apple with a $150 million investment that breathes new life into a struggling Silicon Alley icon. In a remarkable feat of negotiating legerdemain, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs got needed cash..."

    The iPod itself wouldn't have saved Apple. It was the iTunes with the record companys' deals to sell tracks rather than full albums that resulted in iPod saving Apple.

    "The first version was released on October 23, 2001, about ​8 1⁄2 months after the Macintosh version of iTunes was released"

    It was quite difficult to install on Win98 originally. Win98 was the dominant Windows till after XP was out for a while. It was quite late to market compared to other MP3 players.

    Then the iPhone came out late 2007. It was very limited but had two advantages compared to smartphones in the previous 8 years:

    1) Simple consumer orientated capacitive touch. Not new, maybe 20 year old tech, but PDAs & smartphones had been data INPUT devices mostly for business use, dominated by Windows CE in USA and S60 elsewhere (symbian was not the GUI). Hence resistive + stylus as capacitive is very low resolution.

    2) The Data plans and subsidised by an operator. For the first time the ordinary consumer could afford mobile data. Up till then only business people that really needed it could afford Mobile data, either charged per second (14K & 28k dialup) or per megabyte (data mode GSM & 3G up to 250K bps approx HSPA later). The iPhone had no copy & paste and GSM EDGE only in Europe. It used a Samsung CPU and bought in GUI on a cut down version of Mac OS (which had been BSD / Next Step derived from about 2002).

    So since the Apple II the only true successes for Apple are the iPod, iPhone and iPad. The Apple Watch piggy backing on the Apple gadget bandwagon.

    The Apple server is gone a while ago.


    So does Apple still do Macs simply so in Infinite Loop HQ they have Apple logos instead of Dell or Lenovo?

    Apple laptops are certainly overpriced, as is iPad, iPhone and Watch. Don't compare with top of the range models from other makes produced to compete with Apple.



    Xerox wanted a pen. I know from someone that worked there. They essentially turned a track ball upside down for the WIMP GUI. Which Bill Gates also saw.

    "Logitech was co-founded in Apples, Vaud, Switzerland, in 1981 by two Stanford alumni, Daniel Borel and Pierluigi Zappacosta, and a former Olivetti engineer, Giacomo Marini."

    Logitech, I think, was founded partly to distribute the Modula-2 compiler and develop a mouse.

    Wirth also saw the Xerox GUI and developed Lilith at ETH Zurich. With a GUI and Mouse, all done in Modula-2

    It predates Mac.

    "The project started in 1977 and by 1984 several hundred workstations were in use. It had a high resolution full page display, a mouse, a laser printer interface, and a network interface. Its software was written completely in Modula-2 and included a relational database program called Lidas. "

    1. WallMeerkat

      Re: Limped after Apple II

      I remember mid 90s computer shopper magazine, it looked like Apple was going the way of Acorn computers, Atari etc. quite often the Apple column had little to do with Apple.

      The original iMac harked back to the all in one, and product placement of Apple products in movies and TV series, together with the industrial design made Apple trendy again.

      iPod gave (relatively by turn of the century MP3 player standards) large capacity and an easy to use interface, though it needed iTunes which was originally a Mac application.

      iPhone redefined the mobile phone. It wasn't the first smartphone - by the mid 2000s every road warrior and exec had a blackberry. It wasn't the first touchscreen - there were various cludgy CE devices in the early 2000s, but it brought everything together, easy to use, and used Apple's walled garden for that 'drink a pint' app that everyone seemed to have.

      The only other brand I can think of with such a turnaround is Audi. In the 80s they were quirky aero styled saloons that lecturers might drive, and rally bred coupes. A leftfield choice being left behind by BMW and Mercedes. The B5 A4 took the fight to the 3 series, and the TT gave them a fashionable trendy model. They never looked back.

      1. andy gibson

        Re: Limped after Apple II

        "It was sponsored by that guy from Apple Computers"

        "What Computers?"

      2. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Limped after Apple II

        Maybe there's an important lesson in there somewhere as Audi are the automotive clone of Apple anyway.

        Apple make an x86 PC and charge a fortune to stick a fruit logo on it.

        Audi make a Volkswagen and charge a fortune to stick four rings on it.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Limped after Apple II

          Also, Volkswagen is an expensive Škoda.

          1. Admiral Grace Hopper

            Re: Limped after Apple II

            As a Škoda driver, I tend to refer to as a Volkswagen built down to a price.

            1. Mr Benny

              Re: Limped after Apple II

              Built to a price and hit with the ugly stick a few times for good measure.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Limped after Apple II

            "Also, Volkswagen is an expensive Škoda."

            Considering what Škodas were like before VAG bought them, they aren't all that bad for the price.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: Limped after Apple II

              Considering what Škodas were like before VAG bought them, they aren't all that bad for the price.

              Volkswagen Group can't be VAG because that TLA belongs to the organisation that runs public transport in Nuremberg. And I don't think they bought Škoda.

              Peter Griffin also uses the word "vag" as an abbreviation.

          3. TonyJ

            Re: Limped after Apple II

            To be fair, these days, a Škoda is an expensive Škoda!

      3. Jim 59

        Re: Limped after Apple II

        "...Audi. In the 80s they were quirky aero styled saloons that lecturers might drive, and rally bred coupes. A leftfield choice being left behind by BMW and Mercedes. The B5 A4 took the fight to the 3 series, and the TT gave them a fashionable trendy model. They never looked back."

        Not entirely true. The Audi 100 5-cylinder was lovely, and deservedly successful in the early 80s. At the time, the luxury saloon market was highly competative, with BMW, Audi and Mercedes facing stiff competition from the likes of Citroen, Peugeot, Lancia, Volvo. Not to mention Ford and Vauxhall. But by the late 90s, all but the Germans had virtually pulled out of that sector.

        1. cdegroot

          Re: Limped after Apple II

          Oh, that old Audi 100. My dad had one, just when I got my driver's license. A car from the future: affordable (compared to BMW and Mercedes), super quiet, very fuel efficient, very nice handling and, IIRC, couldn't rust because one of the first zinc-treated cars. And back then the styling was from the future as well... Lovely piece of work.

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Limped after Apple II

        "The only other brand I can think of with such a turnaround is Audi."

        What about BMW? Remember the Isetta.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ' by 1998 there was no actual need to buy a mac for DTP. NT4 was excellent'

      No true. The reason is Windows lacked color management until Windows 2000 (and even then it was an initial version not yet fully smoothed). NT4 was excellent for many tasks, but not graphical ones. It did have also a far older version of DirectX compared to 95. It required different graphics drivers than its less powerful cousin, and their quality varied.

      Fonts display, management and availability, native PostScript support and other features gave an edge to the Mac, and Windows took years to close the gap for professional users. And the whole sector soon was running on Macs. Microsoft was interested in the generic office space, not so much about specialized sectors.

      1. myhandler

        Re: ' by 1998 there was no actual need to buy a mac for DTP. NT4 was excellent'

        In 1988/89 the Mac revolutionised the professional print and design industry.

        IIx, II fx, IIcx, I remember them well - even the dinky little Classics and SE30s could do useful work for some.

        Overnight commercial typesetting companies went bust.

        Advertising and general publishing then got on board and by about 1994 the reprographics industry was also chewed up and spat out.

        Windows was not a viable replacement till 2000, if that, and even then every design professional would laugh contemptuously.

        Lisa led the way.

