The first chapter of the book “The complete book of Lisa,”
Until early 1983, personal computer buyers had a lot in common with
turn-of-the-century automobile consumers. Those early car buyers needed to
know a great deal more than how to drive a car. They also had to learn
how the new-fangled machines worked, and what to do when they didn’t.
The same was once true for personal computer owners.
If you were one of the early personal computer buyers, not only did you need
to learn the various applications – word processing, spreadsheet
modeling, data base languages, and all the rest – for which your computer
was purchased, you also had to learn a considerable amount about the workings
of your new-fangled machine. You were expected to be able to take
a computer apart – to adjust its connection to the TV set, for example,
or to install additional memory. To use a word processing package, you
had to master an arcane language simply to load the program into the system’s
memory or to find a document and print it out. To make matters worse,
it was possible accidentally to enter data instead of commands, or commands instead
of data, often with disastrous results.
Then came Lisa, and everything changed for the better.
Lisa, the result of more than 200 person-years of effort and $50 million
in research and development, represents a revolutionary change in personal
computing. First and foremost, there is no complex language to learn. Instead,
Lisa offers a totally new approach, an electronic desktop modeled after your
own desk. Instead of using the keyboard to communicate with the system, there
is a mouse, a flexible pointing device that is your primary means for issuing
commands and manipulating data. The mouse manipulates one of several cursors
on the screen. Instead of mastering a complicated system for organizing stored
information, you simply manipulate pictures of familiar objects like file
folders, pieces of paper, and calculators.
|Figure 1-1: Lisa’s electronic desktop. You interact with Lisa using “icons,” small pictures displayed on Lisa’s high-resolution screen. Icons represent documents, drawings, spreadsheets, databases, and the components of Lisa itself.|
This familiarity is key to Lisa’s ease of use. Consider your own desktop.
You place objects in a natural and familiar position. You know the phone is
to the left of the picture of your kids, next week’s schedule is next to the
dictionary, and last quarter’s budget is under the stapler. Lisa extends
that familiarity to the world of computing. Just as you can rearrange your
desk to suit your personal style, you can arrange Lisa’s desktop any way that
Many of the objects on a typical Lisa desktop (Figure 1-1) are called
icons. These are little pictures representing everyday objects, each of which
enables you to perform a variety of tasks. The icons are faithful
representations, both in form and function, of actual office items. The file
folder icon, for example, resembles an ordinary manila file folder
except that its label is located below the folder, not on the tab. Just like
the folders in your filing cabinet, this icon’s function is to hold a
variety of objects – pieces of paper, pictures, other folders, and so on.
To file one of these in Lisa, you simply use the mouse to move the icon
representing a document so that it is on top of the folder icon. With a
click of a button, the document disappears “inside” the folder icon
until you’re ready to retrieve it. It’s that simple.
|Figure 1-2: The mouse is used for almost all command entries. Here, it is used to call up the formatting commands for LisaWrite. The mouse also is used to activate the chosen command from the list – the single-space command, in this case.|
There are three types of icons. Some are permanent fixtures on the screen
and are very specialized, such as the clock or clipboard. Others, like the
file folder, are generic and are customized by you. When you “file”
something inside, it takes on a specific name and purpose. A third, less
common, type of icon represents another Lisa program; you use these when you
want to switch from one program to another. Icons are explained in greater
detail later in this book.
The mouse is not used just to move icons. It is the main device by which
you control Lisa. The mouse is used to enter commands through the use
of pull-down menus, lists of commands that can be used to perform a
wide variety of functions, for example, to change a paragraph from double-spaced
to single-spaced (Figure 1-2). The mouse also is used to manipulate data
on the screen or to draw things. Figure 1-3 shows a freehand drawing
I made entirely by using the mouse (and I’m no artist).
|Figure 1-3: The mouse can be used to draw on Lisa’s screen. This drawing was done entirely with the mouse.|
So, to review:
|The mouse moves the cursor around the screen.
|The cursor selects icons and commands and enables you to select certain
operations from menus.
|Icons represent documents and other devices used to store and retrieve information.
