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Go backBook infoIntroducing Lisa

The second chapter of the book “Apple Lisa: A user-friendly handbook,” pp. 5-14.

Lisa offers everything you could want in a computer. Six powerful, built-in applications, over a thousand bytes of memory, a hard disk with almost 5 million bytes of storage space, two disk drives, a mouse, and an ergonomic keyboard – just to name a few. But of all its outstanding features, perhaps one stands out above the rest – Lisa is easy to use.

A Star is born

“The personal computer was created by the hardware revolution of the 1970s,” said Steve Job [sic!], cofounder of Apple Computer, Inc. “The next dramatic change,” he said, “will come from a software revolution.” The computer he was talking about was the Lisa. The occasion was Lisa’s unveiling in February 1983. The unveiling was the crowning moment of a project that cost over $50 million and 200 “person years” of labor.

In 1979 Job decided to build a computer for the 1980s. His first step was the acquisition of Hewlett-Packard manager John Couch as head of the Lisa development team. Along with Apple manager Bruce Daniels, Job and Couch toured XEROX’s Palo Alto research center where a revolutionary product called “Smalltalk” was under development. They were so impressed that they hired the XEROX manager who conducted the tour – Lawrence G. Tesler. In the months to follow over 15 XEROX employees were to join the Lisa team. When Wayne Rosing left Digital and joined as chief of hardware development, the team was complete. Lisa was underway.

Jobs and his team observed that many who could derive significant benefits by using a computer were put off by the time and effort required to learn to use one. They set out to design a computer that was first and foremost easy to use – a computer that used state-of-the-art technology to remove the obstacles to computer use – a computer that would offer the maximum benefits with a minimum of drawbacks.

To accomplish this goal, Apple first researched the needs and reservations of executives, and only then began to design Lisa. As a result Lisa is perhaps the first computer that started with and was tailored to the user.

To show you what I mean, let’s compare Lisa with its chief rival – the largest selling personal computer – the IBM PC.

Lisa vs. the IBM PC

If you choose the IBM PC, you run into problems before you’re out of the starting gate. Purchasing the IBM PC is not easy. You are confronted with a number of decisions that require at least a basic knowledge of computers. Which printer should I buy? How many disk drives do I need? How much memory? What software?

And purchasing the machine is only the beginning. Next you must learn to use the software applications you have purchased. Each application requires you to learn your way around menus, commands, special keys, and key combinations. You may find out too late that the spreadsheet program you bought is not the right one for you. What’s more, there is probably little similarity between the procedures you will learn for the spreadsheet and those you must learn for your graphics application. You must learn each application from scratch.

And that’s not all. You must learn about DOS, and how to format and copy disks.

Lisa solves all these problems with a single stroke. First of all purchasing a Lisa is easy. It comes complete with disk drives, hard disk, printer, memory, and complete software that will satisfy the needs of the most demanding user.

Lisa is easy to use because the procedures you need are always in front of you. You don’t need to memorize special keys. And all the built-in software programs are interactive. Once you have learned the basic procedures for one program, you know them all.

In short unlike computers such as the IBM PC, you don’t have to program yourself to use Lisa; you do not have to master a bewildering variety of keys, menus, and commands. Lisa uses its powerful memory to speak your language.

Why is Lisa easy to use?

It’s probably fair to say that before Lisa, computers were designed “inside out.” They required you to become computer literate. But Lisa is different – it’s people literate. It is designed to speak your language and meet your needs.

Lisa’s user interface

Person meets computer. To function they must communicate. The method of communication between the person and the computer is called the user interface. Lisa’s user interface is, in all probability, the world’s friendliest – it meets you far more than halfway.

On most computers you rely almost exclusively on the keyboard to communicate. The computer displays words on the screen to communicate with you. To communicate with Lisa you use a mouse. The mouse is a little box that moves an arrow on the screen. Lisa displays pictures called icons to communicate with you. Want to display a spreadsheet? Use the mouse to point at the picture of the spreadsheet and press the button.