        Disclaimer : I've not used a Mac for nearly 20 years.

        1. DJV Silver badge

          "Overnight commercial typesetting companies went bust."

          Not surprised if the silly sods only opened at night!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          'and even then every design professional would laugh'

          At one point anyway it became an 'exclusivity' thing for many, and in the 'arts' sector many are easy prey of the 'bling' factor, especially the beginners and the wannabes. Those 'laughing' are usually these.

          Accomplished professional will use whatever give them the results they look for, although evidently confidence in tools used for years matter. While those writing books can't address only 10% of the PC market, so avoid to laugh, at least in public. Anyway, once you launched Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign, today the underlying OS matters little, and become mostly a matter of what you used to.

          It is true that the whole workflow pipeline was mostly built around Mac hardware and software, but today if your PDF/PSD/TIFF/etc. come from macOS or Windows matters very little, as Adobe ensures full compatibility. Moreover nowadays very few deliver images on physical supports that could be incompatible, a big issue years ago. All the services I know let you FTP your data (old choice, but it does work) and even on portable disks some version of FAT became the defacto standard.

          There are still high-end software only available for Mac, i.e. some specific print processors, which still give Mac a little edge, though.

          Apple can still rely on its status to sell its MacPro line without much innovation and few choices of hardware, i.e. GPUs. How long Apple can rest on laurels is yet too see.

          But Windows too in the past few years looks to have returned to its older habits, a lot of emphasis on the generic user, far less on specialized ones.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: 'and even then every design professional would laugh'

            The colour management and fonts were a very big deal in that space. Windows really couldn't do that until about 10-15 years ago.

            But now, macOS Mojave can't even render fonts properly, as they removed subpixel rendering. Perhaps that's not completely necessary on a Hi-DPI screen, but most Macs don't have "Retina" displays.

            It's time Apple just admitted that they don't want to make laptops and desktops anymore, and concentrate on the phones and tablets that are their core business.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ' by 1998 there was no actual need to buy a mac for DTP. NT4 was excellent'

          I think the state of applications also has something to do with the Mac's troubles at that time: Quark Xpress was the dominant DTP program at the time, and around 1996 Quark dropped an absolute turkey. A lot of people in my space gave up on Quark at that time, and --since they were shopping anyway-- ended up on NT with Adobe. Which had its own problems at the time, but at least you could see a path forward. Never went back.

        4. The Sprocket

          Re: ' by 1998 there was no actual need to buy a mac for DTP. NT4 was excellent'

          I remember all that well. During that time I was an Art Director in a mid-sized ad agency here, and had just gotten laid off (merger). This digital revolution hit during my 'time off'. Now headhunters were demanding 'Mac skills'. Typesetters were closing down, photo retouch shops were closing, and now Art Directors were expected to know 3 major pieces of software, be creative genius', be ultra-precise Studio Artists, fully trained photo retouchers, and completely versed in Typesetting — all for about a THIRD less than what I was making previously (which was rather modest). What a wonderful way (sarc) to be introduced to the Mac world.

          No matter — I got my reward later, as I started my own Design shop. And I'm still really grateful we've moved past shutting down to just add a SCSI component like a Syquest drive. LOL!

        5. Hans 1

          Re: ' by 1998 there was no actual need to buy a mac for DTP. NT4 was excellent'

          Windows was not a viable replacement till 2000

          Windows has never been and never will be a replacement for graphical design, computer music, or type setting... as for Office software, it is NOT GDPR compliant, and as such, unfit for the office and any other use.

      2. ThomH

        Re: ' by 1998 there was no actual need to buy a mac for DTP. NT4 was excellent'

        I believe Quark, then commanding 95% of the market, essentially bet the house on the statement that "there is now no actual need to buy a Mac for DTP" (see here).

        Today they've got a market share that can be reasonably approximated as 0%. So that went well.

        1. Hans 1
          Paris Hilton

          Re: ' by 1998 there was no actual need to buy a mac for DTP. NT4 was excellent'

          They released the first Mac OS X version a year later and beat Adobe in the run for Mac OS X/Intel. Then again, that was a poor decision.

      3. jon honeyball

        Re: ' by 1998 there was no actual need to buy a mac for DTP. NT4 was excellent'

        To be pedantic, adding the OpenStep/NeXTSTep runtime to NT4 improved it no end! :-)

    3. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      Original iMac was a huge success at the time

      Interesting, but I think you're dismissing the original 1998 iMac way too easily. Aside from what others have said here, and whatever one thinks of it, it was *hugely* successful at the time. (Remember everyone wanting to copy its translucent turquoise appearance around the turn of the millennium?)

      More importantly, it was the machine that launched Apple's comeback upon Steve Jobs return- after years in the doldrums when it looked like they might even disappear- and paved the way for the iPod and then iPhone.

      The '98 iMac may later have been overshadowed by the even greater success and influence of those two (and by Apple's shift in focus away from computers), but even an 800lb gorilla is going to look small next to King Kong!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Original iMac was a huge success at the time

        "(Remember everyone wanting to copy its translucent turquoise appearance around the turn of the millennium?)"

        One of the companies we did warranty work for tears ago sold those horrible all-in-one PCs made by Brother to sort of look like a poor mans iMac. No translucent panels, which was just as well because inside was what you might find if a dog ate a PC, and then vomited the result into the back of a CRT screen.

        1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

          Re: Original iMac was a huge success at the time

          I vaguely remember one design that featured a horribly mismatched combination of *both* translucent panels and the then-standard PC beige(!)

          (From memory, I think it was an iMac clone, but it might have been a tower. The crapness of the combination- the epitome of obvious but clueless attempts to rip off Apple's design- was more memorable than the computer itself).

    4. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: Limped after Apple II

      Microsoft ‘s investment came mostly from the fact that Apple had them by the balls because lots of Apple’s QuickTime code had ended up in Windows.

    5. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Limped after Apple II

      > NT4 was excellent and 2 years old. Win98 was good for cheaper HW, games & consumer USB. Professional scanners & external HDD etc tended to use SCSI then which unlike USB was supported on NT 4.0

      NT 4 was excellent; stable and fast on £1,000 worth of 1998 PC. The same money spent on an iMac would get a machine too fond of displaying a beach ball if you had too many Photoshop layers. The repro graphics department were on Macs though, and they told me only Macs could preserve colour accuracy throughout the work flow. I dunno. However it may have been a moot point in 1998 because by then Macs were being adopted by the digital video crowd - FireWire was fitted as standard. FireWire was created for storage and high resolution scanners, but later was ideal for audio and video. And for, as it happens, a certain pocket sized MP3 player (MK. I)

      By the mid 2000s Windows had better control of colour spaces, but it wasn't great at high Res monitors. Then Windows got better at high Res displays but Adobe hadn't updated its UI elements with the result that menus would be too small to read. By the time Adobe had sorted that out, no Windows laptops were available with anything other than 16:9 letterbox displays. Grr.

      Now it's much of a muchness between a Mac and Windows PC for graphic work, unless the individual designer (who perhaps grew up using Wacom) has incorporated an iPad Pro into their workflow. Product designers are still likely to use Windows because not all common parametric CAD software is available on MacOS.

  9. davcefai

    The Lisa had a wonderful bug. It was said that you could drop the computer icon into the wastebasket, requiring a hard reset.

    I tried this during an exhibition but found my wrist firmly clamped by the demonstrator who said something like "Oh no you don't......sir."

