Apple Lisa Computer

Introduced by Apple Computer Inc. in January 1983, the Lisa personal computer was one of the first computers aimed at individual users to offer a graphical user interface (GUI). Development of the Lisa began in 1978, but it resulted in an extremely expensive device. The Lisa’s name was for a reason, as the computer was named after Steve Jobs’s daughter Lisa, born in 1978. On the other hand, the Apple Lisa featured advanced preemptive multitasking. The Apple Lisa’s speed and of course the hard drive gave it a place in the mists of legend among power users – it was the machine all the programmers used to make the fancy games work.

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Apple Lisa

Introduced: 19 January, 1983.

apple lisa pic - Apple Lisa Computer
Introduced by Apple Computer Inc. in January 1983, the Lisa personal computer was one of the first computers aimed at individual users to offer a graphical user interface (GUI).


  • CPU: Motorola 68000. 7,89 MHZ.
  • Storage: Two 5 ¼ inch Apple FileWare 5.25-inch double-sided floppy disk drives, known as Twiggy. Capacity of 871 kB each (unreliable). An optional external 5 MB. Later, a 10 MB Apple ProFile hard drive. With the introduction of the Lisa 2/10, an optional 10 MB internal proprietary hard disk manufactured by Apple, known as the “Widget”, was offered.
  • RAM: 1 Meg.
  • OS: Apple Lisa GUI (Graphical User Interface). Xenix.
  • Ports: One parallel and two serial ports, mouse port.
  • Possible Expansion: Three internal slots available.
  • Speaker: Mono.
  • Display: 12” monochrome monitor sold separately.
  • Power: 150 Watts.
  • Dimensions: 15.2″ H x 18.7″ W x 13.8″ D
  • Average Weight: 48 lbs.

Discontinuation, Price

Pre-Macintosh family.

Price: Original price $9,995 (monitor not included).

Discontinued: August 1986.


  • The Lisa included a single parallel port, which was dropped later in the Lisa 2 and MacXL. The Lisa 2 and MacXL used 2 400 kB Sony 3.5″ floppy drives, and both had 10 MB hard drives. An optional screen upgrade was available which allowed the Mac XL to use square pixels, for better Mac OS emulation. Screen resolution after this upgrade was 608 x 431.
  • While the documentation shipped with the original Lisa only ever referred to it as The Lisa, officially, Apple stated the name was an acronym for Local Integrated System Architecture or “LISA”. Since Steve Jobs’s first daughter (born in 1978) was named Lisa Nicole Brennan, it was usually inferred that the name also had a personal association, and perhaps that the acronym was a backronym invented later to fit the name. Andy Hertzfeld states the acronym was reverse engineered from the name “Lisa” in late 1982 by the Apple marketing team, after they had hired a marketing consultancy firm to come up with names to replace “Lisa” and “Macintosh” (at the time considered by Jef Raskin to be merely internal project codenames) and then rejected all of the suggestions. Privately, Hertzfeld and the other software developers used “Lisa: Invented Stupid Acronym”, a recursive backronym, while computer industry pundits coined the term “Let’s Invent Some Acronym” to fit the Lisa’s name. Decades later, Jobs would tell his biographer Walter Isaacson: “Obviously it was named for my daughter.” (source: Wikipedia about Lisa computer).
  • Said to be named for one of its designer’s daughters (see paragraph above), the Lisa was the first personal computer to use a Graphical User Interface and it was aimed mainly at large businesses.
  • Apple promoted the Lisa computer announcing that the machine would increase productivity by making computers easier to work with. The Lisa had a Motorola 68000 Processor running at 5 MHz, 1 MB of RAM two 5.25″ 871 kB floppy drives, an external 5 MB hard drive, and a built in 12″ 720 x 360 monochrome monitor. At $9,995 it was a plunge few businesses were willing to take.
  • When the Macintosh came out in 1984 for significantly less money, it eroded the Lisa’s credibility further. Realizing this, Apple released the Lisa 2 at the same time as the Mac. The Lisa 2 cost half as much as the original, replaced the two 5.25″ drives with a single 400 kB 3.5″ drive, and offered configurations with up to 2 MB of RAM, and a 10 MB hard drive. In January 1985, the Lisa 2/10 was renamed the Macintosh XL, and outfitted with MacWorks, an emulator that allowed the Lisa to run the Mac OS. The XL was discontinued later that year.
  • In fact one of the Lisa’s most important roles in Apple history was that this computer served as a programming platform for the early Macs.
  • Lisa’s real-time clock depended on a 4 x AA-cell NiCd pack of batteries that only lasted for a few hours when mains power were not present. Besides the packs often busts open and leaks corrosive acid that ruins the circuit boards.
  • More than 100,000 Apple Lisa computers were fabricated and sold in two years, from 1983 to 1885, as the high price, relatively low performance and unreliable Twiggy floppy disks led to poor sales.
  • The cheaper and better version of Lisa personal computer was released it in January 1984.
  • The final revision of the Lisa, the 2/10, was sold as the Macintosh XL.
  • Third-party software: A significant impediment to third-party software on the Apple Lisa was the fact that, when first launched, the Lisa Office System could not be used to write programs for itself. Indeed, a separate development OS, called Lisa Workshop, was required. During this development process, engineers would alternate between the two OSes at startup, writing and compiling code on one OS and testing it on the other. Later, the same Lisa Workshop was used to develop software for the Macintosh. After a few years, a Macintosh-native development system was developed. For most of its lifetime, the Lisa never went beyond the original seven applications that Apple had deemed enough to “do everything”, although UniPress Software did offer Unix for $495.



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