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back to article Happy birthday, Lisa: Apple's slow but heavy workhorse turns 30

Read a press release from Apple in the 1990s and it'll end with something along the lines of: “Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh.” All of which is true up to a point, but the statement does overlook the product that …

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Pint

Great stuff.

Can we have at least one feature like this a day. Kthxbai.

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zb

Happy birthday Lisa

I saw the headline and groaned "not another Simpsons story" and skipped the rest.

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Facepalm

Re: Happy birthday Lisa

Doh!

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Happy

Re: Great stuff.

"Can we have at least one feature like this a day."

an ebook of he best of these historical articles with edited comments (the ones where the protagonists come out of the woodwork and comment on the proceedings) would probably sell well. I'd drop at least a fiver on a Kindle edition...

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Bollocks stuff.

“Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh.”

You mean:

“Commodore ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1980s with the C64 and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Amiga.”

There, fixed it for you.

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WTF?

Re: Bollocks stuff.

"“Commodore ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1980s with the C64 and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Amiga.”

There, fixed it for you."

You're fscking kidding , right? The C64 was good but it was in no way a pioneer. The Sinclair ZX80 and ZX81 and BBC Micro beat it by a few years even if you don't count the Apple machines as proper personal computers (and I've no idea why you wouldn't). As for the Amiga, it was a damn good machine but it didn't reinvent anything, it was simply an evolutionary progression. And you seem to be forgetting about the Atari ST of the same era which cleaned up on the amateur and professional music production side with its MIDI support.

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Anonymous Coward

He was convinced that the graphical user interface he saw at Xerox, along with the mouse, had the potential to shape the future of computing. He was right.....copied the idea in a flash and was successful in sucking in his followers to believe he is the messiah.

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Beware the fanbois

As it happens, I worked on the UK launch of the Star kit (in Brum, IIRC) for Rank Xerox. It was in 1981, two years before the Lisa appeared.

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I loved this bit

"How many buttons for the mouse is a question that still rages today, but Apple’s testing on computer novices found that one button reduced confusion and eliminated the occasional glance to check the mouse buttons being used."

I wasn't aware of this, but I think an argument can rightly be made that the way a novice uses a computer isn't a good design guide for optimal use of a computer.

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jai
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Re: I loved this bit

i always maintained that if you needed a second mouse button to do something, then it wasn't worth doing it.

that was, of course, until Apple implemented a right-click action on their buttonless mice...

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Pint

The truth of the matter is he liberated the Xerox engineers from their short sighted idiot upper management on the other side of the country by firstly recognising their genius (which the Xerox board never did) and then offering them a job at Apple. I wouldn't call that poaching them since their ideas were rotting in a lab and were never going to see the outside world via Xerox.

The fact that the Xerox board approved Jobs and Apple engineers visits in return for being given the privilege of purchasing Apple stock before their flotation tells you how short sighted they were.

Find an interview with Bob Metcalfe, Larry Tesler, Alan Kay or a multitude of others who worked at PARC what they feel about Apple and Steve Jobs and you'll find a frank, not always flattering but overwhelmingly grateful response to a man.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I loved this bit

Yes and no.

Your first instincts are often correct. Relying on people remembering or using experience isn't a good way to design a human computer interface.

Take a swinging door for example. If it only opens one way and there are handles both sides then you instinct is to pull it open, but on one of the sides of the door this won't work. So really the side where you push should have a finger plate and the other side a handle.

You have to forget the simple applications we use like web browsers, the limited number of buttons and UI controls are pretty simple to work out. But look at a professional tool like video editing, 3D modelling and sound engineering. A sub optimal UI in such a tool is rather annoying as you'll be spending 7 hours a day using this software, lots of button clicks, keyboard clicks.

Of course most tools tend to provide power users with keyboard shortcuts, this is where web interfaces suck big time and why ChromeOS is dead in the water, it's not simple to have keyboard shortcuts easily in a web application.

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WTF?

Re: I loved this bit

So you never wanted a second mouse button until Apple told you that you did?

Is this a one-off, or do you rely on Apple to do all your thinking for you?

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Re: I loved this bit

>Relying on people remembering or using experience isn't a good way to design a human computer interface.

They won't be able to learn quickly if they have to remember strange keyboard shortcuts, but if they do the task often enough then their 'muscle memory' will make it almost automatic. This is why I like menus as a training aid- the novice can select File > Save with the mouse, or to give their wrist a rest they can use Alt > F > S (or use Alt > cursor keys), or when they are used to the system they can save time by using Ctrl+S.

What I don't like about menus is when they get nested, and it becomes a test of mouse dexterity to select an item 3 levels deep... Oh well.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I loved this bit

"[...]I think an argument can rightly be made that the way a novice uses a computer isn't a good design guide for optimal use of a computer."