    1. BebopWeBop

      "Oh no you don't......sir." (you bastard)

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        I still feel guilty about all the FORMAT C: commands that I did in dixons in the early PC days.

        1. Mandoscottie

          i wouldn't, DSG deserve it :P

        2. N2

          Or deltree


      2. davcefai

        As a potential customer - the software package they were selling on it was pretty good - the last 2 words were probably thought but never uttered.

        Funny how suppliers don't like to risk offending customers!

        1. m0rt

          "Funny how suppliers don't like to risk offending customers!"

          Unless the supplier is Lenovo....

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Unless the supplier is Lenovo just about antbody these days

    2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      OS/2 2.0 did not learn from this. In its initial release the shredder (it never had a waste basket) could delete any WPS object, including the ones you really shouldn't be deleting

  10. Tim Jenkins

    Season 23 Episode 11

  11. Francis Vaughan

    Just plain embarrassing

    How old are you? Clearly not old enough to understand what was actually going on when the Lisa came out.

    The article trots out silliness like fanbois and built in obsolescence with little no reason, and clearly no idea.

    Some research might have helped. Maybe find out how much stuff cost back then, and what the competitor machines were. And no, the IBM PC was not the competition. There were many many other companies, and a lot of machines about.

    Try systems like the Zerox Star, ICL Perq, the LMI and Symbolics lisp machines. You might also look at the embyonic days of Sun, and just what a Sun-1 was.

    An article about the Lisa that just tries to make a case that this was Apple trying to rip of the faithful is something that could only be written by some one who was not even alive at the time. It so wildly misses the mark that it is embarrassing.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: Just plain embarrassing

      "Try systems like the Zerox Star, ICL Perq, the LMI and Symbolics lisp machines. You might also look at the embyonic days of Sun, and just what a Sun-1 was."

      I've seen a live demonstration of Lisa vs Xerox Star during CeBit. The Xerox Start cost about five times as much as the Lisa. And the Lisa ran circles around it. It was expensive. And what it did hadn't been seen anywhere for that price.

    2. Chris Miller

      Re: Just plain embarrassing

      Here's an old price list from a couple of years later, when the IBM compatible marketplace was well-established and the AT (80286 rather than 8088-based) was the new kid on the block. For those not familiar: Tandon was a second-tier plug-compatible manufacturer, so its prices were significantly lower than IBM or Compaq (and can be converted into $ at the then traditional exchange rate for computer kit of $1=£1).

      For many years (almost up to the millennium), my simple rule of thumb for business PCs was: you can buy a basic system for £1k, a usable system for £2k and a high-end beast for £3k. The hardware that actually matched those descriptions changed every year or two, of course.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just plain embarrassing

        "[...] you can buy a basic system for £1k, a usable system for £2k and a high-end beast for £3k."

        It was also a time of high inflation. My Apple II in 1978 cost nearly £2k for B&W video and a single floppy disk. My Elonex IBM compatible with 20MB disk in the mid-1980s cost £2k. A top end Dell laptop in 2003 cost £2.5k.

        Of those - the earlier ones were a much larger slice of my income.

      2. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Just plain embarrassing

        The first sub-$1000 computer came out not that long before 2000. It was a Compaq that had a Cyrix MediaGX processor, so around 1997, and was very under-powered compared to the other computers on the market.

    3. Steve Button Silver badge

      Re: Just plain embarrassing

      Before you put a subject like "Just plain embarrassing" you might want to work on your spelling (It's Xerox, not Zerox) and your grammar (Apple trying to rip of the faithful)

      The last one is being picky, but with the history of PARC and all, spelling Xerox wrong should be, erm, embarrassing.

      1. Francis Vaughan

        Re: Just plain embarrassing

        (It's Xerox, not Zerox)

        Sod it. I do know that. It's late down here in Oz. Mea culpa.

        1. steelpillow Silver badge

          Re: Just plain embarrassing

          You mean late down here in Ox?

    4. Elsmarc

      Re: Just plain embarrassing

      I had to comment because in all of this, what I don't see mentioned is the total cost/savings. I didn't use a Lisa, but in 1987, working in DoD industry, my boss convinced his boss to buy us each a Mac and an apple laser printer. We wrote things, mostly, like test plans and related documents. After that our workload was reduced at least 75% not to mention the workload we reduced for the document control department. What we went through to write a test plan, including all the drawings, was onerous to say the least - Until we got the Macs. In addition, by 1987 MickeySoft has introduced Excel for Mac (well before it was available for PCs), which was one heck of a nice time saver. There was even a finite element analysis program for the Mac. You simply can not cite an equipment cost. You have to take into account total cost and savings. My "office" circa 1987:

    5. herman Silver badge

      Re: Just plain embarrassing

      Silicon Graphics had pretty good and popular high end work stations as well. These were the Lisa and Mac competitors.

      1. Ian Joyner Bronze badge

        Re: Just plain embarrassing

        Yes, excellent machines. However they (and Sun) were quite expensive at the time, although I can't find exact figures for 1983. It shows really Register's article here is just a beat up.

        Then the Mac came out at around $1,000 showing Apple was very price conscious, prepared to make a machine within the confines of technology of the time. This of course resulted in compromises, but showed the way forward for the rest of the industry.

        We would not have easy and useful computing as we now know it were it not for Apple.

    6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Just plain embarrassing

      "Try systems like the Zerox Star"

      Coincidentally a link to this arrived in my news feed today:

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Having needed an SGI Octane Irix device, mid 90s - I think SGI trumped Apple on the whole price gouging thing.

    1. Mr Benny

      Re: SGI

      The difference however was that SGI delivered the goods. Nothing beat them on graphics performance back in that era.

    2. Phil Endecott

      Re: SGI

      I’d be interested to know how much a Sun 3/50 or similar cost when it came out in about 1985.

      Like the Lisa it also had a 68000, though faster clock speed and more RAM.

      The Lisa seemed to fall between these “scientific workstations” and cheaper “home” or “office computers”, pricewise.

      1. Tridac

        Re: SGI

        No, 68020 on all Sun 3's bar the 3/80, which was 68030. Had memory management capability, though sun used their own gate array device. Restore old Sun machines for fun and from memory, a Sun 3/60 was around $20K. Engineers hat on, insides of Mac were always cheapskate consumer quality, whereas Sun of that time were fully modular, VME bus with loads of peripheral options. More in the Dec Microvax mini class, but much, much faster. SunOs (bdsd derived unix) was a far better os than any pc or mac offering, but was aimed at a different market; technical workstation, industry, academia etc. Of course, SGI were the graphics leaders for years and a even a low end Indy Webforce, IRIX 6.5 box is till pretty impressive for a desktop workstation even if the sw is dated. I ran an Apple II in the early 80's, 6502 hardware and software dev for embedded work. Videx 80 col card, keyboard enhancer, wirewapped printer card, forget what else. Also developed a 128K memory board using the then new 64kx1 devices. Hacked 3.3 dos to turn it into a 128k ssd. Great machine for it's time...

      2. hmv

        Re: SGI

        Not a Sun, and not a 68000, but I constructed a franken SGI PowerSeries out of spare parts that had fallen out the back of a drugs company in the mid-1990s. Two MIPS 4000 processors, 128Mbytes of memory and a VGXT framebuffer.

        I worked out the rough list price - a roughly equivalent system would have cost $30,000 without the framebuffer; that would have cost around $300,000.