As you see, there is no complicated language needed to manipulate objects on
Lisa’s desktop. They behave pretty much like their real-world counterparts,
and you use them accordingly. Lisa capitalizes on the skills and knowledge you already
have, rather than require you to learn an entirely new way of working. Even
moving the objects around on Lisa’s screen, a task to which few people are
previously accustomed, is made easy by Lisa’s mouse – a box about
the size of a bar of hand soap, connected to Lisa by a thin “tail” of
cable. You move the mouse on any flat surface and the cursor moves in a
corresponding pattern on the screen.
You can shuffle paper around on Lisa’s desktop, just as you can on your own
desk. You may interrupt one activity and begin a new one simply by placing
new material on top of old. With Lisa, each set of material is contained in
a window. You may have several windows on the desktop at once, some on top of
each other (Figure 1-4). As you can see, a spreadsheet, its related bar
chart, and the report in which both will be contained are all displayed at once.
|Figure 1-4: On Lisa, you “see into” various documents and drawings through variable-sized windows that exist on Lisa’s screen. They can be moved about the screen, changed in size, even made to overlap one another. This figure shows a typical screen as seen while preparing several parts of a complex report.|
The variety of windows reflects the variety of available programs, called
tools in the jargon of Lisa. There is a word processing program, a
spreadsheet program, a business-graphics program, a presentation graphics
program, a list-management program, a telecommunications program, and a project
management program. Each does one job well and can be used from a window on
the screen. Most important, these tools can share data. The information from a
spreadsheet, for example, can be used by the graphics package without any retyping.
A brief tour of Lisa’s desktop
Here is my desktop – admittedly straightened somewhat for this demonstration,
but closely resembling its usual state (Figure 1-5). The arrangement of
icons on a desktop is more a matter of taste than anything, but there are
some notions that seem to be universal and may be of help.
|Figure 1-5: The author’s electronic desktop. Just as with a traditional desktop, everyone has a different style of arranging things.|
Note that the center of my desktop is relatively clear. It is here I tend to
leave unfinished jobs. Whenever I make a commitment or take on a new task, I
create an icon with an appropriate title and leave it on the desktop until I get
it done. That letter I haven’t finished, the manuscript I promised would be
done last week, and the overhead slides for next month’s presentation –
all remind me of unfinished business. It turns out to be a very good organizational
tool. Before I make a new commitment, I glance at the desktop. If it appears
cluttered, I usually don’t make any new promises. If it’s relatively
clear, I’ll consider taking on something new.
Where do the new icons come from? Before we get to that, you’ll need to know
a bit more about the standing contents of my desktop.
The group of icons in the upper right-hand corner (From the Lisa of, LisaList
Paper, LisaWrite Paper, LisaDraw Paper, For Archives, and one untitled pile
of blank folders) acts as a kind of electronic supply cabinet full of pads
of “paper.” With the exception of the For Archives folder, each
icon has a three-dimensional look. This is because these icons behave like
piles of other icons. Simply touching one (using the mouse and cursor)
generates a new icon of the appropriate type. For example:
|LisaDraw Paper generates an icon that represents a sketch pad. When
this icon opens into its window, I can prepare drawings – figures for an
article, for example, or overhead slides for a presentation.
|LisaWrite Paper generates an icon that opens into a window in which I
may prepare text documents – reports, manuscripts, letters, and the like.
|LisaList Paper generates an icon that represents a small data base – a
mailing list, for example, or a personal telephone directory.
|From the Lisa of generates personalized stationery for informal notes,
similar to the “From the Desk of” note pads many people use.
|The untitled pile of folders generates an endless supply of folders for
grouping and filing documents I generate on Lisa.
|I periodically remove documents which, although important enough to keep, are
not important enough to keep readily available on the desktop. For Archives
is where I move documents before taking them off the desktop. This folder acts
like a kind of out box; documents remain there for a while before they are
filed away on the micro diskettes used with Lisa for off-line storage.