Louder, please, I don't think the Windows 8 and Gnome developers heard you the first time.

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Megaphone

Re: I loved this bit

Macs have ALWAYS had second and even third mouse buttons; it's just that they're (even more confusingly) located on the keyboard. CTRL-Click = right click, option-click = ...

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Paid for the idea. He saw its potential, Xerox did not.

They paid on stock. Guess what it would be worth now if Xerox had KEPT it?

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Unhappy

Re: I loved this bit

"I wasn't aware of this, but I think an argument can rightly be made that the way a novice uses a computer isn't a good design guide for optimal use of a computer."

Quite. Having more than 1 button on a mouse isn't an indulgence, it makes some contextual operations a damn site easier. Apples single button not only makes some things more of a faff but it also makes it next to impossible to use some X windows applications properly on OS/X because they require 3 buttons and apples 2 button bodge really doesn't work very well since you're never quite sure if you've pressed it correctly until something happens on screen. And we won't get into the lack of a roller wheel. The Apple mouse could be used as the dictionary definition of style over practicality.

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Boffin

Re: I loved this bit

> Macs have ALWAYS had second and even third mouse buttons; it's just that they're (even more

> confusingly) located on the keyboard. CTRL-Click = right click, option-click = ...

They were actually on the mouse if you could be bothered to buy one of the three button mice that were on the market. I saved for a long time to buy my first Mac, and almost immediately purchased a three button mouse for it.

I spent a few years in the late 80s and early 90s working for one of the NASA labs; one project I had some peripheral involvement with was building a system for the US military using Macs running A/UX (and DecStation 3100s running Ultrix.) The biggest user complaint was the one button mouse. I edumacated them about three button mice, they bought them, problem solved.

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Mushroom

Re: I loved this bit

With each Mac purchase the first thing to be replaced was the mouse and keyboard. Even after Apple introduced Mighty Mouse I still wasn't a fan. Sure you could left or right-click but not both because it was still a single button mouse. Having separate buttons is handy especially for gaming. You could navigate by holding down the left button then click the right button to do something else such as shoot.

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jai
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Trollface

Re: I loved this bit

oh no, my entire life philosophy can be boiled down to that. once you accept the reality distortion field, life becomes so much simpler and just works

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Excellent

Excellent in depth story about the LISA and what she brought to the party in regards to "personal" computing

This was briefly covered in the documentary film titled "Weclome to Macintosh" where some of the original development team members were intrviewed

As for a LISA being worth almost US$25K, I wonder how many former owners rue junking their LISAs now?

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Re: Excellent

"As for a LISA being worth almost US$25K, I wonder how many former owners rue junking their LISAs now?"

I junked mine about three years ago when it totally quit working. The motherboard had so much corrosion on the circuit traces that it would no longer even turn on.

I picked it up for $100 in about 1987 or 1988, from a used computer place that said it wasn't working. It turned out that a cable for the video tube had popped off; easy 5-minute fix. It was a Lisa 2/5, with the 5 MB hard drive, and served as my primary computer for about the next four years or so--I replaced the ROMs with Mac XL ROMs and found it ran Mac software quite nicely. (I was running System 6.0.8 at the time.)

Lovely machine. I was sorry when it finally failed for good.

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Joke

I suppose the Lisa would make a dent...

if you dropped it

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Pic 1, page 1

hmmm....lovely desk finish...just perfect for using your 80's mouse on. Or not. Then there's the small matter of the diarrhea colour pattern...

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Facepalm

Re: Pic 1, page 1

Uhm, remember having to clean the innards of the mice, because lint, dust and crud would collect around the two axis thingies? Mice have not always been 'optical' based...

Am i showing my age?

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Re: Pic 1, page 1

Ah, the old 'drunken mouse' after dousing the insides with rubbing alcohol to get rid of accumulated cruft.

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Boffin

Re: Pic 1, page 1

One advantage of working in a science lab is that industrial quantities of pure alcohol for the cleaning of mouse rollers and balls was no problem. I still have a small vial of the stuff for loosening the ball my current mouse, the one on top.

Meths will do just fine as well of course, though smellier.

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Mushroom

"Apple invents the Personal Computer. Again."

I see that their marketing department has never rested on it's laurels, and has continued to provide fresh, up to the minute copy...

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Re: "Apple invents the Personal Computer. Again."

Indeed. And it seems attempting to flog hugely overpriced, underwhelming kit and long, expensive lawsuits are also ancient traditions kept very much alive today.

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Anonymous Coward

The Apple II was my first self-contained micro in 1979. As far as I recall the Lisa/Mac didn't offer an affordable upgrade or experimenter card slots. So I migrated to IBM compatibles instead.

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Yep, I've heard from engineers older than myself that they went with IBM compatibles because whilst they liked Apples, they just couldn't connect anything to them.