    3. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Re: SGI

      SGI was expensive, and Irix isn't the most secure or standard Unix in existence, but it was very well integrated and easy to use. It also multitasks properly, unlike the Mac hardware at the time.

      I have an SGI O2 at home, lovely thing, apart from being grindingly slow by modern standards (yes, it was also slow by SGI standards).

  13. Mystic Megabyte

    A reminder of how crap Apple products are

    Back in the day when I had a 386DX and ran Photoshop with no problems my neighbour got a "special deal" on an iMac G3. The fecking thing could not even rotate a jpeg! To get her holiday snaps into it I had to burn a CD with under 100 files per folder and rename all the files into a 8.3 all caps format.

    Who the fuck buys this shit?!!

    P.S. It's Linux and Gimp that does everything (photographically) that I need now. RIP Windows :(

    1. juice

      Re: A reminder of how crap Apple products are

      I'm guessing one or t'other of those specifications is incorrect ;)

      The i386 was launched in 1985, maxed out at 33mhz and was unlikely to be bundled with more than 4mb of RAM.

      Conversely, the iMac G3 came out in 1998, and the base model had a 233mhz PowerPC CPU and 32mb of RAM.

      I'd be surprised if you were still running a 386 at that time, and even more surprised if a machine clocked anywhere up to ten times faster (with a different architecture, admittedly) and eight times the ram couldn't keep up.

      Personally, around 98/99, I was using a Celeron 300A overclocked to 450mhz. Them were the days!

      1. N2

        Re: A reminder of how crap Apple products are

        Your comment reminds me of a time when attempting to run a 486 somewhat overclocked

        To cut a long story short we got around 264Mhz using super cooled alcohol

        Stability? None at all, but was god fun at the time.

        1. juice

          Re: A reminder of how crap Apple products are

          I remember getting a hand-me-down 486 DX-33 in 1998, which I duly set about upgrading with whatever bits of kit I could find kicking around the various used-hardware stores and computer fairs of the time.

          I did eventually get it upgraded to a DX2-50, but it sadly suffered from overheating when I tried to push it further[*] - the original DX-33 didn't even have a heatsink, and trying to source a heatsink and/or fan for a computer back in those pre-Internet days was a tricky business!

          I do recall sitting pints of milk and tins of chilled beer atop it though, to try and keep it from melting during my sessions on X-com :D

          [*] possibly to a DX4-75, but the memories have steeped in a lot of beer since then; I do recall that it was very difficult to get hold of the 33mhz variants such as a DX2-66 or DX4-100

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. bpfh

        Re: A reminder of how crap Apple products are

        386 dx could go to 40 mhz or is my memory playing tricks - it was long time ago !

        1. juice

          Re: A reminder of how crap Apple products are

          > 386 dx could go to 40 mhz or is my memory playing tricks - it was long time ago !

          Intel's 386 chips topped out at 33mhz - and they were quite happy to sit on this for several years, as they'd stopped licencing their IP to other manufacturers, giving them a nice (not so) little monopoly with no real incentive for any further innovation or improvements.

          However, AMD eventually won a legal battle against them, which allowed AMD to produce a 40mhz i386 compatible. Cyrix also produced their own variants, including an "i486-lite" which could be dropped into an i386 board - again, following some legal battles with Intel which eventually led to some cross-licencing agreements.

          Either way, we've come a long way since then!

    2. N2

      Re: A reminder of how crap Apple products are

      Perhaps you weren't looking at it corectly?

    3. myhandler

      Re: A reminder of how crap Apple products are

      Well done Mystic Megabyte for your troll nonsense.

      An iMac would have no problem rotating a JPEG - you had some other problem but failed to look harder.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A reminder of how crap Apple products are

      Which year it was? JPEG specs were published in the early 1990s, when 386 were already old models, the 486 was the main Intel processors and Pentiums were the new kid on the block.

      Anyway, the Photoshop 1.0.1 code published by the Computer History Museum contains routines to rotate images. Anyway, Photoshop became available for Windows only in 1992, version 2.5. It supported Win32s for larger address spaces two years later, but also dropped 386 support. And for a long time it was a Mac first, Windows later software.

      About the CD, it looks you found some of the ISO 9660 limitations (but not the files per directory, an issue of your burning software?). Again, a CD burner indicates an early 1990 period.

      Still, as said elsewhere, Windows lacked color management features which are critical for professional work, especially when working on photos. It could be less important when only using a few spot colors (i.e. logos, some publications without photos, only graphics) .

      But that of course matters real users, not mouse-shakers.

    5. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: A reminder of how crap Apple products are

      As a guy using Linux since before 0.99pl13... I can say GIMP sucks galaxies through a millipore filter.

  14. maurizio.dececco


    Lisa price should be compared to comparable 68K machines of the period. Google for 68k workstations.

    Computer market was *very* different at that time; there were very specialised machines that could cost hundred of thousands of dollars for a single workstation.

    Anyway, i would consider the Lisa as a needed transition machine to the creation of the Mac.

    By the way, my understanding is that the relationship with Xerox was a little bit more than a casual visit ... would be happy to have more information on the subject.


    1. Steve Button Silver badge

      Re: Workstations

      Yeah, the Lisa probably did light a fire under Steve Jobs to go and develop something better, as a skunkworks project after he got kicked out of the team.

      The Xerox visit may have been a casual thing, but they really "opened up the kimono" and Steve Jobs as well as Bill Gates were quick to see the potential, and then go away and copy it.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Workstations

        "and then go away and copy it."

        To be followed by one of them claiming the other copied him! (CBA looking it up but I think it was Billy G.)

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Workstations


      I think the Lisa was expensive because what it was.

      I agree that the Mac DTP revolutionised the Commercial / Professional typesetting.

      However my point was that it was niche and never going to give Apple what the Apple II and Visicalc did. It was iPod, iPhone most of all that made Apple what it is today. The Lisa, Mac or DTP wasn't going to save it. It was a good decision having postscript & laser printing etc all from one source. Certainly it was some years after 1998 that Windows based solutions with decent graphics, professional DTP rather than budget home user/club and HP laser printers etc started to eat in to Apple's niche Market. Apple shot off their own feet in video edit pro market going after consumer with Final Cut version X.

      The OS X was a good step from OS 9. That was 2002 when Macs had become even more niche.

      I've never seen a Mac with a decent Apple mouse. If I had a fiver for every Mac user I took pity on and gave a cheap USB mouse to, I'd be rich. I gave the mice away when setting up HP plotters and Windows Networks for Mac users in companies we supported. Every single Apple user was delighted.

      Even the mouse on my home Amstrad PCW256 was better than most Apple branded/supplied mice I ever saw.

      I wonder will they do an Apple Watch or mini-pocket-iPhone that doubles as a mouse on a Mac? That was a mad idea for a PDA back in 1987, that you could use underside to point when it was in your hand and use it as mouse on the desktop. Cordless with ultrasound to serial adaptor on PC.

    3. Daniel von Asmuth

      Re: Workstations

      I guess 10 K$ was really cheap, for not something for the rest of us. People at the time thought that windoews were the wave of the future. What was the MacIntosh but as Lisa Mini that was useful for nothing in particular, considering some bozo thourght it a good idea to integrate the tiny B/W screen into the case and provide no expansion slots (at leat Apple ][ had eight).