In the lower right-hand corner are three unlabeled icons that represent functions
or portions of the Lisa system:
|The Clipboard icon is a temporary storage place used by Lisa while
data is being moved from one place to another.
|The Trash Can icon is one of the most important icons on the desktop.
It is where I throw documents I no longer need.
|The Profile icons represent the Profile hard-disk units, Lisa’s
mass-storage device. Opening one of these icons allows me to retrieve objects
from the Profile. Conversely, moving the icon of a document onto the Profile icons
stores that document on that hard disk.
In the lower left-hand corner are two more icons associated with the Lisa
system and one additional icon, Karen’s Folder.
|The Calculator icon opens to provide an on-screen calculator.
The “buttons” of this calculator are “pressed” by using
the mouse to manipulate the cursor on top of them.
|The Lisa icon (called the Preferences icon in the Lisa manuals)
stores the settings that configure my Lisa the way I like it – a certain
level of screen brightness, a certain degree of loudness to the speaker, a
particular degree of sensitivity for the keys, a particular type of printer,
and other variables.
|Karen’s Folder stores the files my wife has on Lisa.
In the upper left-hand corner of my desktop are Lisa’s connections to the
outside world. When touched, each connects Lisa to an external computer
network: EDGE-Net, a network of users of the Xerox Star computer, and The
Source, a network used by personal computer users. These icons “know”
the phone numbers used to connect Lisa to these systems as well as
other technical parameters associated with the connection. When I complete a
session with one of these remote systems, Lisa retains a record of the
entire connection – a record I can keep or deposit in the Trash Can.
A brief tour of Lisa’s hardware
|Figure 1-7: Back view of Lisa.|
The system that can do all these things and provide such an easy-to-use
desktop-like environment results from state-of-the-art hardware contained in
a compact and attractive package. Take a look at Lisa’s front (Figure 1-6).
From this vantage point you can see the high-resolution screen, which
occupies the largest portion of Lisa’s front; the micro diskette drive
to the right of the screen; the on/off button, which is on the front; the
detachable keyboard; and the mouse.
|Figure 1-6: Front view of Lisa.|
Now, look at the back (Figure 1-7). Here you see the brightness and
focus controls, the optional expansion slots that allow connection of a variety
of other devices (there’s a maximum of six parallel connections), the
connection between Lisa and the Profile, the mouse connection, the two built-in
serial connections, and the power cord.
A brief history of Lisa
Systems as well designed as Lisa do not spring forth without a great deal of
research, trial, and error. As is true for any new computer, Lisa has it
roots in several earlier systems, each of which contributed to the body
of knowledge gathered to build Lisa.
Lisa can be used by only one person at a time. Not many years ago, such
an idea was revolutionary. Computers were so expensive to buy and maintain that
none could be devoted to a single individual, even for a few hours at
a time. Some visionaries, however, wondered what the
future would be like when significant amounts of computing power would be
available not just to highly trained specialists, but to people in all fields. There
were many questions to answer. How should these systems work? How should people
interact with them? How should they be programmed? Many of the questioners worked
at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), where a program to develop the
answers began in the early 1970s.
Among the answers discovered by researchers at Xerox PARC:
|The mouse is the best device for many of the tasks for which these system
would probably be used.
|Graphics are important for ease of use.
|High-resolution, bit-mapped screens are best for displaying graphics.
|Icons are ideal for representing tasks and objects.
|Multiple windows allow for integration of several simultaneous activities.
Moreover, a new approach to programming was developed that allowed these
new techniques to be designed and built at reasonable costs. Most important,
these ideas were proven in a prototype, several hundred of which were built and
used by a wide variety of people.
This prototype, called the Alto, was never intended to be a commercial
product. It was a vehicle for discovering the principles of interaction between an
individual and a powerful personal computer. It served its purposes well,
because that early work yielded many valuable lessons.
