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Vintage tech: Apple Lisa

/ 8 April, 2015

4.0.1In every family’s history, there’s always one black sheep that never quite fits in with the rest. With Apple, that odd relative was Lisa.

The first personal computer to offer a graphical user interface, the Apple Lisa aimed to target individual business users.

The idea of the integrated desktop was only just coming into play, and the Lisa was the first computer that used point-and-click commands and icons. The machine was, in some respects, very much ahead of its time. It boasted a protected memory, pre-emptive multitasking capabilities, a hard disk based operating system, and 1MB of RAM with expandable slots. Most notably, the Lisa’s screen was top-of-the-line at 12 inches and 720 x 364.

A 90 person team worked on the design of the Lisa, and Apple spent more than $50 million on the project. In 1983, the Lisa made it to market, with an almost $10,000 price tag (that’s about $24,000 in today’s money). Unfortunately for Apple, the Lisa was not to be the success that it had banked on.

The unit was slow, weighed down by a large and complex operating system and a clunky price tag. All told, after two years and a few attempted upgrades, the Lisa only sold around 100,000 units, of which 70,000 were sold in the first three months.

Eventually, the Lisa would be folded into the Macintosh XL project, and the little Lisa OS would never be heard from again.