The Apple Lisa was a personal computer created by Apple, targeted at the business market and released on January 19, 1983. This computer was also Apple's first computer to include a Graphical User Interface (GUI). Although the Lisa was the first microcomputer with a GUI, the computer quickly failed because of its $9,995 USD price tag.

Unlike the Macintosh  which was released in mid-1984 and aimed at school, artistic and home use, the Lisa was the successor to the failed Apple III and aimed at the business market.  Compared to the Macintosh, the Lisa was more expensive but more powerful. This machine had design problems; it had been over-engineered, but it felt sluggish to use.  It also included Apple's first attempt at a hard drive, an external 5MB ProFile that was used via the parallel port and originally developed for the failed Apple III.  The Lisa was filled with expansion bays, used sockets for board components and had an open architecture for third party add-ons.

In 1982, Steve Jobs was kicked off the design team, of which he had been a member since 1978; from that point on, the project fragmented without focused leadership and goals. Steve Jobs joined the Macintosh team. Although the two products do have similarities, the Macintosh survived, due to its price and simpler design, although the Lisa lived on for a short year as the Macintosh XL, eventually to be replaced in 1986 by the Macintosh Plus. 

In January 1984, Apple released the Lisa 2/5 series with either a 5 or 10 MB external hard drive, and replaced the pair of expensive and slow Apple "Twiggy" floppy drives with a single Sony 400k MicroFloppy drive as found in the early Macintosh computers.  Apple also released the Lisa 2/10, which came with an internal 10MB hard drive, but no external parallel port.  As such, the Lisa 2 came in a variety of configurations priced at $3,495 to $5,495, creating a computer half as expensive as the original with twice the performance.  At the same time, Apple provided Lisa upgrade kits to Lisa 1 owners free of charge.  These upgrades replaced the drives, the bezel, and the ROM chips.

In January 1985, Apple re-branded the Lisa 2/10 with an EEPROM update in the upgrade socket, and sold it as the Macintosh XL for $4,000.

In 1989, in cooperation with Sun Remarketing, Apple disposed of all unsold Apple Lisa/ Macintosh XL units in a controlled landfill site in Logan, Utah, to claim as a loss against taxes.


There is only very few models for this because it was a disaster.

Apple Lisa

This was the original model, and it didn't sell well.

  • Available January 1983 - December 1983
  • $9,995 USD
  • 5MHz Motorolla 68000 CPU
  • 1MB RAM
  • External Apple ProFile 5MB hard drive

Apple Lisa 2/5

The simplified Apple Lisa

  • Available January 1984 - December 1984
  • $3,995 base model price, up to $5,995 with options added
  • 5MHz Motorolla 68000 CPU
  • 512Kb RAM, expandable to 2MB RAM
  • Optional External Apple ProFile 5MB or 10MB hard drive
  • Internal Sony 400Kb 3.5-inch MicroFloppy drive
  • 4-bit real-time clock (supporting dates from 1981 to 1995)

Apple Lisa 2/10, AKA Macintosh XL

The last in the series; It's the Lisa, but it's a Mac.

  • Available January 1984 - December 1984 as the Lisa 2/10
  • $5,995
  • Available January 1985 - April 1985 as the Macintosh XL
  • $4,000
  • 5MHz Motorolla 68000 CPU
  • 1MB RAM, expandable to 2MB RAM
  • Internal 10MB Widget hard drive
  • Internal Sony 400Kb 3.5-inch MicroFloppy drive
  • 4-bit real-time clock (supporting dates from 1981 to 1995)


The Lisa came with a bundle of seven software applications, running on top of a modified Apple SOS with a GUI called the Lisa Office System, an operating system that featured protected memory and pre-emptive multitasking. The seven software applications included were LisaWrite (word processing), LisaCalc (spreadsheet), LisaDraw (vector graphics), LisaGraph (graphing), LisaProject (project management), LisaList (to-do lists), and LisaTerminal (terminal emulator for network communications).

The operating system was document-based instead of application-based, similar to Apple's OpenDoc platform for the Mac OS a decade later; you created a new document by cloning a stationary document that included the objects and features you desired in your final product.

Unfortunately, the operating system suffered from heap overflows and memory congestion, and so often crashed when large documents were being used.

A separate OS called Lisa Workshop was sold as the development environment.  This OS could be run to develop Lisa software, and later was used to develop the Macintosh System and early Macintosh software. Around 1986, the Lisa Workshop was replaced with the Macintosh Programmer's Workshop which ran inside the Macintosh operating system.

Starting in 1984, Apple also sold the MacWorks Macintosh virtualization environment, which allowed Lisa computers to run Macintosh software. MacWorks 1.0 ran System Software 0.1, MacWorks 2.0 ran System Software 0.3 and 0.5, and MacWorks 3.0 ran System Software 0.5. When the Macintosh XL was released in 1985, MacWorks 4.0 was released as MacWorks XL, and provided support for the internal 10MB hard drive and ran Macintosh System 0.7. It was capable of running every Macintosh system through System Software 1.1. Sun Remarketing later released MacWorks Plus 1.1 which added support for System 5 and System 6, and later still, Dafax Processing Corp released MacWorks Plus II, which supported up to Mac OS 7.5.5.

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