    4. Tridac

      Re: Workstations

      You can't compare Lisa with things like SGI, Sun, HP or any of the other workstation vendors. It's like comparing a Trabant to a Mercedes. They both look shiny and new, but the difference is under hood. Quality costs money, both in develpment, manufacture and support. You bought a higher end machine and you could be pretty sure there would be no bait & switch, it would work as per spec and have uptimes of years. Old engineering saying: Cost, reliabilty or performance, pick any two :-)...

  15. Michael Strorm Silver badge

    Lisa, it's your birthday...

    Happy birthday Lisa!

  16. juice

    As much as I like to diss Apple...

    I'm not sure what the point of this article was.

    Back then, the Lisa was built using absolute cutting edge technology and attempted to introduce some new concepts into the consumer market - the mouse, the GUI, virtual memory, hard-drive storage, etc.

    These days, Apple is letting their "Mac" technology stagnate, and while their iPhone hardware is still arguably cutting edge, the technological improvements are incremental/evolutionary, not revolutionary.

    So yeah: apples and pears, chalk and cheese.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about the NeXT?

    It was also astonishingly expensive hardware/software combo very few can afford. The only real one I saw was at CERN, an organization not known to procure cheap hardware... far better than the Lisa, but too niche to sell in quantities enough to survive.

    Is from there the iPhone X models take their names?

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: What about the NeXT?

      "It was also astonishingly expensive hardware/software combo very few can afford. The only real one I saw was at CERN, an organization not known to procure cheap hardware... far better than the Lisa, but too niche to sell in quantities enough to survive."

      Long after the Lisa.

      1. /dev/null

        Re: What about the NeXT?

        Actually, the NeXT Computer was launched less than six years after the Lisa. I suppose six years was a long time in the computer business back then...

        1. Mage Silver badge

          Re: What about the NeXT?

          Also the optical drives in the NeXt a bit mad. Still, a lot of the ideas recycled into OS X. Really OS 10, not OS "ex"!

          Obviously they liked the X so much it's in the branding of all versions since 2002.

          Does MS not realise that the 10 in Windows 10 might be taken for Binary 2? Like Windows 2.0 it's too monochrome (You needed Hercules or Mono CGA mode on most PCs) and too flat. Also doesn't work very well compared to NT4, Win2K, XP, Win7 (AKA Vista Service Pack Edition).

          I did admire the NeXt, though thought it impracticable.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: What about the NeXT?

            And two years before the NeXT Cube was the Pixar Image Computer, a snip at $130,000. It was released only a few months after Steve Jobs bought the company, so obviously it was already mostly developed without his input. And to be fair, it wasn't designed to be overpriced, it was designed by folk at Industrial Light and Magic to do computer visual effects for cinema. It was then marketed to work with the data of multi million dollar medical scanners.


            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              Re: What about the NeXT?

              Esslinger (Frog Design, Wega, Sony) designed the Pixar Image Computer as well as the NeXT Cube, as well of course the Apple IIc.

              It took me a while to track down a source to confirm he did the Pixar machine, but Walter Isaacson notes it:"pixar+image+computer"+esslinger&source=bl&ots=pPKrfJYE4n&sig=ACfU3U0BpSM2nd7nrKrZBP25f6zZtlVQOA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjRjZyy-v_fAhXlD2MBHQPhA30Q6AEwC3oECAYQAQ#v=onepage&q="pixar%20image%20computer"%20esslinger&f=false

  18. steamrunner

    It is an ex-parrot.

    I had the {immense, at the time; very annoying, here in the age of eBay} pleasure of throwing a still-working Lisa/Mac-XL into a skip, screen-first onto sometime solid and pointy so that it made a great spectacle, somewhere around 1987-88. Financial hindsight is a wonderful thing... apparently.


    1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      Re: It is an ex-parrot.

      Just out of curiosity, if it was still working, wouldn't you still have been able to shift it for a few hundred dollars- i.e. a small fraction of its original price, but still enough to make it not worth chucking on a skip- even in the late 80s?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It is an ex-parrot.

      > I had the {immense, at the time; very annoying, here in the age of eBay} pleasure of throwing a still-

      > working Lisa/Mac-XL into a skip, screen-first onto sometime solid and pointy so that it made a great

      > spectacle, somewhere around 1987-88. Financial hindsight is a wonderful thing... apparently.

      We chucked all three of our Lisas into the office trash skip out back. Would have been 1987. Two of the three Prodrives chucked in as well. Whole. The third followed a shallow arc from the second story walkway into the parking lot below but just landed with a thud. No satisfying disintegration. Then chucked into the trash with its unloved brethren..

      Most satisfying destruction of an old machine was throwing an old Powerbook under the tracks of the bulldozer that worked the pit of the Seattle City dump. Would have been around 2002. There were a whole bunch of us throwing smaller stuff into the pit enjoying the crunch crunch crunch of destruction. Quite fun to watch. Although I have heard still does not beat shooting them with a small caliber rifle or a shotgun. I had a friend who did that.

  19. David Pearce

    It was not that expensive, My first real computer around 1980 was PET, with a 32k RAM upgrade that cost UKP5000 for a single board, about a years salary for me then.

  20. hellwig

    Look and Feel

    which was famously inspired by a visit paid to Xerox PARC in 1979 by Steve Jobs

    What happened to respect for the design of a competitors product? Oh wait, this was before he was a billionaire, was it? Ah....

    1. Ian Joyner Bronze badge

      Re: Look and Feel

      Xerox invited Apple. Xerox wanted one of the hardware manufacturers to adopt their technology. Xerox management weren't interested in it. Neither was IBM or Tektronix. Apple understood it.

      The respect for Xerox PARC was to actually bring it to market – and that paid them huge respect – something the Xerox management did not do.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Look and Feel

        Jobs became a billionaire by pumping money into a special effects industry offshoot that became a medical imaging computer company that became an animation house that was bought by the mouse house. (ILM, Pixar, Disney).

      2. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Look and Feel

        An anecdote from that visit: Afterwards, Bill Atkinson spent a long time making overlapping windows work, which the Lisa didn’t have yet. He was _sure_ he had seen them at his Xerox visit. He was wrong, so he copied a Xerox feature that didn’t actually exist!

        1. timrowledge

          Re: Look and Feel

          Wrong. Smalltalk had overlapping windows since round about 1974. They saw the Smalltalk 80 system during that visit, despite Adele fighting her management hard. But Apple paid for the visit and the Xerox higher-ups said to let them in.

  21. joemostowey

    Apple Never learns...

    Apple survived the last century with a "little"help from Bill Gates. Doubt he would give them a hand up now.

    I had both a Mac and a PC sometime in the 1990's Found the PC to be a friendlier piece of tech when it came to getting into the hardware, not much different in speed, but definitely easier to get programs for, and certainly friendlier to my wallet. The old mac is in a closet somewhere. The PC has been replaced many times.

    When I went to replace my Cell phone this last time, I budgeted $600.00, all I was willing to risk for something easily broken, lost or prone to breakdowns. The Newest IPhones, the 8, and X were simply too high priced for the risk, and I sure wasn't going to buy insurance for one.

    I bought an IPhone 6- less than 200 dollars. No contracts. inexpensive enough to carry around, the Otter case to save it from clumsy fingers made it useful for day to day work in the field.

    $1000.00 dollar phone? That's just crazy if you work outside. Guess the office crowd at apple wasn't aiming their phones at the demographics I am lumped in.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple Never learns...

