Before there was the Mac, there was the Apple Lisa. It hit the market 40 years ago this month at a whopping $10,000 (today, that would be close to $30K).
The Apple Lisa actually came with a hard drive (all of five megabytes — not gigabytes or terabytes, but megabytes). It also shipped with floppy disk drives, but rather than using the standard (at the time) 5-inch floppies, Apple created its own completely unique 5-inch floppy format with a second data-read/write slot. That dog didn’t hunt either.
But there were some innovations that would stand the test of time, as well. The UI was based on the Xerox Parc Alto computer and would be immediately recognizable by any Mac (and Windows) user today. It used a mouse. It had a menu bar and icons, but no little Apple glyph in the corner.
Also: Now you can download the Apple Lisa’s source code
The Lisa also heralded the Apple user interface standards documentation, which guided developers into building applications that were consistent from developer to developer. The Lisa was innovative, hubristic, wildly overpriced, and aspirational.
It was an utter failure.
But it paved the way for everything we have today, and in that way, it’s worth remembering. One other thing that’s worth remembering (or at least discovering, if you haven’t seen it before) is the Lisa ad Kevin Costner made back in 1982 or so.
At that point, Costner was barely known. His big claim to fame was playing Frat Boy #3 in Night Shift, which starred Henry Winkler, Michael Keaton, and Shelly Long.
Costner, of course, went on to win two Oscars, three Golden Globe awards, a Primetime Emmy award… and six Razzies, including one for my all-time favorite movie, Waterworld.
In any case, with a shout out of thanks to my Internet Press Guild colleague David Needle, who turned me onto this video of Kevin Costner before he was Kevin Costner, I present this:
Did you know about the Apple Lisa? Were you one of the very few who ever used or developed for it? What’s your favorite Kevin Costner film or TV show? Share below in the comments. And yes, I liked The Postman, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the book.
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