Apple calls their user interface the Desk Top Manager. And it’s an apt and highly functional description. Lisa’s screen is like your desk top. On it are files, documents, and tools that are lying around. With the mouse you point to the document you want. The result of this point and select technique is an interface that is intuitive. You just somehow know what to do.

What can Lisa do for you?

Okay, so it’s friendly. But what can it do? Almost certainly anything you want it to. Lisa is a powerful tool that comes equipped with six main applications (programs) and two minor ones. With these eight programs it’s almost certain that you will run out of uses before Lisa runs out of ways to help.

But more impressive than its sheer magnitude of power is the elegant and practical design of the applications. They are designed to meet real world needs.

Let’s take a brief tour of the built-in applications. Then we will look at some common business needs and see how the applications address them. As you read the summary of applications, refer to Figs. 2-1 through 2-6. Each shows sample documents for a Lisa application.

LisaWrite. Word processing. LisaWrite (Fig. 2-1) enables you to prepare handsome documents. It offers extensive revision capabilities, eleven type styles, proportional spacing, justification, centering, and more. In short, LisaWrite offers the entire range of text processing capabilities available today.
Fig. 2-1. A memo written on the LisaWrite application.
This image can be zoomedFig. 2-1. A memo written on the LisaWrite application.

LisaCalc. Spreadsheet. LisaCalc (Fig. 2-2) enables you to create financial documents that handle calculations. You use columns and rows to enter and calculate various values. One of its chief uses is decision making based on “what if” scenarios. For example, if production costs decrease by 3 percent and marketing costs rise by 8 percent what is the net change in projected profits? Or if the interest rates rise by a certain amount what is the resulting net present value of assets?
Fig. 2-2. A spreadsheet formulated using the LisaCalc application.
This image can be zoomedFig. 2-2. A spreadsheet formulated using the LisaCalc application.

LisaList. List (data) processing. LisaList (Fig. 2-3) enables you to store, sort, and selectively retrieve information. Once you have typed a list you can update it, sort it by any criteria, and find specific items. For example, list all salespersons alphabetically or by sales volume for each region, or list those whose sales exceeded 200,000, those whose sales were less than 100,000, and so on.
Fig. 2-3. Some data stored in a database created using LisaList.
This image can be zoomedFig. 2-3. Some data stored in a database created using LisaList.

LisaGraph. Graph preparation. LisaGraph (Fig. 2-4) allows you to type information and turns the information into graphs that illustrate the information. With LisaGraph you can create bar graphs, line graphs, pie graphs, and scatter graphs. In some cases you can use combinations of different graph styles in one graph.
Fig. 2-4. A pie chart created using LisaGraph.
This image can be zoomedFig. 2-4. A pie chart created using LisaGraph.

Lisa Project. Planning. LisaProject (Fig. 2-5) enables you to draw a picture of tasks and resources, and then it calculates schedules and includes both early and late finish dates for each task. It displays charts that illustrate the project by task and resource allocation. It enables you to experiment with different scenarios, to evaluate the amount of slack time, to calculate the earliest possible date of completion, and to evaluate the current status of a project in progress.
Fig. 2-5. The beginnings of a project plan being formulated using LisaProject.
This image can be zoomedFig. 2-5. The beginnings of a project plan being formulated using LisaProject.

LisaDraw. Graphics. LisaDraw (Fig. 2-6) enables you to create remarkable drawings with almost endless possibilities. You can create extremely impressive professional illustrations that get your points across most persuasively. What’s more, LisaDraw is... let’s face it – a lot of fun. Figure 2-10 illustrates this application more effectively than any description.
Fig. 2-6. An explanation of terminal communications created using the LisaDraw application.
This image can be zoomedFig. 2-6. An explanation of terminal communications created using the LisaDraw application.

How Lisa’s applications meet your needs

In keeping with Lisa’s user-friendly philosophy, let’s take a look at these applications from your point of view. How can these applications satisfy your needs? What advantages and benefits can you realize? What tasks can Lisa streamline and simplify?

Obviously I cannot address your specific needs, but it is possible to talk about business needs in general. We can list four universal activities and illustrate how Lisa can help.

  1. Planning and Decision-Making.
  2. Record Keeping.
  3. Persuading (selling).
  4. Word Processing.

Let’s take these universal activities one at a time.

1. Planning and Decision-Making.

To make any decision, trivial or important, you use the same basic process – You gather and assess the relevant information; then formulate, test, and reformulate a series of preliminary decisions before making a final decision.

Lisa is an excellent tool for decision-making. It helps you assess information by providing clear pictures from a number of perspectives. It helps you to test and reformulate trial decisions by showing you many possible outcomes.

LisaCalc is most helpful for making financial or other decisions that involve numbers and calculations. LisaGraph, by creating clear pictures, also helps with dollar-related decisions.

LisaList is most helpful for making decisions that involve information in list form, information that includes a combination of numbers, names, addresses, dates, and so on.

LisaProject helps you with decisions that involve schedules, deadlines, tasks, and resources. It gives you a clear picture of how a project moves through time.

2. Record Keeping

The importance of keeping complete and accurate records is beyond dispute. Lisa helps you with this task, but adds a new dimension besides. Lisa enables you to use your records most effectively. After all, what good are complete and accurate records if it is difficult to assess and learn from them?

LisaList is the main record keeping tool. Once you set up a list it’s easy to add, delete, and update records. You can use the list to selectively find or sort data. For example, how many employees have been with the company for 10 years or more? How many widgets were shipped last month? How many are currently in stock? In order of sales volume for 1985, what is the name and address of every client on the West Coast?

LisaCalc and LisaProject also helps with record keeping although they provide secondary assistance. With LisaCalc you can document financial events; with LisaProject you can maintain a record of how a project is managed.

3. Persuading (selling)

Often making a decision is not enough. You must persuade others. You may need to convince a client or prospect that your product best meets their needs. Lisa is a powerful ally in the persuasion department.

LisaGraph and LisaDraw offer you the most obvious support when you need to make a point. LisaGraph enables you to turn potentially confusing numbers into a clear and convincing picture. For example, you can show the cost effectiveness of a project with or without your service.

LisaDraw enables you to create an indelible impression. With its sophisticated ability to produce a wide variety of graphics, LisaDraw enables you to prepare unsurpassed flow charts, diagrams, overhead transparencies, and slides.

LisaCalc, LisaList, and LisaProject also help you to present your points more convincingly. For example, in a proposal you can include impressive printouts that show cost effectiveness and lists of resources, as well as schedules that present the benefits of a contract or product clearly and impressively.

4. Word Processing

Obviously, LisaWrite is the application that provides the capability to prepare documents. Perhaps its most helpful benefit is LisaWrite’s ability to produce handsome typeset quality documents. You can produce reports and letters with different type faces in a variety of sizes, different print styles, justification, and so on.

What you get – Lisa’s hardware

One of Lisa’s benefits is that you can purchase it with complete confidence that you are getting all the hardware required. You don’t have to worry about memory size, storage size, software, and printer. You can be almost certain that you are getting everything. In fact when you buy a Lisa you get more than with any other personal computer.

In case you are interested, Table 2-1 provides an abbreviated summary of Lisa’s standard equipment.

In addition, Lisa offers hard disk storage in a unit called Profile. Profile stores almost five million bytes with 608 tracks at 8,192 bytes per track. Its seek time is 330 tracks per second, and its data transfer rate is 5 megabits per second.

Table 2-1. Lisa Specifications.

12-inch screen (measured diagonally).
Full-screen bit-mapped display:
364 lines by 720 dots.
up to 45 lines of 144 characters.
60 Hz refresh rate.
64 levels of contrast under software control.
Glare-reducing screen (enhances contrast).

