Tech Time Warp: Apple introduces the Lisa, its first personal computer
“Do you know, I put together that entire project—including the presentation slides—just this morning?”
One might think the man at the start of this 1984 Apple demo video is starting to “mansplain” something to his female colleague. But then he explains he was using his new Lisa personal computer—Apple’s first personal computer with a mouse-controlled graphical user interface. (OK, maybe he is a bit a mansplain-y.)
Introduced to the marketplace Jan. 19, 1983, the Lisa was not commercially successful. The computer was named for Jobs’ daughter, with “Lisa” officially short for “Local Integrated Software Architecture.” (Inside Apple, the joke was it stood for “Lisa: Invented Stupid Acronym.”) The Lisa’s $10,000 price tag, more than $29,000 in today’s money, was out of reach for most businesses, and its slow processor and custom disk drives were also detriments. But many of the Lisa’s innovations—icons, overlapping windows and dropdown menus, to name a few—went on to live in the Macintosh and Microsoft Windows. (As Apple buffs know, Jobs was ousted from the Lisa project before launch but took charge of the Macintosh project.)
What’s particularly intriguing about the Lisa are the ideas that didn’t find other homes, like the idea of a document- rather than application-focused operating system. Rather than opening an application, a Lisa user tore off a sheet of “Lisa paper,” creating a file that opened in the appropriate application.
Who knows, though. Apple might just be waiting for the right time to launch a document-centric OS. The concept of Lisa’s “soft” shutdown, which launched an automatic sequence saving all open documents, didn’t reappear until OS X Lion in 2011.
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Photo: Museums Victoria / Shutterstock