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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 joeflies ( 529536 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @01:23PM (#42626639)
    that must mean I'm .... really old now.
    • by jythie ( 914043 )
      I know the feeling. The //e is what I cut my teeth programming on ^_^
      • II+

      • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @01:41PM (#42626811) Homepage

        Oh great. Now you've done it. All the dinosaurs will wake up and chip in about what ancient and obscure computing platform was in vogue when they became of age. Of course, I would never stoop to such foolishness, except to mention that toggle switches still trigger a brief rush of dopamine in my decrepit brain. Ahh, the blinky lights.

        • by c ( 8461 )

          All the dinosaurs will wake up and chip in about what ancient and obscure computing platform was in vogue when they became of age.

          Would I be off-topic or just not-dinosaur-enough if I said my first computer was an Apple //e?

          • by bmo ( 77928 )

            To be an asshole and a pedant, one uses brackets with the normal Apple ][ computers and slashies with the //c :-D


            • by slew ( 2918 )

              To be an asshole and a pedant, one uses brackets with the normal Apple ][ computers and slashies with the //c :-D


              Yes you do, but the Apple //e computer (which followed the Apple ][+ and Apple ][ computers) used slashies before the //c..

              I guess as an off-topic dinosaur asshole pedant, my first computer was and Apple ][+ as I held out for the basic in rom and improved color graphics over the Apple ][ model, but all my friends got the Apple //e and I was the one that had to suffer 40 column w/o native lowercase, since I couldn't afford an 80-column card :^(

              As a stopgap I "liberated" a 70-column HRG patch that understood

              • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:48PM (#42628341) Journal

                Christ pal, you coulda just yelled "Get off my lawn!"

              • by bmo ( 77928 )

                >Apple //e computer ... used slashies before the //c.
                >anon coward's pics

                I.... I forgot...

                I'm going to have to claim old timer's disease.


                • by Lisias ( 447563 )

                  >Apple //e computer ... used slashies before the //c.
                  >anon coward's pics

                  I.... I forgot...

                  I'm going to have to claim old timer's disease.


                  Relax. That old computers from Apple were not famous for having a great memory! =P

        • I remember using my abacus to calculate the profits on 48 million kilts ordered from the planet Skyron in the Galaxy of Andromeda.
        • by jythie ( 914043 )
          Bah! Toggle switches? Those new fangled devices?

          I had a professsor who used to like talking about programming via touching a nail to a series of contacts, inputting one bit at a time, and the wonderful innovation of a button that would input the whole byte a then *gasp* auto increment the input to the next byte in memory for you.

          And to be fair to him, his ability to program in machine code (a hex pad with an enter key) strait into memory and have programs actually work as part of live demonstrations was
      • Apple II+ was what I started with, having a whopping 48kB of RAM. The IIe improved to 64kB.
        • by swb ( 14022 )

          Didn't most people populate Slot 0 with a 16k RAM card on the ][+?

          Mine (er, the one my parents bought us in 1982...) had one, and I'm pretty sure they weren't pimping it for my benefit.

          It was less common on the vanilla ][s because they had Integer BASIC in ROM and used Slot 0 for AppleSoft Basic cards, and I think if you put a 16k card in the ][ you had to load AppleSoft basic from disk.

          The irony being that the 16k card wasn't ordinarily useful because it shared the memory pages with AppleSoft on the ][+ an

          • by Creepy ( 93888 )

            Yes, most ][+ users added a 16k card. The //e was much more expandable memory-wise - I think my moms had 768k. The big expansion for the //e was the 80 column card which enabled double hi-res graphics with a whopping 16 colors.

            The first computer I ever used was an 16k Apple ][ with tape drive at my elementary school. It was a real pain to load or save data on it. The next year (or maybe it was 2 or 3 years later, but still elementary school) the school got 4 48k Apple ][+s with Disk ][ drives and those were

      • by stokessd ( 89903 )

        I can still hear the sound of the floppy drives. Man, that's music to these old and tired ears.

        The IIe was my first computer I programmed for as well. But the Macintosh was much more magical in what it could do.


      • The first computer I ever used was a Compaq Portable [] from about 1984, but the first computer I ever loved was a //e.
      • PDP-11

    • that must mean I'm .... really old now.

      But are those elephant floppy disks still good, nothing forgotten?

      • by Tackhead ( 54550 )

        But are those elephant floppy disks still good, nothing forgotten?

        Very probably just fine. I last booted my //e a year or so ago. Came up just fine. And yes, one of the disks was an Elephant.

        EMS: An elephant never forgets. []

        • Mine still boots fine too, and my disks aren't even Elephant. Still the only Apple product I've ever owned.
    • Hush. I remember the original Apple ][. Imagine how I feel.