Detached, IBM Selectric® type with N-key rollover.
Sculptured keytops (textured, non-slip, non-glare).
Numeric keypad with raised dot on 5 key for quick positioning.
Full ASCII character set with up to 76 keys.
All keys programmable for special characters or functions.
Smart interface with control-oriented processor.

Extremely fast, intuitive cursor positioning.
Works well on any surface.
Simple one-button design eliminates confusion and the need to learn commands.

Disk storage:
860K bytes (per drive) formatted storage (1.4 megabytes unformatted).
62.5 tracks (10,000 bits) per inch.
Automatic head loading.
Automatic disk eject under software control.
Smart interface with 6504 processor.

Main processor:
MC68000 32/16-bit CPU:
32-bit internal architecture.
16-bit external data path.
7 levels of interrupts.

Real-time clock:
Software on-off control.
Interval and event timing.

Main memory:
16K bytes of boot ROM.
One megabyte of RAM.
Parity error detection.

Memory management:
Permits operating system to relocate segments in memory.
Provides access controls for blocks of memory.
Segmentation into 128 variable-length blocks dynamically controlled by memory map table.

Communications interface:
Two serial ports:
Intelligent controller:
full-function, programmable (asynch, bisynch, SDLC, HDLC).
RS-232C with half- or full-duplex channels.
Full modern control and ring indicator on one channel.
Software-programmable Baud Rates.
One parallel port:
6522 interface adapter.
8-bit bidirectional with handshake control.

Audio output:
Built-in speaker with software-controllable tone generator.

Expansion board slots:
Three slots.
Zero-insertion-force connectors.
Direct connection to system bus.
DMA capability.
Memory-mapped I/O.
Vector interrupt capability.
Direct connection of power supply:
digital ground.
+5V, +12V, -12V, -5V (100 mA max).
allows up to 15 W total (maximum rating) for all three cards.
+5V standby (at 50 mA) per board.

Weight and dimensions:
Computer console:
Weight: 48 lb. (22 kg).
Height: 13.8 in. (350 mm).
Width: 18.7 in. (475 mm).
Depth: 15.2 in. (388 mm) [16 in. (403 mm) with keyboard under front].
Weight: 4 lb. (1.8 kg).
Height: 2.7 in. (66 mm).
Width: 18.7 in. (475 mm).
Depth: 6.5 in. (165 mm).

Power requirements:
115 or 230 V ac
48 to 68 Hz.
270 W (maximum).

Environmental requirements:
Ambient temperature: 40°-108° F (5°-42°C).
Relative humidity: 15-80%, noncondensing.

Service and support

Apple has established a reputation for outstanding support and service for its products. Lisa is no exception.

For the individual owner the manuals provide ample training and documentation support. However if you have questions, Apple provides an 800 number you can call for the Apple representative nearest you: 800-662-9238.

For companies who purchase a number of Lisas, Apple will set up complete training programs. What’s more, Apple will design specialized applications to meet their needs.

Apple is no slouch in the service department either. They offer a variety of maintenance plans. In most cases Apple simply replaces the defective component. A policy that substantially reduces down time.

Carry-in service

For around $12.75 per month you can opt for Apple’s Carry-In Service plan. With 1400 authorized Apple dealers you probably won’t have far to go. Apple claims that in most cases they will service your Lisa while you wait. It’s an unquestionable bargain.

On-site service

Apple also provides on-site service and, considering Apple’s recent agreement with RCA, you will no doubt find a service representative nearby. Between RCA and Apple there are over 370 locations that provide on-site service. Apple promises a maximum of four hours for a service call, any hour, seven days a week.

If you own a large enough number of Lisas to make it worth your while, Apple will help you set up your own in-house service department.


If you own a Lisa, congratulations. If you are thinking of owning one, go ahead and buy it. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. For now, let’s move on to Chapter 3. Let’s roll up our sleeves, get our hands on, and talk about the major techniques you use to work with Lisa. Let’s discuss the desk top manager.

Page added on 22nd January 2005.

Copyright © 2002-2006 Marcin Wichary, unless stated otherwise.