30 years of the Apple Lisa and the Apple IIe

18.01.2013, von Benj Edwards

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.

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.