February 09, 2013, 7:30 AM — 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.
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One of these platforms met an early end, leaving behind technology that shaped the entire industry. The other, built on proven technology from an engineering genius, remained a reliable breadwinner during uncertain times in the early life of the Macintosh and carried Apple's most popular 8-bit computer line to its natural conclusion.
Remembering the Lisa
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.
Despite those drawbacks, the Lisa made a huge splash in the industry in 1983 thanks to a bitmapped graphical operating system that utilized icons, pull-down menus, and overlapping windows to represent and manipulate information instead of the then-familiar convention of typing text-based commands. The interface launched a revolution in the way consumers interacted with personal computers.
The impact of the Lisa's GUI was so profound that dozens of companies jumped on board with imitative and catch-up products in the mouse-driven GUI space--not the least of which was Microsoft, which first announced its Microsoft Windows operating environment in November 1983, ten months after the Lisa's debut.