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30 Years of the Apple Lisa and the Apple IIe 171

walterbyrd sends this excerpt from an article that might make you feel old: "At its annual shareholders' meeting on January 19, 1983, Apple announced two new products that would play a pivotal role in the future of the company: the Apple Lisa, Apple's original GUI-based computer and the precursor to the Macintosh; and the Apple IIe, which represented a natural evolution to the highly successful Apple II computer line. ... The Lisa introduced a completely new paradigm—the mouse-driven graphical user interface—to the world of mainstream personal computers. (Note that the release of the Xerox Star workstation in 1981 marked the commercial debut of the mouse-driven GUI.) The Lisa’s elevated retail price of $9995 at launch (about $23,103 in today’s dollars), slow processor speed (5MHz), and problematic custom disk drives hobbled the groundbreaking machine as soon as it reached the market. ... Around the time of the Apple III’s launch, Apple was so sure of the new computer's success that it had halted all future development of Apple II-related projects. But by 1982, as it became clear that the Apple II wasn’t going away (in fact, it was becoming more popular than ever), Apple scrambled to upgrade its aging Apple II line, which had last been refreshed in 1979 with the Apple II+. The result was the Apple IIe, which packed in several enhancements that regular Apple II users had been enjoying for years thanks to a combination of the Apple II’s plentiful internal expansion slots and a robust third-party hardware community to fill them."
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30 Years of the Apple Lisa and the Apple IIe

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  • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @01:38PM (#42626775)

    If I remember correctly, my Apple ][e included all the board schematics, which made it easy for everyone to make cards/etc. A few years ago I found my AppleSoft basic tutorial, which was pretty neat.

    Ah, the good old days. Too bad nothing's beaten Wizardry when it comes to RPGs.

  • BYTE (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ihatewinXP ( 638000 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @01:41PM (#42626805)

    For an amazing read look up the BYTE magaxine review of the Lisa. The article takes you on an amazing trip where the writer is trying to describe for the first time so many things we dont even think about.

    IIRC he describes the 'pointing device' (mouse) as "about the size of a pack of cigarettes that moves a point on the screen - The screen then uses small pictures of common tasks to represent your actual desk top.

    Watching them describe 'the desktop metaphor' when they dont know what it is a crazy reminder of just how fast this all happened...

  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @01:52PM (#42626931)

    The Macintosh was such a superior machine in nearly every aspect that the unsold Lisas had to be hauled off to the landfill.

    I don't know about the Mac being superior. I had the chance to use both, the Lisa had many advantages over the original Mac.

    The problem with Lisa was the $10K price tag. That just put it out of reach of many Apple II developers so a market never really materialized, unlike the Mac which was affordable by such developers.

    Prior to the first native Pascal, and later C compilers, friends and I were actually using 68000 coprocessors for Apple IIs to write Mac software in assembly. A Microsoft Basic program running on the Mac would read the binary from the serial port, poke it into RAM and jump to it. I am not saying this was cost effective compared to buying a Lisa for Mac development, but we had time and no money. One of my friends actually completed a strategy game port from PC to Mac in this manner. I'm not sure but I think it was one of the SSI games. Its not as crazy as it sounds. Core non-UI code could be debugged to a degree on the Apple II's 68000 coprocessor.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:56PM (#42627747) Homepage

    The Lisa got so many things right. A good GUI, a protected-memory operating system, and a hard drive file system. The problem was price. The price problem was due to trouble at Motorola. The Motorola 68000 didn't do instruction backout properly, so it couldn't handle page faults correctly. That was corrected in the Motorola 68010, but the 68010 was too late for the Lisa. So the Lisa had to use a compiler hack to work around the lack of instruction backout.

    Because the 68000 couldn't do instruction backout, Motorola didn't make an MMU chip for it. So the Lisa had a custom MMU built out of a large number of ICs. This pushed the parts count and cost way up.

    Because good hard drives weren't available for personal computers when the Lisa was designed, Apple built their own, the LisaFile. Apple's attempt at hard drive manufacturing produced a slow, expensive, unreliable drive.

    By the time the Lisa shipped, Sun was shipping the Sun I, and the UNIX workstation era had started. The Lisa was in the same price range as UNIX workstations, but the Sun I had a 68010, Ethernet, and hard drives that were expensive but worked.

    If it weren't for the instruction backout problem on the 68000, the history of computing could have been completely different. The Lisa was usable, but overpriced. The original Macintosh was an appallingly weak machine - one or two floppies, a slow CPU, and very little memory. This tends to be forgotten, but the original Mac was a commercial failure. Not until the hardware was built up to 512K and a hard drive was supported did it become profitable. (Or usable.) But it was saddled with an OS designed for 64K of RAM. (The original MacOS had a good GUI, but under the hood, it was a lot like DOS - not only was there no memory protection, there wasn't even a CPU dispatcher. The original Mac was supposed to have only 64K of RAM (most of the OS was in ROM) but shortly before shipment, it was increased to 128K.)

  • Re:6502 assembly ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dunng808 ( 448849 ) <garydunnhi AT gmail DOT com> on Friday January 18, 2013 @10:13PM (#42631521) Journal

    My first computer was an Ohio Scientific. 6502, 4k RAM. I added 4K (maxed the MB) and purchased the assembler. Loved coding up assembly code, wrote my own terminal emulator, had to wire in the RS232 interface. Shunned the Apple ][ because OSI did lower case and had graphic gliphs in upper 128 bytes of character generator, great for writing games. Apple ][ only had solid colored blocks, but could do hi-res graphics (cough) if you could afford 48k RAM. My second computer was an IBM Portable Computer (sewing machine case luggable) used for work. Third computer was an Apple Proforma, last of the 68020 family. My kids loved that one. Several fruit colored iMacs, skipped the basket ball version, have a couple flat screen iMacs, MacBooks, you name it. But I prefer my Fujitsu running FreeBSD.

    I was working at a retail computer store when the Lisa came out. I recall sales falling through the floor with no new product, customers flocking to the new IBM PC (sold exclusively at IBM stores). Our store had to hire and train a Lisa specialist. He would spend an hour prepping for a demo, setting up a word processing window and a spreadsheet window to show how cool cut and paste was. He did not set that up in front of the client because of how long it took to load those two programs. I think he sold one.

    The //e was introduced with the slogan "Apple II forever!" I doubted it then but was impressed by the longevity of the e and the c. Pleasantly surprised that the Lisa and Mac survived adolescence. Many Apple retailers did not, as they lacked the cash reserves Apple had amassed.

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.