The Apple Lisa SAQ - Seldom Asked Question
Apple Lisa FAQ v 1.5, 14 December 1996
This is a list of some of the most Seldom Asked Questions in the
computer world: those pertaining to the Apple Lisa. Answers are of course
included. Apoligies to Al Longyear (firstname.lastname@example.org), whose
Linux PPP FAQ is the basis for the formatting of the SAQ.
0.1 Why is it a SAQ?
well, few people actually ASK these questions that often. I chose
Seldom Asked Questions (SAQ) instead of Infrequently Asked
Questions (IAQ) because I like the reference to the Shakespearian
0.2 Isn't there something you need to say so you won't get sued?
Yes. Lisa is a trademark of Apple. Anything in here that's a trademark
belongs to the person, persons, or company that trademarked it. Also, the
creater of this SAQ assumes no responsibility for any result of folloing
or failing to follow the advice in this SAQ. If you sue
me, it is likely that Freud would have found you quite anal-retentive.
The real name of the Lisa 1 is the Lisa. No 1 or One or I. It is called
the Lisa 1 in the SAQ for clarity.
As early as 1978, Apple saw the need for a high-end system to supercede
their successful Apple II
line. Though machines like the Apple /// materialized to immediately
succed the II, a designed code-named Lisa was this high end system.
The Lisa was at first envisioned to be a parallel-CPU system designed
for speed and precise mathematical calculations. Later decisions led the
Lisa to adopt a single Motorola 68000 microprocessor. However, despite the
souped-up CPU, the Lisa still resembled all too closely its mid to
low-level predecessors. It was only until 1979 that the seed of
inspiration was planted. After some stock deals with Xerox, Steve
Jobs was allowed to tour Xerox's Californa think tank, the Palo Alto
Research Center (PARC). Jobs, who
had often given employee Jef Raskin's ideas about graphical user
interfaces little merit, was encouraged to see the new
tecnologies Xerox was working on. While at PARC, Jobs saw three
and was rapt in attention thoughout the day's visit. Although Jobs was
only to implement OOP some 7 years later (at NeXT computer) and although
Ethernet only saw limited use in Appletalk, it was soon mandated that the
Lisa would have a GUI. For the following three years, the Lisa was
developed further and further, with such additions as proprietary floppy
drives and a modular construction working their way into the design, among
many other features. Steve Jobs, demanding constant refinement, saw
feature after feature given to the Lisa, delaying release times and
driving the proice up to an expensive $9995US. He was eventually barred
from the project and the Lisa 1 was released in January 1983.
- the Graphical User Interface (GUI)
- Object Oriented Programming (OOP)
- Ethernet networking
Naturally, the restrictive price caused stagnant sales. Research
continued and in January 1984 a new Lisa, with a 3.5" drive instead of the
proprietary 5.25" drives of the previous model being the most notable
change, was released on the market. Despite a drastically lower price, the
Lisa 2 enjoyed much enthusiasm but few purchaces. 1985 saw the Lisa 2
being resold as the "Macintosh XL" with special Macintosh system software.
Sales of the XL continued into 1986. Finally, in the later eighties,
pressured by shareholders and seeking a tax break, Apple gutted its
remaining Lisae and buried all non-useable parts in a high-security
landfill in Utah (supposedly near Logan).
