Apple Lisa documentary will tell the story of Cupertino’s most important ‘flop’

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Apple prototypes
In retrospect, the Lisa was pretty darn important for Apple.
Photo: CNBC

A new documentary called Before Macintosh: The Apple Lisa promises to tell the story of one of Apple’s most important flops.

Directed by computer historian (and Apple collector) David Greelish, the movie will feature interviews with key players in the machine’s development. It also will place the Lisa in its proper context — as one of the most influential computers of all time.

“Apple’s Lisa workstation followed closely after another infamous market failure, the Apple III,” Greelish told Cult of Mac. “Though the Apple III did influence Apple internally, with its superior file system, it generally failed all-around. The Lisa however, though failing commercially, has inspired all of personal computing since. Both inside of Apple with the creation of the Macintosh, and then outside the company, most notably with Microsoft Windows.”

The Lisa was Apple’s first attempt at a computer with a WIMP (windows, icons, mouse pointer) interface. While we associate many of these innovations with 1984’s Mac, the Lisa actually introduced them to a general audience.

Before Macintosh: The Apple Lisa

This was true. Kinda. The Apple Lisa did reinvent the computer.
This was true. Kinda.
Photo: Apple
Until recently, most Apple-centric documentaries focused solely on Steve Jobs.

That changed in the last year or so, though, as we’ve seen movies about everything from the Newton MessagePad to General Magic, the startup co-founded by members of the original Mac team.

Now Before Macintosh: The Apple Lisa is getting ready to join the list of Apple documentaries.

Director Greelish is no newcomer to the Lisa. He owned one back in 1989, when he purchased it from a company in Logan, Utah.

“My Lisa was essentially upgraded to run like the then-current Macintosh Plus,” he said. “For all practical considerations, it was my first Mac. Professionally, this computer was the foundation for my launch into the world of desktop publishing and pre-press. But I was so fascinated by it, that it also launched my interest into computer history.”

The documentary should come in around 100 minutes long, divided into three parts. The first will tell the story of the Lisa at Apple, focusing on the computer’s development, launch and untimely demise. The second part of the doc will then cover its life after Apple. The third segment will focus on Lisa enthusiasts who keep the computer’s legacy alive today.

Greelish said the film will include more than a dozen interviews, including one with former Apple CEO John Sculley.

Back the Apple Lisa documentary on Kickstarter

To complete the documentary, Greelish took to Kickstarter to raise funds. A $25 pledge will earn you a digital copy of the finished film, while higher pledges include additional rewards. The project is planned for completion in November 2019. While it’s worth being aware of the risks inherent in crowdfunding campaigns, if you’re interested in getting involved, head over to the Kickstarter page.

Oh, and if you’re doubting Greelish’s Lisa cred, check out the below video of him way back in 1992: