30 years of the Apple Lisa and the Apple IIe

By Benj Edwards, Macworld |  Hardware, Apple

Perhaps even more profound was the effect the Lisa had on Apple itself. While the Lisa's development initially began under Steve Jobs's guidance, the Apple cofounder was later ousted from the project. This prompted Jobs to take charge of another computer project within Apple, Jef Raskin's low-cost appliance computer--the Macintosh.

Under Jobs's feverish and singular guidance, the Macintosh, released just one year later, flowered into a low-cost competitor to the Lisa, sealing the fate of the awkward, overpriced computer.

The rest of that branch of history should be at least somewhat familiar to readers. A few of the Lisa's achievements that the Macintosh emulated include the mouse and the bitmapped display, the desktop paradigm, representational icons, proportional fonts, pull-down menus along the top of the screen, and overlapping windows (something Microsoft Windows didn't offer until version 2.03 in 1987).

The Apple Lisa

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But the Lisa had a few more tricks up its sleeve that remained unique to the system for years. For example, it offered cooperative multitasking (which the Macintosh OS did not feature until 1987 as an optional part of System Software 5); protected memory (which did not appear until Mac OS X in 2001); a built-in screensaver; and the ability to utilize plug-in expansion cards, hard disks, and up to 2MB of RAM (the first Mac was limited to 128KB).

The Lisa also debuted a few features that the Mac has never fully imitated. In the most dramatic example, the Lisa's OS (the Lisa Office System) handled user-generated files in a completely document-centric manner. That is, one did not launch an application and then open a file from within that application, as is common in Mac OS X and Windows today. Instead, one "tore off" a blank document from a virtual stack of "paper," which created a user-editable document in the file system that the user would then double-click to open in the appropriate application.

In a sense, Lisa's document-centric approach was the exact opposite of the paradigm advanced by iOS today, in which the user deals solely with applications at the OS level and not documents individually.

Also, in a significant step forward for user convenience, the Lisa included the world's first computer "soft" power switch, which, when pushed, initiated an automatic shutdown sequence that saved and put away all documents safely before powering down the system.


Originally published on Macworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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