      Considering the amount of software Microsoft sells via Apple computers and the monopoly issues they were facing if Apple went under, it was money well spent.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Apple Never learns...

      "Apple survived the last century with a "little"help from Bill Gates. Doubt he would give them a hand up now."

      It was a strategic rescue on the part of MS. MS were coming under more and more close scrutiny as a monopolist. Keeping Apple going kept the regulators at bay.

  22. Colin Wilson 2


    Back in the day I got sent on a Lisa software development course/conference - in Bolton (UK) of all places.

    I can't remember if it was an official 'WWDC' thing - but various Apple bigwigs were there - including John Sculley I seem to recall.

    Software for it - including much of the operating system - was written in a dialect of Object Pascal. I felt that the GUI, Mouse etc. were all a bit clunky, slow and 'pointless'. The thing that amazed me at the time was the ProFile 'Winchester' hard disk - 5Mb seemed almost infinte at the time!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Bolton!

      "The thing that amazed me at the time was the ProFile 'Winchester' hard disk - 5Mb seemed almost infinte at the time!"

      Same here. But then most of us were working with 100KB-360KB floppies at the time, which could hold the most of not all the OS + space to spare. I remember attaching three double sided, double density FDDs to an 8 bit TRS-80 model IV back then and staring wonderingly at it, amazed that I had a bit more than a whole MEGABYTE of storage space online at the same time :-))

  23. Howard Hanek

    An 'Engineering' Achievement

    ....considering it was almost the same size as the garage it was developed in.

  24. billdehaan

    The last project named after a CEO's kid was the Ford Edsel

    Like the Edsel, the Lisa was a dud that had some interesting ideas, but was a horror show for both customers and the company.

    I actually used one of the first generation models. The experience was very similar to driving an Edsel, I imagine.

    I was a student at a university that had one. How they got it, I don't know; there certainly wasn't any budget for such a thing. I suspect it was a demo/promotional unit that somehow ended up at a university as an educational credit, or a tax writeoff or something like that.

    In any event, using it could be summed up by the infamous joke making the rounds at Apple at the time.

    Person1: Knock, Knock

    Person2: Who's there?

    Person1: sits motionless, and unresponsive, for 90 seconds

    Person1: "Lisa" (as if the previous 90 seconds had not happened)

    Lisa was an interesting proof of concept of some neat technology (for 1983) which eventually did become mainstream. But as a product? Forget it.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The last project named after a CEO's kid was the Ford Edsel

      "Like the Edsel, the Lisa was a dud that had some interesting ideas, but was a horror show for both customers and the company."

      Mercedes didn't do too badly though. We need more data points to determine if naming projects after daughters is a good or bad thing.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: The last project named after a CEO's kid was the Ford Edsel

        The Edsel was eventually killed by Robert S McNamara who, like Jobs on his return to Apple, simplified Ford's product range. McNamara was the first president of Ford who wasn't a Ford family member

        The documentary film Fog of War, about McNamara's later life as US secretary of defence. He would later become the president of the World Bank, but the documentary doesn't cover that.

  25. punk4evr

    Twiggy name

    It was Named Twiggy, because when in reading and writing, it sounded like Twiggy, From Battle Star Galactica 1978!

    1. ske1fr

      Re: Twiggy name

      Wrong series. Twiki. Buck Rogers In The 25th Century. So it sounded like"bidibidibidi" eh?

    2. Sebastian.Q.Ostragoth

      Re: Twiggy name

      The twiggy name was a reference to the odd double sided mechanism. In the day, Apple had long derided double sided floppy disk mechanisms as 'unreliable', hence the single sided nature of the Apple II 5 1/4 inch floppy and a generation of users cutting notches in their media so they could turn it over and use both sides (one at a time).

      For the Lisa, a second slot was put on the opposite end of the disk sleeve and a second single head engaged to read/write the 'other' side of the disk. (I.e. the normal head at the back of the drive and a much more complex second head at the front/door end of the drive). This also meant Apple were pretty much the only suppliers of media.

      So one of Lisa II's many cost reductions was to adopt the by then standard 3 1/2 inch drive the first gen Macs were using (with normal double sided heads).

  26. martinusher Silver badge

    It was a nice machine for the year

    I got given one, it was the booby prize for recognizing what it was after I spotted it on the boss's desk at a place I was working at in the early 90s. It was a complete system -- complete with a 3.5" floppy (using the typical "incompatible with everything else" Apple format -- single sided as well) and a (miniscule) hard disk. It had cost the company $11K and was essentially useless. I played with it when I got home -- interesting but rather slow -- and I got a couple of ROMs for it to turn it into a "MacXL". Which was also pretty useless. My wife eventually made me get rid of it, as wives are prone to do, so I gave it away to a friend who, for all I know, scrapped it.

    It was a nice piece of history, a museum piece, but let's not get too romantic about these old things. They're like old anything else -- for example, with few exceptions, old 'collectible' motorcycles or cars suck compared to their modern equivalent and there's nothing like trying to use a 30-40 year old PC to bring home just what an exercise in masochism this was (but then the alternative was even worse).

  27. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    "Two flops on the trot"

    Is that some kind of arcane benchmark?

    -> The one with the OC45 in the pocket (at 17s 6d each)

  28. Simon Brady

    Buried treasure

    Apple quietly buried its remaining unsold stock of some 2,500 Lisas in landfill in 1989

    They may not inspire the auction frenzy of an Apple I, but has anyone ever considered digging them up for a retro sale?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Buried treasure

      A film was made of the efforts to locate the landfill contains unsold E.T Atari games cartridges...

      There was a time a few years back when the cost of good was such that it was economically viable to extract it from older computers (newer computers use smaller components and more precise manufacturing methods, so contain less gold). It's possible that the Lisa's have already been unearthed and recycled.

  29. Blake St. Claire

    Expansion slots. Meh.

    > ... expansion slots, something the innovative company has tended to shy away from in recent years.

    This gets brought up over and over and over again, as if it somehow mattered then, or matters now.

    PC XT and PC AT buyers laughed at Apple for not having expansion slots. The Lisa and all the Macs came with audio and mouse built in. What did 99.99% of PC buyers put in those slots? An AST Six Pack to max out memory. Quite a few probably put a SCSI card in. Few people cared about better audio until much later. Eventually maybe a mouse card (with mouse). All stuff, for the most part*, that the Mac had – gasp – built in. Who had the last laugh?

    You know what I've put in the slots of the last two Wintel PCs I've bought, er, that my employer bought? A graphics card. That's it.

    *TBH I don't know if the Lisa or the earliest Macs used SCS and/or had external SCSI ports; in any event it wasn't long before they did.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Expansion slots. Meh.

      The lack of expansion slots did limit the Apple's appeal in more niche areas, such as those where an engineer or physicist might want to connect it to some instruments. The lack of expansion was the deciding factor in a friend of mine not getting them for his department. Yeah, it is niche, but then Apple survived the nineties by being in a few niches.

      Broadly though I'd agree with you; placing access to a computer's PCIe bus on the outside of the machine (AKA Thunderbolt) makes it very expandable indeed. The downside that some users might notice over an internal PCIe slot is with GPUs due to Thunderbolts reduced bandwidth. Before FireWire (also offering DMA) took care of storage and peripherals on all Macs, rarely seen as standard on PCs

    2. juice

      Re: Expansion slots. Meh.

      > PC XT and PC AT buyers laughed at Apple for not having expansion slots. The Lisa and all the Macs came with audio and mouse built in.