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Apple II and card slots

You used to see Apple II with all sorts of cards hanging out (did they ever make a top cover for it?)

The Apple II was so successful because it was such an open system.

Then with the Apple III they closed the doors, so it wasn't any use to anyone who'd been using the II outside the office.

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Boffin

Re: Apple II and card slots

Er, the Apple III had slots. (Google it.)

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Boffin

> Yep, I've heard from engineers older than myself that they went with IBM compatibles because

> whilst they liked Apples, they just couldn't connect anything to them.

Yes, they went with PCs, and added cards for all the things the Macs had built-in.

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"As far as I recall the Lisa/Mac didn't offer an affordable upgrade or experimenter card slots."

True of the first Macs, not of the Lisa. The Lisa had a card cage next to the motherboard, with (if I recall correctly) three slots. On my machine, one of the slots was occupied, but I don't recall what was in there. (Parallel port, maybe?) I bought an aftermarket SCSI card for the second slot, and used it to connect SCSI devices when the parallel-port Profile hard drive--with its whopping 5 megabyte capacity--started to get a bit flakey. If I remember right (it's been quite a while), the computer couldn't boot from a SCSI drive but it could use them.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm waiting for the but Android is better comment.

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Anonymous Coward

My pleasure...

Android is better.

:o)

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Anonymous Coward

Forgotten?

I'm not so sure Lisa is "the machine Apple would rather you didn't remember". From Jobs' autobiography, it seems to me it's more that Jobs deliberately spoiled it with the Original Mac in a (somewhat typical) fit of pique when was sidelined in the company.

Perhaps a better description would be the machine *Jobs* would rather you didn't remember.

To be fair to him though (flawed flaky genius and all that stuff), the Mac proved to be a better thought out, more commercial machine.

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Unhappy

Everyone tried to copy it

Certainly "troubled Cambridge micro-maker" Acorn tried in the early '80s. The first ARM powered machine was supposed to be Lisa-like, but the researchers in the USA treated it like ongoing research rather than a product to be finished (obviously my bit was finished in time :-> ), that it more-or-less caused the "troubled" epithet and the development of Arthur and RISCOS in a hurry and instead.

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Anonymous Coward

>"rectangles with rounded corners [...] were “everywhere”."

So, the one thing he invented, and he didn't even invent it because it was already a commonplace idea, by his own admission. Good riddance to the egotistical liar.

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Re: >"rectangles with rounded corners [...] were “everywhere”."

An invention that exists only on paper is of no good to anybody (except patent trolls). Look at how much tech has been invented in the UK, and then look at how successfully they have been turned into money to reward the inventors. That observation alone should tell you that people who aren't inventors are required to turn ideas into products and money. That was Jobs' role.

What's yours, AC?

Even obvious and clearly superior ideas need to be championed, sadly. If you live the UK, look at the light switch on your wall- chances are that it is an inch-long switch with sharp corners sitting in the middle of a 4" plate, and it requires a firm press. Nasty. Now, look at the light switches that are commonly used on the continent- the switch is that same size as the plate, it has round corners and it can be easily tapped to switch between on and off.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: >"invention that exists only on paper is of no good to anybody"

How exactly are rounded rectangles "an invention that exists only on paper", when the quote quite clearly says that they were "everywhere"? What do you think that line about Jobs taking the guy out for "an educational stroll" meant? He was pointing out actual rounded rectangles in everyday life, not just chatting to him. They were a commonplace, as Jobs himself admitted at the time, but years later he reversed his position and claimed to have invented them; that makes him a bare-faced liar.

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Is it me?

Or is that Lemming advert incredibly ironic now.

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Happy

Re: Is it me?

Does kind of remind me of the Apple Store lineups on new-release day...

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Meh

The problem with Jobs?

People seem to think Jobs' biggest fault was the way he stole others' ideas.

It isn't

That is the way technology evolves, and always has evolved. See a good idea and make it smaller / faster / cheaper / easier to use. That is what Jobs did, and I have no problem with that. In fact he should be lauded for it because he did it well.

The issue with Jobs is that he wanted to have his cake and eat it. He was happy to use other people's ideas, but threw his toys out of the pram when someone did the same with one of his products. There are recordings of him boasting about stealing Xerox' ideas, and then his famous "kill Google" rant.

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Re: The problem with Jobs?

I remember Bill Gates reacting to Jobs accusation that he stole the Windows GUI from Apple. Gate's used an analogy along the lines of 'Imagine you had a friend who stole a TV set from his neighbour... now you go to the same neighbour and steal his other TV set, but your friend says you stole it from him...'

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Happy

1983 - A good year for Kev!!!

The arm of the dead guy in 'The Big Chill' and an Apple advert. Where did it all go wrong?

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Pint

Re: 1983 - A good year for Kev!!!

You can see his trademark way of answering the phone - resting the whole upper body weight on the elbows...

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