The second system built by Xerox, the Star Professional Workstation, was
intended as a commercial product. In fact, Lisa’s screen resembles the
Star screen in many ways. Both feature an electronic desktop of icons and
windows. Both use the mouse extensively. Both use menus (Lisa does this much more
than the Star, which relies on specially labeled buttons for most
interactions). Such resemblance is not an accident. Both systems were designed from
the basic research conducted at Xerox PARC.
One of the many differences between the Xerox Star and the Apple
Lisa is in screen size. The Star screen can display two full 8-½”×11”
pages side by side. Lisa’s screen can display only half of an 8-½”×11”
document. The Star, however, sells for about twice the price of a Lisa.
It is too early to say which system is better, but as an experienced user
of both, I can say without hesitation that both demonstrate excellent, revolutionary
advances in the task of making computers accessible to the average person.
Lisa’s three models
There are three models of Lisa, although technically only two of them are
true Lisas. The three models are the Lisa 2, the Lisa 2/5, and the Lisa 2/10.
These last two designations refer to the 5-and 10-megabyte hard disks, respectively,
that each model includes. The first model is a stripped-down version that includes
the physical hardware with one micro diskette drive and 512 Kbytes of memory
(the other two models have twice that amount of memory).
That stripped-down model, however, is not really a true Lisa, because without a
hard disk and with only a half a megabyte of memory, this machine can’t
run the Lisa Office System and, therefore, can’t run any of the seven
programs that operate under the Office System. It can be used for
some programming, however, and can run Macintosh software, as described in
Lisa and Macintosh
Just as Lisa followed the Star and drew on the experiences of its use and
design, another system followed Lisa. Exactly one year after Lisa’s
introduction, Apple announced a similar but smaller system called Macintosh.
Lisa and “Mac” (as it is commonly called) have these features in common:
|Extensive use of the mouse as the means for cursor control.
|The desktop concept, with icons arranged on a neutral background.
|Use of pull-down menus for entering commands.
|Use of multiple windows on a high-resolution screen.
|Use of a very powerful processor.
|Use of 3-½” micro diskettes.
|High-resolution graphics and a large library of type fonts.
There are, however, some big differences between the two systems, most of
which have to do with the fact that Macintosh is a smaller
machine that arrived on the scene last. The important differences are:
|Mac has about one-fifth Lisa’s memory, making some tasks simply too big for it.
|Mac does not come with a hard disk, although one may be added.
|Mac has few connections with which to add peripherals.
|Mac has a high-quality sound generator; Lisa can make tones, but nothing
approaching Macintosh’s sophistication.
|Mac’s keyboard has no numeric keypad, although a physically separate keypad
may be added.
Learning to use Lisa
Lisa is easy to learn and use. That doesn’t mean, however, that anyone
can simply sit down and use one without training. Fortunately, Lisa
comes equipped to teach you about itself. A computer-aided instruction
package, called LisaGuide, comes with Lisa and offers a series of
ten lessons, featuring such titles as “Of Mice and Men,” “Starting
a Document,” “Editing a Document,” “Filing a
Document,” “Shortcuts,” and the like.
|Figure 1-8: Typical LisaGuide displays. Lisa comes with an instructional package that teaches you about the use of Lisa.|
Figure 1-8 shows typical LisaGuide screens. It takes about two hours
to go through the ten lessons. It is time well spent. The material covered
in LisaGuide is used throughout the entire Lisa system. It is informative
and entertaining and a painless way to become rapidly acquainted with Lisa.
In addition to LisaGuide, each Lisa software package has its own
tutorial. These are not computer-aided instructions like LisaGuide,
but a series of practice exercises to use in conjunction with each
software manual. These tutorials typically take about two hours to complete and
are important if you will be making extensive and sophisticated use of
a program. If you intend to use a particular program only occasionally,
you can probably skip its tutorial.