Among other innovative additions, all Lisae featured
As described in the Lisa History section, the MacXL
was the last stand for the Lisa 2 before it met its end in the Logan trash
heap along with its earlier sister, the Lisa 1. For some time, the XL was
seen as a sort of "super Mac" because it featured a larger screen, a hard
drive, and more memory. A plausible meaning for XL was "extra large" or
even "Excel", because it could hold (then) large Excel databases in
- A simple, elegant Grapical User Interface
- True preemptive multitasking
- A robust hierarchial filesystem
- Software screen contrast control with automatic screen dimmer
- "Soft" power switch
- Keyboards that provided language-specific error messages
- Temperature-sensitive power supply
- That great bright line and POP noise when the CRT powers off
As much of a perversion as the MacOS was on the Lisa, several late MacXLs
were twisted even further. The 10mb Widget in the 2/10 was cast away for
odd 20mb drives. Screens were changed from the Lisa's 2/3 pixel ratio to
the Mac's square pixels. Needless to say, these sorry specimens, should
you find one, are incapable of running the Office System without some
NO. I emphasize here because I see so many people mistaking the two. The
Apple /// came before the Lisa and was intended to be a business-oriented
successor to the Apple ][+. It flopped; the machine overheated and caused
the motherboard to warp, which in turn caused the chips to loosen from the
sockets. At one point Apple suggested that you drop the machine an inch to
reseat the chips!
The Apple /// had (for its time) color graphics capability, but nothing
with the resolution of the monochrome-only Lisa. The only similarities I
can see between the two machines is the business orientation, the Apple
Logo, and their commercial failure.
OBSOLETE Sun Remarketing (http://www.sunrem.com) is one of the few
companies that sells stuff for the Lisa, although some of the employees
don't seem to know this! Their phone number is 1-800-821-3221 and any
sales rep will help you, but it is my opinion that you will be better off
asking Tyler Thompson, Sun's resident "Lisa guy". His office number is
1-800-992-7641. Be warned: the man has a life and is often unavailable. I
have my best luck calling at 12:30 CST on Thursdays.
Another number to remember is DAFAX of New York. I have never tried them
but I hear that they are good. Their voice number is 718-746-8220 and
their fax number is 718-746-1071.
You can always try Sun Remarketing if you want the
sure-fire way. Tyler Thompson can sell a Lisa 1 for $1000 US but he
doesn't have the Twiggy diskettes to go with it. I cannot say for sure if
they have Lisa 2s in stock. Ask for a Macintosh XL
capable of running the Lisa Office System (no video modifications, funky
roms, etc.) I would be surprised if they didn't have this in a closet
The real collector's method of finding a Lisa is arduous; (s)he
must brave dumpsters, garage sales, basements, attics, closets,
consignment shops, flea markets, etc. before the prize is won. I encourage
anyone who wants a Lisa to take the latter route, not only for the goal
but for the means as well. You'll meet interesting people, see interesting
computers, and grow to appreciate the task which the Lisa fulfilled for
the previous owner.
If its a Lisa 1 and you want to give it away to a good cause, I would like
one for the Apple Lisa Web Page. Though much information can be gleaned
from the Lisa 2 and Lisa 1 manuals, I can't give any Lisa 1 specific
repair info without a Lisa 1! But we live in the real world, so...
Forbes Magazine recently estimated the value of a Lisa (it wasn't
specific) at $300 and rising. Depending on who you're selling it to, I
estimate that you can fetch up to $500 for a Lisa 2 if you have manuals,
boxes, and original system floppies. I know several Lisa 1 owners who
won't part with their baby for less than $1000.
You can always toss the Lisa in the dumpster, but that wouldn't be nice,
so I advise posting some ads on USENET in appropriate groups (NOT
SPAMMING!!!). You may also want to sell it to a used computer store, but
they would probably chuckle, give you $50, take it into the back room and
a) misuse it b) gloat over their shrewd purchase and hole it
away until it is worth more c) blithely sell it for $150 or
d) maybe, just maybe, appreciate it.
There isn't too much software for the
Lisa as the Office System is farily complete and the Workshops filled most
development needs. Except for some CAD systems, some spreadsheets, and a
BASIC system, third-party software was virtually nonexistant.
If you don't have it already, you'll want the Lisa Office System. If you
have two ProFiles or a Lisa 2/10 you may also want a Workshop so you can
program you Lisa. These items are not cheap Sun
Remarketing sells the full version of the Lisa Office System for $250
or so. You can opt for copies of the Office System (sans manuals, heck,
sans box) for about $90. You can guess which one I chose. The Lisa
Pascal Workshop (with manuals and box) cost $90. See Where
can I get software/hardware for the Lisa?
