Apple isn’t the most transparent of companies when it comes to its technology, but from next year you’ll be able to dive into the code of one of its most revolutionary operating systems to see how it was achieved.
The operating system in question is that of the ill-fated Apple Lisa, a $10,000 machine which debuted in 1983 — and included Apple’s first ever graphical user interfaces, and one of the first in computer history as a whole.
The news was shared by Al Kossow, a software curator at the Computer History Museum, which will release the OS code for free. At present, the source code for Lisa’s operating system and applications have been recovered, and are currently under review by Apple. Once this is done, the museum will release a document describing the massive significance of the Lisa project, as well as the source code of its OS, in 2018.
Today, the Lisa is perhaps best remembered for being the computer named after Steve Jobs’ daughter, although he originally denied it — being in the midst of a paternity suit. At the time, Jobs claimed that the Lisa computer stood for “Local Integrated System Architecture,” although some Apple engineers (aware of the full story) joked that it should be “Let’s Invent Some Acronym” instead.
Eventually, Jobs did admit that the computer was named after Lisa, just as he admitted that Lisa was his daughter. In the official Jobs biography, Steve told Walter Isaacson, “obviously it was named for my daughter.” Here in 2017, just 30-100 of the original Lisas are thought to still exist — which is why they go for good money at auction.
The reason is that, shortly after their launch, the Lisa was superseded by a better and cheaper model, which Apple offered as a free replacement to anyone who returned their original unit. These returned machines were then destroyed by Apple.