      I remember playing with the Lisa (perhaps Lisa 2 it was '84) in a computer showroom. Later when the Macintosh came out, I was surprised by how much smaller it was.

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

    • Nowadays, it makes a good fishtank for those waxing nostalgic
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DickBreath ( 207180 )
      Don't forget about MacWorks. The floppy disk that let your Lisa emulate a Macintosh. Slowly due to 5 MHz vs 8 MHz processor. And with weird display due to 1.5 to 1 rectangular pixels instead of nice square pixels.

      Anybody remember having to use a Lisa to develop for the Mac? Cross compile. Put it on floppy disk. Then test it on a Mac. And every step was painfully slow. Compilers. Linkers. Inserting a floppy disk. Copying the file. Ejecting the disk.

      Inserting the disk into the Mac had a much
  • The Lisa was a flop (Score:4, Informative)

    by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <onyxruby@comc[ ].net ['ast' in gap]> on Friday January 18, 2013 @01:32PM (#42626715)

    The Lisa had a mouse and was pushed by Apple management due to the high price tag. The Apple IIe was much cheaper, had visicalc, supported a certain level of commodity hardware and wasn't pushed by Apple management.

    The Apple IIe outsold [] the Lisa 20 to 1.

    /subby, thank you for not claiming Apple invented the mouse and giving credit where credit is due....

    • Imagine that. A computer priced at around $2000 outselling one priced close to $10000. I guess it wasn't all gold paved sidewalks, peace and free love back then.

      • by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:12PM (#42627149) Homepage
        Also remember that performance wise, the $2000 Apple IIe ran circles around the $10,000 Lisa. You could boot up VisiCalc and create a spreadsheet before the Lisa finished booting.
      • Oh, it was all gold paved sidewalks, peace and free love back then.

        Only the price of gold was MUCH much lower.

      • by tgd ( 2822 )

        Imagine that. A computer priced at around $2000 outselling one priced close to $10000. I guess it wasn't all gold paved sidewalks, peace and free love back then.

        Even more significantly -- that's about $24k in 2012 dollars.

    • by pauljlucas ( 529435 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @01:58PM (#42626981) Homepage Journal

      [T]hank you for not claiming Apple invented the mouse and giving credit where credit is due...

      Except he didn't give proper credit. While Xerox had the first commercial sale of the mouse, it was invented by Doug Engelbart [].

      • [T]hank you for not claiming Apple invented the mouse and giving credit where credit is due...

        Except he didn't give proper credit. While Xerox had the first commercial sale of the mouse, it was invented by
        Doug Engelbart [].

        Telefunken in Germany beat Engelbart and Xerox to it and was already selling a mouse called the "Rollkugel" before Engelbart's demo [] as an optional peripheral with it's computers. Engelbart did his demo on December 9, 1968, Telefunken was already selling mice by that time.

    • And the iPad 4 Retina doesn't have a mouse, has 10 times the screen resolution of BOTH Lisa and IIe combined, 20 times the processor power of BOTH combined, a much lower price tag, and has already outsold both by a factor of 100. Combined.
  • The Apple IIe was my first computer. At Bell Labs I also used the Lisa, which was interesting and a bit buggy but also the first "fun" computer to use.. but I had more fun using TROFF.

  • 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.

    • The Apple 2 red book had schematics, timing diagrams, and source listing for the system monitor. The tattered thing still sits on my shelf. The Commodore 64 had schematics as well. Those were the days.
    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      You're thinking of the ][+. The //e (note, //e, not ][e, and yes, I'm being pedantic) was not quite as open.
  • 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...

  • I worked on an Apple Lisa in Ottawa just after it was introduced. Like a lot of Jobs' ideas, it was a good concept that needed better, faster CPU's and denser, cheaper RAM. Think of the Newton - what is the iPhone but the Newton repackaged into a smaller form factor with superior hardware and telecoms added? I still think, if it hadn't been for Jobs and the whole Lisa/Mac lineage, I'd still be staring at c:>
    • Re:Lisa (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fermion ( 181285 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:01PM (#42627005) Homepage Journal
      Which was the problem with Xerox machines as well. The thing about Apple is that they are selling stuff that sometimes isn't quite ready, from a commodity point of view, to be sold yet, or does not ultimately fit into the way we use computers. Here is what was wrong with the Newton. It was sold as a stand alone device. Some may disagree, but I used both models for a long time. They were very useful. They allowed my to do a lot of things. I could plug it into my network with a standard cable and work.

      Here is what they got wrong. It was not a stand alone device. It really required a bigger more powerful machine to work well. That is why I move to the much less powerful, useful, rugged Palm V. At the end of the day, a partner was more useful than a competitor.

