What is a Lisa Computer?

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  • Written By: Jason C. Chavis
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  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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The Lisa computer was designed as a personal computer from Apple during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Apple set out in 1978 to build a computer that could be easily implemented into businesses, while offering a powerful graphical interface.

The Lisa computer was far more advanced than other personal computers of the era, offering a number of specialized features. The high resolution display was its most noticeable component, and it included a built-in screensaver. It also came with the ability to work as a calculator with paper tape output for accounting purposes. The Lisa supported 2 megabytes of RAM, an operating system that ran from the hard drive, and protected memory with the ability to perform cooperative multitasking.

The main drawback of the Lisa computer was that its operating system was too complex for the processor that was installed. Motorola designed a 5Mhz 68000 microprocessor, but it became sluggish with visual applications.

It is believed that the Lisa was named after Steve Jobs daughter. The acronym for the computer is Local Integrated Software Architecture. Steve Jobs helped start the project but was forced out in 1982, at which time he joined the Macintosh project.


On 19 January, 1983, the Lisa computer was released to the public. The initial cost of the model was $9,995 US Dollars (USD).

The computer came with two 5 1/4 inch double-sided floppy drives. These were designed by Apple for strict use with the Lisa and known as Twiggy. Each disk could hold up to 871 kilobytes of data. Due to ongoing failure of the drive system, however, Apple switched to a Sony 400 kilobyte drive in January 1984. The hard drive was an Apple ProFile capable of storing up to 10 MB of information.

The operating system of the Lisa featured virtual memory which made it capable of performing multiple tasks at one time. The files on the system were stored in hierarchical directories. Software for the system included a text program, a calculator and a drawing and graphing program.

The Lisa computer was an overall failure commercially for Apple Computers. At the time of its release, the main competitor of the company was IBM, which offered PCs at a lower cost. NASA, did, however, purchase a large volume of the computer model, which they used for many years.

A second version of the Lisa computer was released in 1984, however, this was also a commercial failure. Apple stripped down the RAM and features of the system to target the more cost-conscious home consumer. This, too, failed and the Lisa was abandoned. Nearly 3000 computers were destroyed.


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