Not really, especially if you have a Lisa 1. I don't know of any other
machine that can read the Twiggy diskettes (though prototype drives
were made for the Apple ///). However, if you have a Lisa
2, there are ways to share data with other machines.
Sun Remarketing sells the Lisa to Mac Migration Kit, but
I don't have the finances to buy and try it. It allegedly converts all
Lisa apps to their Mac counterparts.
As of yet I don't think there is anything to be done about this.
Fortunately, no Office System software to my knowlege stamps the date
right on the printout. Just live with it, I guess. Tell your
friends. Marvel at the faith Apple had in the Lisa.
After shoving my father's Panasonic laser printer on the prallel port just
to see if it would work, the Print dialog described the "ink jet printer"
as a "Canon Ink Jet Printer". Needless to say, it didn't work with the
Panasonic. Oh well...
No. Any low density 3.5" diskettes will do.
The ProFile cable is just a straigt parallel cable whcih can be found at
any self-respecting computer shop. You can figure this out by looking at
any picture of a ProFile and adopting a Steve Jobs mindset. Notice in the
picture that a ribbon cable is used. Do you think that the perfectionist
Jobs would allow any dirty-looking crossed wires? It has to be a straight
Service mode is a program in ROM that enables you to twiddle memory, test
components, and more.
Apple has directions for discerning your Lisa's serial number and Applenet
number in service mode, tucked away in their
Tech Info Library.
This is handy in case you need to replace the CPU board
after somebody hard-soldered all the socketed chips in and you needed
the Applenet, Plant, and Serial numbers for your new board. (of course,
how you would get them on there is your problem. It's fun to do when
you're very bored.
Another use for Service mode involves the three menu items "Display Mem",
"Set Memory", and "Call Program". You can do something very Wozniakish and
enter your own program in hex, call it, then use it! It's like the front
panel in days of yore.
Warning: Before you enter Service Mode, please heed this warning from an
old Mac manual unearthed by Alan White (email@example.com):
"The power cycle and loop on tests presume a stock hardware
configuration. They should not be used with a modified lisa 2 or a
mac xl. Running the power cycle test with an 800k disk drive
upgrade will cause the disk drive test to fail. Running the power
cycle test on a lisa 2/5 with an internal hard drive upgrade could
wipe out the boot blocks on the hard disk. On startup, you'll get a
cross over the hard disk icon with error code 84. You'll still be able
to boot from a floppy, and the hard disk will mount, but in order to
boot from the hard drive again, you may have to remove it, and send it out for a low level format..."
Thanks to Alan for this warning; the last thing we need is to be
destroying Lisae. I mention again that I take no resposibility for any
result of the advice given here. I know this is annoying, but there are
sharks out there. Anyway...
Turn on your Lisa. After you hear the first "click" noise, the indicator
that the Lisa has past the kernel test, press the Spacebar. When you reach
the "Startup From" menu, select a nonexistant volume. When it gives you
the error message box, press Apple-S. You should then be in Service Mode.
A picture for comparison can be found at lisa_service_mode.jpg.
The Lisa Guide disk is not a boot disk. Just boot the system normally from
the startup disk with LisaGuide in a/the drive.
Try the Obsolete Computer Museum at www.obsoletecomputermuseum.org
Indeed he does. If you have a Lisa 1, dead or alive, that you want to get
rid of, let me know! I'll at least pay price of postage. Similarly,
scanned images, screen shots, folklore, and other goodies wanted for
possible inclusion in this page! Remember, any Lisa knicknacks you don't
want, mail me!
If it's not busy (and it usually is) try Apple's gopher site: OBOLETE
Please email it to me at
end of SAQ
Copyright ©1996 Tom
Stepleton. All rights reserved.