The Apple Lisa was a revolutionary personal computer designed at Apple Computer during the early 1980s. Much of the design of the Lisa, which was supposedly named after the daughter of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, was inspired by the graphical user interface (GUI) of the Xerox Star (8010) workstation. The Lisa project was started at Apple in 1978 and slowly evolved into a project to design a powerful personal computer with a GUI that would be targeted towards business customers. Around 1982, Steve Jobs was forced out of the Lisa project, so he joined the Macintosh project instead. Contrary to popular belief, the Macintosh is not a direct descendant of Lisa, although there are obvious similarities between the systems.
The origin of the name Lisa is shrouded in mystery. Some say it is an acronym for Local Integrated Software Architecture, others that it was named after Steve Jobs' daughter, and that the acronym was invented later to fit the name.
The Lisa was first introduced in January 1983 (announced on January 19) at a cost of $9,995 US. It was the first personal computer to have a GUI and a mouse. The first Lisa had two 5.25 inch disk drives (nicknamed the "Twiggy" drive) and ran the Lisa OS as its operating system. It ran on a Motorola 68000 CPU and had 512K RAM. It also featured preemptive multitasking, then an extremely advanced feature for a system at this level, but one that was partially responsible for the overall slowness of the system. (The Macintosh did not receive this feature until Mac OS X). The Apple ProFile external hard drive, which was originally designed for the Apple III, could be used with the Lisa. Conceptually, the Lisa resembled the Xerox Star in the sense that it was envisioned as an office computing system; consequently, Lisa had two main user modes: the Lisa Office System and the Workshop.
The Apple Lisa turned out to be a commercial failure for Apple, the largest since the Apple III disaster of 1980. The intended business computing customers balked at Lisa's high price and largely opted to run more inexpensive IBM PCs, which were already beginning to dominate business desktop computing. The Lisa was also seen as being a bit slow in spite of its innovative interface. The nail in the coffin for Lisa was the release of the Macintosh in 1984, which helped discredit the Lisa since the Macintosh also had a GUI and mouse but was far less expensive. The Lisa, like many products, was a victim of being too far ahead of its time. Two later Lisa models were released (the Lisa 2 and the so-called Macintosh XL) before the Lisa line was discontinued in August 1986.
At a time when 96kilobytes of RAM was considered an extravagancy, much of the Lisa's high pricetag, and therefore its commercial failure, can be attributed to the large amount of ram the system came with. Computers were still being sold into the 1990s with smaller amounts of ram onboard than the Lisa had.
Computing folklore has it that Apple had a significant number of their unsold Lisas buried at a landfill.
Like other early GUI computers, working Lisas are today fairly valuable collector-items, which people will pay thousands of dollars for.