Apple’s new computer moves users into the age of easy computing
Reprinted from Personal Computing 2/83, pp. 181-182. This is the first
part of the bigger article “Hardware of the month.”
LISA, the long-awaited, new Apple personal office computer, has finally arrived. As
promised, it represents a considerable step forward in ease of use.
That giant step has been made by drastic changes in both hardware and software. The greatest
overall difference is the use of what Apple dubs GMT – graphics/mouse technology – as
opposed to conventional keyboard/text technology. The only other computer system currently on
the market with similar technology is the Xerox 8010 (also known as the Star), an executive
workstation intended for larger network installations.
Visually, LISA has the overall friendly look associated with previous Apple products. The primary
physical difference is a “mouse” – an electromechanical control device, about the
size of two cigarette packs, which the user moves around the top of a desk. Moving
the mouse in a given direction moves the on-screen cursor in the same direction. When the cursor
is at the desired position on screen, the user signals by pushing a button on the mouse. The mouse,
while it’s a simple addition, allows some fundamental changes in the user interface. All LISA
software makes use of the mouse. The user can choose functions on the screen – say, word
processing or spreadsheeting – simply by positioning the cursor with the mouse and pushing a
button. Or he can enter a whole series of commands, even changing screen contrast or type style,
without ever touching the keyboard.
All of the applications available from Apple for LISA run under a single organizing program called
the Desktop Manager, which uses a bar across the top of the screen to list which applications are
active. With the mouse, the user can choose a specific application that causes a pulldown menu to
descend, and then select functions within the application’s menu. On the right side of the
screen appears a column of “icons” – small graphic presentations ranging from a
tiny file cabinet to a wastebasket – that are used in various ways. When one requests a given
file, the “page” appears from the file cabinet and grows to fill the screen. When a
disk is inserted into the integral drive, a tiny disk appears on screen.
A final aspect of the screen display reflects the designers’ desire to emulate the way people really
work at a desk: specifically, at more than one project at a time. For example, in the middle of
doing a word-processing function, the user can call up a page of a spreadsheet with the aid of
the mouse. Then he can use the word processor to edit, format a table, and even enhance the
project with spacing or different type fonts.
LISA hardware is built around the 16-bit 68000 processor, with 512k of memory as standard (expansion up
to 2Mb is promised for the near future). In addition, two disk drives are integral, providing
a total 1.72Mb of storage capacity. The high-resolution, bit-mapped screen (364 lines by 740 dots) has
a black-on-white display (further enhancing the sense of “paper” on a “desk”),
which provides extremely high-quality graphics, as well as 11 different typefaces, each available in 16
different fonts. The detachable keyboard, which fits beneath the cantilevered console for storage,
has a standard typewriter layout, along with a numeric keypad. All keys can be programmed
to act as function keys.
The 12-inch monitor screen uses a high-efficiency phosphor, plus a rapid
refresh rate to reduce flicker and eye fatigue. The screen automatically
dims and blanks if left unattended for long periods of time. The entire
unit is constructed in modules, most of which can be removed by the user.
Apple plans an extensive service system based on replacement modules
– either through express delivery or carry-in availability.
Standard interfaces include two serial ports, one parallel port, and
three slots for expansion boards. Finally, the unit has efficient
convection cooling, thus eliminating the need for a fan.
At the time of introduction, six application packages will be available for
LISA – all fully utilizing the graphics/mouse capability, and
completely integrated for sharing data and moving material among
applications. Applications include:
|LisaWrite – a sophisticated word-processing system, which displays exactly what the final
document will look like, including type fonts.
|LisaCalc – a spreadsheet capable of presentations as large as 256 rows by 256 columns that can
be learned in less than a half hour.
|LisaList – a data-base manager, which includes a built-in, quality-control mechanism to monitor
for entry accuracy.
|Lisa Project Manager – an innovative program that helps schedule and track complex projects on
the basis of three types of visual flow charts.
|LisaDraw – an unusually versatile graphics tool. It creates lines, boxes, and circles with only
two moves of the mouse, and it makes even more complex shapes with drawing aids, such as rules and
guides. Tables from LisaGraph and charts from the Lisa Project Manager can be moved into LisaDraw for
editing and customizing, simply by using the mouse.
|LisaGraph – a full graph-generating capability. Beginners can learn it in less than a half
hour and gain proficiency within two hours.
Apple plans to offer additional application packages in the future, and its engineers are also
completing a “tool kit” to allow independent third-party software writers to
create “LISA-type” applications. The kit will allow for full use of the pull-down menus,
mouse, and font styles.
Documentation for the LISA system will be extensive, beginning with an “Apple Guide,” providing
interactive, computer-based instruction in the handling of the Desktop Manager. Each application program
will include a 20-page “Getting Started” text; a “Cookbook,” a reference
guide with brief entries; and a “Tutorial,” aimed at support staff, to
generate “intense competence” in a three- to four-hour time frame. Some video presentations as
well as a direct telephone line to the Apple staff may also be available.
Ultimately, the LISA system will emphasize networking and data communications. The newly announced
Apple-Net (which Apple will also offer to other vendors for a minimal licensing fee), will be
an Ethernet-compatible baseband network system that permits up to 128 nodes (including Apple IIs and IIIs),
using Twinax cable at distances up to 2000 feet. The initial cost will be less than $400 per node.
At the time of introduction, LISA will offer one terminal emulator package with full VT100, VT52,
and TTY compatibility. Additional emulators will be offered during 1983, ultimately allowing LISA to
communicate with a range of mainframes and minicomputers in a variety of configurations.
At first shipping, peripherals offered will include a modem with auto-dial and answer capabilities,
the already-introduced ProFile hard disk, and two printers – one dot matrix and one letter
quality. The letter-quality printer will provide professional-quality text and graphics, including fonts
up to 1/3 inch. All printer options are selected from a checklist on LISA. In addition,
the printing format defined for each document is stored with it for future use. Like the letter-quality
printer, the dot-matrix printer offers unusually easy setup (“from carton to printing
in 10 minutes”) as well as the ability to specify the resolution of both graphic and text
output. Both printers offer “background printing,” which allows the user to work on other
tasks while the system prepares a document.
At press time, prices for LISA were not firmly set. Apple predicts a base price for the console (with
512k memory, two floppies, and the Desktop Manager software) of $7000 to $10,000. Each application will
cost between $300 and $500. Some lower-cost arrangements of software bundles with hardware will probably be
available. (See The Birth of LISA, page 88, for more background.)
For more information: APPLE COMPUTER, INC.,
20525 Mariani Ave., Cupertino, CA 95014; (408) 996-1010.