      Apple has gotten that right now. Data can be viewed across a range of devices. Entered anywhere viewed anywhere. Which is the critical difference between the iPhone and Newton. Data Compatibility between the software. Google is also doing a very good job at this using Google Drive. MS still seems to be focused on making sure they receive a license payment for each individual box.

  • by ChrisC1234 ( 953285 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @01:44PM (#42626845) Homepage
    The Lisa was ahead of its time, and many people don't know that. I grew up with a Lisa (later upgraded to Macintosh XL). For YEARS, my dad would complain how the Lisa could do more than the Macintosh operating system. Even the difference in desktop paradigms (where the Lisa was a document centric system, and the Mac is an application centric system). However, my dad's investment in the Lisas and their quick demise led him to curse Apple and Steve Jobs for a long time. We've still got 1 or 2 systems sitting in an attic somewhere. And I recall a few years ago having come across the whole set of system manuals for the original Lisa (with Twiggy drives).
    • You do realize that all that is now worth quite a bit of cash? That being said, Lisas haven't aged very well. Many of them need extensive repair and restoration. The worst problem is battery leaking acid all over the boards.
    • AFAIR, the Lisa had automatic versioning of files. When you saved a document, you didn't overwrite the previous versions. Of course, on a 5MB hard drive, you'd run out of space quickly.
      • It was also, to my understanding, much nicer for hardware technicians. The case opened up easily, and everything was handy to get at. Certainly in comparison to the original Mac (and many of the later models too) which required weird screwdrivers and had exposed high voltage parts. No one who's accidentally touched a flyback transformer in a Mac ever forgets it.

        The slide-out reference cards under the keyboard were also a good idea, and were present on the Mac during prototyping but never shipped. Too bad, o

  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdfl[ ]com ['at.' in gap]> on Friday January 18, 2013 @01:52PM (#42626933) Journal

    The Apple ][+ was the very first computer I ever really programmed on to any significant degree, which I used at school, and I had a //e at home myself in 1984.

    To date, it remains the only computer that I ever worked with which I felt I understood thoroughly. I had a reference book "What's Where in the Apple" which documented all of the Apple's i/o memory location/blocks, zero-page addresses, and practically every ROM procedure entry point, which I ended up practically memorizing.

    I have many fond memories of writing for that platform, and I doubt I'll ever forget it.

    Heck, I still remember some of the hex opcodes for 6502 instructions: EA was NOP, 4C was JMP, 20 was JSR.... and 60 was RTS.

    I remember I was sad when Woz decided to leave Apple, because I knew, even then, that meant that Apple was probably not going to take the Apple // line any further.

  • Wouldn't it have made more sense to post this tomorrow, which is actually the 30th anniversary of the press release, rather than the day before?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Anyone a Mockingboard fan?

    I cut my teeth too on BASIC and 6502 assembly back then when I was 11 years old in junior high school.
    The mockingboard had excellent info w/ assembly examples etc. for working with the sound chips.
    Used to use the 6522 interrupts on the mockingboard to do different things not always related to sound!
    Huge ultima fan especially with mockingboard.
    Music Construction Set -- landmark interface from child prodigy Will Harvey
    Anyone wire up their non-maskable interrupt to jump into the monit

  • I'm surprised they don't mention Steve Jobs being kicked out of the company by John Scully in 1986, the decline in the company's fortunes from 1992, and Jobs coming back to save the company in 1996.

    The problem with the Lisa was that it was built by a bunch of ex-HP engineers, to whom a $10,000 price tag wasn't extraordinary -- it's not like they bought their own equipment, the company did. But that was dramatically different from the Apple II+ customers, to whom $1500 was affordable. The Macintosh use
  • Slow? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Zedrick ( 764028 )
    How was 5MHz slow in 1983? I had a C64 clocked at 0.985MHz (PAL) around that time and it was more than enough + better (in every way) than any Apple.
    • by Jmc23 ( 2353706 )
      Really? So you're saying the C64 had higher resolution than Apples? The syntax easier? More programmable both hardware and software?

      Tell me, how did you jump over to our timeline?

    • by Creepy ( 93888 )

      Says the person that never used a Disk ][. The C64 disk drive was only marginally faster than the C64 tape drive, which is to say, go take a nap while loading or saving anything. Also the C64's lack of expandability made it obsolete faster.

      I'm not saying the C64 was bad - great graphics and sound for the price at that time compared to pretty much anyone else, but certainly not better in every way. Now Amiga OTOH...