      To be fair, the PC was a business machine and was meant to be used for serious activities, such as spreadsheets and document processing. Company accountants saw things like audio cards as frivolous and unnecessary expenses - and back in the day, employees could face disciplinary action if caught playing games in the office.

      (such sweet innocent days, long before Minecraft and Solitare decimated office productivity - and before the Internet gave people the opportunity to find more adult-orientated distractions, at least until companies began to install website filters..)

      Then too, those expansion ports played a major part in the PC's rise to dominance.

      As per above, it was very much targeted at businesses, who have a lot more purchasing power than private individuals - and thanks to asset-deprecation rules, new hardware can effectively cost nothing, as you just write it off against your taxes over a few years, aided and abetted by generous loan schemes from the manufacturers.

      So. You get economies of scale from the large install base, which together with it's modular and (mostly) open architecture encourages the growth of an eco-system around it. And the competition within this eco-system drives innovation and cost reduction, which in turn grows the install base and brings more people flocking to the eco-system...

      And so, the PC was simply able to evolve at a much faster rate than would be possible for any single-source hardware - companies such as Apple, Atari and Commodore may have had tens or hundreds of engineers, but the PC eco-system had /thousands/ queuing up for a piece of the pie.

      Then too, after a few years (thanks in no small part to the tax write-offs), you got a healthy second-hand market, offering hardware at prices much easier for private individuals to afford - and the vast variety of hardware on offer made it ideal for enthusiasts to dive into.

      Especially when we got into the early days of 3D video games (Doom!) and the internet - the PC's architecture may have been clumsy when compared to it's rivals, but it also had a lot more brute-force power to throw at these activities and enthusiasts became obsessed with picking the "best" components and fine-tuning the timings on their overclocked kit.

      In many ways, that's what's happening now in the mobile phone world: companies such as Nokia, Blackberry and Apple may have been king at one point, but Android has rolled over them, for similar economies-of-scale/eco-system reasons.

      And to my mind, that's what this article should have highlighted: the Lisa - and the Mac - may have been advanced and sophisticated for the time, but the PC was both cheaper and able to evolve far more quickly.

      (To be fair, Apple's fully aware of this, and is throwing an insane amount of money at R&D ($10 billion a year!) to try and keep up with the chaotically frenzied eco-system driving Android's evolution...)

    3. aqk

      Re: Expansion slots. Meh. Indeed!

      Who had the last laugh?

      How much did you pay for these "add-ons"? And the original XT? It must have been at least TRIPLE the price of a fully-loaded Apple, right?

  30. bjr

    Lisa was more minicomputer than PC

    My ex-boss ran the Lisa team, he went from Data General, where I worked for him, to DEC and then to Apple to run the Lisa program. After Apple he went to Sun where he was VP of engineering and then came out of retirement to run hardware engineering at Google in Google's early days. The Lisa team came from DEC where they had been building minicomputers so Lisa had the capabilities of a minicomputer of the time, it was not a personal computer it was a workstation and it's price was similar to the prices for Sun's and Apollo's workstations, the problem was that Apple was a personal computer company not a workstation company, it's customers were individual's not corporations. The Lisa was a multitasking machine, the IBM PC wasn't, Lisa had a real OS, the PC had DOS which was basically just a program loader. Given the cost of memory and the limitations of microprocessors at the time IBM made the right call, the PC, which cost about $2500, could only do one thing at a time but it worked. The first Mac was designed to be much cheaper than the Lisa but it couldn't even compile a program, for that you needed a Lisa. Memory prices were dropping quickly at the time so that by the end of the 80s you could get a whopping 16M on a Mac which could do a lot on it. Unlike LIsa, the Mac OS wasn't a true multitasking OS, it did what was called cooperative multitasking, but Macs were a lot cheaper than workstations, which ran UNIX a true OS, and they were a lot better than PCs but they were also about twice as expensive as PCs.

    1. Tridac

      Re: Lisa was more minicomputer than PC

      >> The Lisa team came from DEC where they had been building minicomputers so Lisa had the capabilities of a minicomputer of the time,

      Nice fantasy, but not even close. A pastiche of the real thing, more like it :-)...

  31. Ian Joyner Bronze badge

    An article that should have been dragged to trash.

    "the Lisa was an exercise in seeing how much money Apple could squeeze out of the faithful"

    That is a completely false premise. The rest of the article does not get much better from there.

    Then there is the fault of ignoring the context of the time – computing was expensive. The Profile disk drive was needed. So the Lisa was way in advance of any other PC of the time.

    Would you say Xerox was gouging the market – their machines were around $100,000?

  32. Howard Hanek

    Future Torment

    For all the developers faced with using an Apple Lisa for development projects for all eternity in hell, their screams will be worse than most......

  33. DerekCurrie

    Stockholder and Market Demand as well as IP Competition/Robbery are also factors

    When Steve Jobs returned as Apple CEO in 1997, the prime yelling in the capitalist streets was to push up the company's profit margin. After years of pressure, Apple has settled at ~30%. That equates to a gradual inflation of Apple gear prices in order to make the stockholders happy.

    Then add in the currently severe competition in the marketplace for smartphones. In order to attract attention, new technology has to present itself as significantly better than what was offered last year, whether the improvement is real or marketing blether. Apple is never perfect, but they do a far better job of providing real innovation than any other company in the tech market. That equates to R&D, licensing and IP purchase expenditures again creating gradual inflation of Apple gear prices.

    Then add in the IP robbery effect whereby China: Criminal Nation and other miscreants (hello Samsung, Google, ad nauseam) have consistently ripped off Apple IP in order to create fraudulent competition in the technology market. This of course cheapens the value of Apple's investments in R&D, forcing them to spend further into R&D as well as marketing in order to rise above the faked Apple market. Again, that forces Apple's expenditures on new products, resulting in further inflation of Apple gear prices.

    Neglect ye not these three factors being involved in the resulting Apple prices that are so upsetting to those disinterested in what amounts to the luxury leading-edge end of the tech market.

    But keep in mind that the Apple Lisa was expensive bleeding-edge technology. It was Apple's first attempt at integrating the Star OS GUI concepts they had licensed from Xerox. (Yes, licensed. Look it up please). It was a transition device with massive costs typical of prototypes and first-to-market technology. Apple aimed extremely high in a market that had far lower expectations and budgets.

  34. Dahhah6o

    "Imagine that. Apple deliberately building a finite lifespan into its machines."

    Well, this was showing an obvious influence from a movie released the year prior: Blade Runner

  35. ProbablyUnknown

    I wonder who'll bail them out next?

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I reckon that this is a badly thought out hatchet job. The Lisa was, in it's time, a very good machine to use but it was too expensive. But it was expensive because that's what the hardware cost at the time.

    Build up an IBM PC to the same specs and software, and the price wasn't very different. And the PC was still pure command line interface.

    As for all the guff about planned obsolescence, the Lisa was actually very well designed and thought out. It was very modular, there was a motherboard (and it was large), plus a separate I/O board (serial & parallel) and a separate memory board. Back then, 1 MB of RAM took up a lot of real estate. These cards were in a special card cage framework, with (get this in the early 80's), zero insertion force slots. Turn a little handle to unlock the slot to add or remove a board. The 5.25": floppies were specially designed with two heads on opposite sides (so the disk cover had two cut-outs) to prevent a known problem with two sided floppies where the heads would knock together when the drive slot was empty.

