Apple Lisa

The Lisa was not Apple’s first attempt at a business computer; that was the Apple III. Apple had started development of the Lisa at the same time as the Apple III, but it did not reach the market until 1983. The Lisa was a radically different (and more expensive) computer.

Apple Lisa
Source: Apple, 1983

Officially, Apple claimed that “Lisa” is an acronym that stands for Local Integrated Software Architecture. Legend has it, though, that the computer was named after either Steve Jobs’s daughter or the daughter of one of the engineers, but the true inspiration for the name has never been confirmed. Andy Hertzfeld, one of the creators of the Macintosh, says in his book, “Revolution in the Valley,” that the acronym explanation may have been invented after the fact in response to press queries about the name’s origin.

The original Lisa, referred to as the Lisa 1 by collectors, was technologically innovative, but a commercial failure for Apple. It popularized the concept of the GUI (graphical user interface) and could perform pre-emptive multitasking, meaning it could run multiple programs at once. However, it was overpriced and lacked adequate software and hardware support. Apple was able to make lemonade out of lemons by using lessons learned from the Lisa development on the Macintosh, one of the most successful microcomputers ever made.

Introduced: January 1983
Original Retail Price: 
$9,995
Base Configuration: 68000 CPU, three slots, 1MB RAM, two 5.25-inch floppy disk drives (“Twiggy” drives), integral 12-inch monochrome monitor, keyboard/keypad, mouse, two serial and one parallel port, application suite
Video: 40-line x 132-column text, 720 x 364 graphics
Important Options: CP/M or Xenix, external 5MB ProFile hard disk drive, dot-matrix or daisy-wheel printer

Sord M68 Microcomputer

Japan had a thriving computer industry in the 1970s beyond the usual suspects like Sony and Sharp. By the 1980s, some of those companies began entering the US market. Sord was one of them.

Originally selling under the Socius brand, the company initially sold a home computer called the M5 in 1982. It soon rebranded as Sord (SOftware and haRDware) and expanded with a range of systems. One was the M68, a dual-processor (68000 and Z80A) system that ran CP/M.

Source: Sord, 1982

The M68 was expensive at $13,000, but it was well-equipped for business with plenty of expansion capability and a monitor included in the price. A single-processor (68000) system, the M68MX, was available later at under $4,500.

Sord survived in the US for only a few years. It’s last systems in 1986 were UNIX-based.

Introduced: 1982 (M68), 1984 (M68MX)
Original Retail Price: $4,490 to $13,000 (M68)
Base Configuration: 10MHz 68000 and 4MHz Z80A (68000 only for M68MX); CP/M-68K; three expansion slots; 256K RAM (4MB max) plus 64K RAM and 4K ROM for the Z80A (M68)/512K RAM (3.5MB max) and 16K ROM (M68MX); one (M68MX) or two (M68) 5.25-inch floppy disk drives; RAM disk (M68MX); 20MB hard disk drive (68MX); 12-inch monochrome monitor; keyboard/keypad; two serial, parallel, and IEEE-488 ports (M68)/parallel port (M68MX); system manuals
Video: 25-line x 80-column text, 640 x 400 graphics (M68)/640 x 500 graphics (M68MX), 16 colors
Size/Weight: 18.9 x 15.7 x 4.7 inches, 33 lbs.
Important Options: 7.5MB or 20MB hard disk drive (M68), 8-inch floppy disk drive (M68), color monitor (M68), mouse (M68MX)

Ampere WS-1 Laptop

Source: Ampere, Inc., 1985

What does the Ampere’s WS-1 laptop and the Datsun 280Z sports car have in common? Both were designed by the same person: Kumeo Tamura. Technically, Tamura designed the case, which has an unusual clamshell design that resembles the wing of an airplane.

Source: Ampere, Inc., 1985

The case isn’t the only oddball part of the WS-1. Its 68000 CPU and VMEbus were unusual for a laptop at the time, and it featured an obscure multitasking operating system called BIG.DOS. Instead of bundling BASIC as the standard programming language, the WS-1 has APL.68000, a variant of APL. The machine was called the BIG.APL in early references. The system was sold in the U.S. through Work Space Computer of Torrance, California.

Source: Ampere, Inc., 1985

Introduced: November 1985
Original Retail Price: $1,995 to $2,995
Base Configuration: 8MHz HD68000 CPU; BIG.DOS; VMEbus slot; 64K RAM (512K max); 128K ROM; integral microcassette drive; monochrome LCD; integral keyboard; two RS-232C, parallel, and microphone/speaker ports; APL.68000; application suite, AC adapter, modem, battery pack
Video: 25-line x 80-column text, 480 x 128 graphics
Size/Weight: 13 x 11 x 3.6 inches, 9 lbs.
Important Options: external dual 3.5-inch floppy disk drives