Forty years ago, Apple released the Lisa computer, a milestone in the history of personal computing as it was the first product to feature a graphical user interface (GUI). The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, announced
that it will publicly release and long-term preserve the source code for the Apple Lisa, including system and application software as part of its “Art of Code” themed series of exhibits.
Released on January 19, 1983, the Apple
Lisa was initially only available to business users, with a listing price of $9,995. Its graphical user interface was inspired by elements of Xerox PARC’s Smalltalk system, and it comes with a suite of applications including tools for word processing, spreadsheets, and charts.
In terms of business, the Lisa computer was not considered a success. A very important reason was its high price. Only 10,000 units were sold in two years. Apple’s more affordable Macintosh in 1984, coupled with a relatively open software ecosystem, made it the more popular personal computer and cannibalized the Lisa. Later, Apple repackaged the Lisa computer and launched the Lisa 2, which was sold for $4,995 in 1985, but the entire Lisa series platform was announced to be discontinued in 1986.
Hansen Hsu, Curator of the Software History Center at the Computer History Museum, said, “The release of the Apple Lisa was a key turning point for the history of personal computers. Without the Lisa, today’s computers might not use mouse-driven GUIs, and perhaps the Macintosh, and even Microsoft Windows, might not exist either. We’re thrilled to publicly release the source code for the Apple Lisa—for the first time—and thank Apple, Inc. for their permission and support that led to this release.”