    The interface was a little slowish but not that bad. Lisa also came with a full 6 part software suite built in, LisaCalc, LisaWrite, LisaDraw, LisaGraph, LisaProject, and LisaList. Plus there was a LisaTerminal application. The Write/Calc etc were good full graphical programs when there was nothing comparable in the PC world. They had this neat "Stationary Pad" icon that sat on the desktop and when double clicked you got a copy - and one could set defaults into a new document/spreadsheet and save that as a Pad to get pre-set defaults. Calc was the equal of Lotus with the major exception of no macros, but it was very similar to the early Excel but better presented and laid out - and more powerful until several versions of Excel passed. And Project, a PC level project tool with Gantt charts and resources, unmatched. Draw was a good diagramming and illustration tool - it had lines, boxes, snap to grid, that sort of thing, not a sketch program but a structured diagram one. Don't recall much about List, but a simple tabular database I think - not very powerful. Write was a full graphical word processor with WYSIWG and real font selections. Printing intially though was DMP or the letter quality Apple device - can't be sure if it was a golf-ball or a wheel type character unit.

    The Lisa really worked exceptionally well given the hardware limitations. The whole interface was significantly more sophisticated and advanced than what the Mac came out with, and the software was exceptionally good for its time.

    Overall it was a brilliant idea of what a desktop could look like, but too far ahead of what the hardware could do at a price that the market would pay.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the software side... a walk down (my) memory lane

    Little known outside of Cullinet and Apple... there was a failed agreement over a(n eventually failed) PC software product from Cullinet Software: Goldengate (yes, there was a Goldengate from Cullinet before there was a Goldengate from Oracle).

    It was an integrated suite of PC software, similar to Lotus 123, but it had one additional feature; integration with IDMS on the mainframe (Cullinet's bread and butter product). You could access mainframe databases and download them into your PC... this in the mid-80s.

    There was an 'understanding' regarding creating a port of some of this to Lisa (I even have a button celebrating this partnership: "The Intelligent Link"), but it failed for reasons I don't fully understand... suffice it to say it never happened.

    Goldengate worked, after a fashion, but never caught fire in the marketplace and Cullinet... well the bones are now part of CA.

    I DO have a copy of Goldengate still in the original shrinkwrap packaging for the right price (or right computer museum).

  38. cageordie

    Being oldish

    When the IBM PC came out in 1981 there were already 8MHz 68000 machines, because the TDI Pinnacle and Sage IV were reviewed in the same issue and ran the benchmarks faster. So to be producing a 5MHz 68K in 1985 is ridiculous. The Atari 520ST was released in June 1985 with 512KB of RAM and an 8MHz 68K. It cost a fraction of the price of anything Apple shipped and was faster too. Apple made a really good attempt at failing.

    1. Ian Joyner Bronze badge

      Re: Being oldish

      "Apple made a really good attempt at failing"

      Might have had something to do with IBM wanting to crush Apple and the market forces of the time "You don't get fired for buying IBM".

      The business model of "crush Apple" has been a failure of many companies (think about PCJr), including IBM and Microsoft and now others in the Android space (which Register has loving pet names for).

  39. PhilipN Silver badge


    ‘Cos nobody’s mentioned it.

    {waves ‘bye going out the door and no-one looks up}

  40. Cornytiv

    Lisa 2 an economical reliable computer

    In 1984 we were a smallish firm plagued by computer salesmen. None of us had computer knowledge so our method was to send our copy typist for 2 hours, if she could do some constructive part of her work we would send the next person for 2 hours. We got to me the boss and I found simplicity and a screen we could understand. We bought a Lisa 2 with dot matrix printer at £10,000. It sounded a lot but without a single lesson we became computer literate created spreadsheets of considerable complexity and letter and report writing satisfactory to auditors and regulators in the insurance industry. No additional cost for software or training while competitors were using IBM and MS-DOS. That machine ran for 11 years without any problems. It was not expensive overall and everyone was happy to use it. I think your article is not worth reading.

  41. Qwertius

    Mehhh -- I used to be an Apple fan - but the cult mentality was really getting to me.

    So I switched to Windows - but they were just a cheaper version of another cult.

    Then I jumped to Linux - where everyone - worships Linux command line.

    Nowadays - I don't care. I use whatever system / machine does the job.

    1. aqk

      I don't care. I use whatever system / machine does the job.

      Exactly. And 30 years ago Apple (and its weenie fanbois) COULD NOT do the job. I was there. I saw them. All they could do is whine "But my APPLE is sooo much better than this cheap DOS machine!"

      "OK, shithead. Do the job!" they were told by a boss who would not even use a Windows mouse! (it was too effete)

      And they failed. Then they were tossed out. Their expensive company Apples were then raffled off to us.

      Yet strangely, nothing has changed! The incessant yammering nerdyboys here no doubt still mutter "BILL GATES? HE'S THE ANTICHRIST!" (yawn...) Well.. at least they no longer shout it.

      Hey- I'm STILL waiting for Linux to take over the business office. Gee! Is it 2016 yet?

      Mind you, I'm still waiting for my 2008 Hydrogen-powered BMW that I ordered in 2006...

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This Needs some context

    Lisa was released at about the same time that Xerox, Wang, IBM, and Micom were selling similar products as high end secretary accouterments for the successful executive. They were fairly common in posh firms at the time. This cutting edge was soon eclipsed along with IBM selectric typewriters by the desktop PC.

  43. tempemeaty

    My story

    I don't have any nostalgic computer history stories to tell about past computers. All I know is in the present time, the latest price hikes by Apple have pushed their products outside my budget so far that I may not be able to buy their stuff anymore. That is my story.

  44. kevinyeandel

    Different experiences of course. For me, £3.5K for a top notch device that earns me £££ over 5-6 years amounts to pennies per hour. My 2011 MacBook lasted 5+ years and worked out about £0.06 per hour. I feel the security offered protects my customers more than Windows - obviously Apple has had a few cringy password and other vulnerabilities over the years,

    I recently reviewed reliability charts for vendor hardware its disappointing reading, My experience is flawless but it seems Apple ranks below Asus and at least one other.

    I wish Apple would diversify, lower their costs and sell more volume. If they provided a comparable Office solution it would be in the interest of their business.

  45. Miller

    In the mid-80s I had my first job as a tech author for Ferranti Computer Systems Ltd. At that time the tech author team was writing by hand in pencil then giving our precious words to a typist. I heard there was a thing called an Apple Lisa on site somewhere so I found it and played with it a few times. It was mostly neglected anyway, God knows why it was there. I was astonished by the wysiwig interface, it seemed incredibly futuristic at that time. Loved the mouse and being able to directly format a document. Think I made a nice CV on it.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's that thing?

    I was given the chance to use one about 1985.

    I pointed at the mouse thingy and asked what it was for....

  47. aqk

    Check out Huawei- the Apple of the 2020s...

    People actually still buy Apples? I mean beside the El-Rag faithful and their weenie acolytes?

    What do they actually DO with their Apples? I mean the overpriced iPads, iPhones and iCraps..

    Just read

    In particular, read the reply from "Godfree" in California.

    Anyhow, I've used Huawei phones for 5+ years. A pox on your Apples.

    And DON'T be afraid of the Yellow Peril spying on you! Nor are the Huawei phones filled with opium to hook you.

    Oh wait! I'm mixed up. This is what the British did to the Chinese a hundred years ago!

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