      • The 1541 (C64 disk drive) was backwards compatibly with the 1540. If they had dumped backward compatibly it would have been almost as fast as the 1571. Also the programming on I/O for the drive and C64 wasn't that great. Compare JiffyDos (ROM replacement) on the C64/1541 to see what the drive could really do. I remember load time of one program was 4 minute on a stock 1541, with Jiffy Dos it was around 20 or less.
  • Is it just me or did anyone quickly read the story title as: 30 Years of the Apple Lisa and the Apple LIE:

    I guess my subconscious view of Apple is showing...

  • by Sebastopol ( 189276 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:40PM (#42627551) Homepage

    Funny how PC prices still hover in the same general price range.

    In 1983, for about $2,000, I got this (I was 13):

    Apple //e, 64KB
    Green Monochrome Apple Monitor
    Apricorn 80-column card (for displaying 80-columns, duh)
    Imagewriter Printer (9-pin dot matrix, noisy as heck)
    Two 5-1/4" disk drives (and disk drive controller card)
    PFS Write (Word Processor)
    Snooper Troops (game)
    Cheap Particleboard Desk
    1-year subscription to NIBBLE magazine

    Best Christmas gift ever. Of course, this was my ONLY Christmas gift for some time, as it depleted a huge chunk of my parents' savings, so after this Christmas gifts consisted of one or two pieces of $50 software (like Wizardry, or Bard's Tale).

    This setup lasted me until late 1988 when I saved up enough summer job cash to build a 386 clone.

    • PFS Write (Word Processor)
      Snooper Troops (game)

      Ah, the days when you had to pay for decent software, and you probably did not get the source.

      • by takshaka ( 15297 )

        Ah, the days when you had to pay for decent software, and you probably did not get the source.

        Pay? Not when we had Copy II Plus.

        • Yes!!

          And don't forget Locksmith 5.0!!! Damn that program was fast. Back when you could control the alignment of the read/write head through IO and write half-tracks.

          Actually, I don't miss that at all. Heh.

  • by EXTomar ( 78739 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:47PM (#42627623)

    As I mentioned in another post, I very much appreciate my parents for getting an Apple IIe (with the 80 column text card) but it took me long after to consider how expensive that piece of hardware was for them just in 80s US$ let alone what it could cost today!! My fond memories of coding my own stuff (like a school presentation with ASCII graphics) and playing "Agent USA" and "Ultima 4" and "Ultima 5" and other games but it never really sunk in until these anniversaries came around just how expensive the hardware and software really was.

    So while I salute my parents and Apple for providing me with a neat little computer to play and do some BASIC code on, I am really shocked it went anywhere due to the price tag.

    • by xystren ( 522982 )

      I'll byte... 3d0g was the DOS reentry point. You'd typically type this when you wanted to exit the monitor (which you would enter by CALL -151)...

      So, how about this one.
      CALL -151
      FA62:4C 59 FF


      CALL -151
      B942:18 60 BAAA:00 3D0G

      That bring back any memories?

  • I wonder what that says about my perception of the company :)

  • 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.)

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      From the way you write it you make it sound like the memory fault exception handling was broken, but to be fair to Motorola that was how it was designed to operate. The 68000, like other CPUs in its class at that time, was never really designed for a memory protected OS. The cost of implementing the necessary hardware was significant and Motorola probably figured they would offer the 68010 for customers who wanted that sort of thing and were willing to pay for it. Apple just couldn't wait.

    • As a personal computer, yes, it was overpriced and sluggish. As a workstation that you could run UNIX on, though, it was one of the best deals around. And yes, UNIX was available for it almost as soon as it was released--that's why my company bought one. It wasn't supported by Apple, but it was a commercially supported BSD, and even with the price for the commercially supported version, it was hands-down the cheapest UNIX workstation available.

      (As for the original Mac, it's often overlooked, but one of the

  • We were poor so couldn't afford buying any computer. Because of the simplicity of the design and available information we had 2-3 FrankenApples my dad put together from junked apples. It was so easy to hook up peripherals or plug in your own card that he also made a scanner, light pen, joystick, memory cards, etc...

    Ah, what fond memories of watching BBS screens drawn at 150baud after my dad repurposed a broken acousticly coupled modem. ah, the day we found a dead 300baud modem card in the garbage was a h

  • by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @04:55PM (#42629075)
    In 1980, when I first saw the Apple II, it's all I ever wanted. My mom would ask what I wanted for christmas and I would always say "An Apple II computer". Of course, it was just too expensive to get a pre-teen at that time (and we were not well-to-do). Instead of getting an Apple computer for my Birthday, one year my Mom got me 2 shares of Apple computer stock. It's not much fun for a kid to play with shares of stock. Luckily, my father bought me a //e later that year. The stock has since split a few times, and is now almost worth as much as the //e cost originally, but I got WAY more value out of the computer than I did out of the stock.

Computers can figure out all kinds of problems, except the things in the world that just don't add up.