Apple Inc. (AAPL) 30th Birthday of Apple Lisa and the Apple IIe

As the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone turned six earlier this month and the company prepares for its much anticipated earnings report, another monumental anniversary passed over the weekend with little fanfare.

Thirty years ago, at its annual shareholder’s meeting held Jan. 19, 1983, Apple unveiled two products that forever changed the world of personal computer: The Apple Lisa and the Apple IIe. Both would go on to forever shape the industry, although one met an early demise and the other remained a marketable brand for years as Apple built its reputation as a tech giant.

The Lisa—Apple’s (AAPL) original GUI-based computer—introduced the mouse-driven graphical user interface to personal computing. In 1983 it retailed for $9,995—about $23,103 in today’s dollars—and consumers could purchase an automobile for less money than a home computer. Groundbreaking at the time, it featured a 5 MHz processor and dual-floppy disk drives. Lisa also offered a new interface based upon icons, pull-down menus and overlapping windows that was hugely popular among consumers who had previously only seen operating systems that required text-based commands. In fact, Microsoft launched its first version of Windows ten months after Lisa’s debut.

AAPL 30thLisa served as the precursor to the Macintosh, which launched one year later. The Mac utilized several of Lisa’s popular features, such as the mouse, the desktop paradigm, icons, pull-down menus and overlapping windows. Still, Lisa retained a few unique characteristics that even Macs didn’t include for several more years, such as cooperative multi-tasking, protected memory, a built-in screensaver, plug-in expansion cards, hard disks and up to 2MB of RAM—an extraordinary amount for the time.

After the Macintosh launched at lower prices in 1984, Lisa’s popularity dwindled. Many of its features were ultimately absorbed into the Mac system, and the Lisa, likewise, began to take on many Mac-like features, including a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive. By 1985 the remaining supply of Lisas were repackaged as the Macintosh XL.

Meanwhile, the Apple (AAPL) IIe gained immediate popularity upon its 1983 release, thanks in large part to its lower cost compared to other Apple models. Apple was able to achieve the lower cost by lowering the chip count on the system’s motherboard from 100 chips to just 31, allowing Cupertino to manufacture the model for less and increase its profit margin per unit. The IIe became the model that remains the Apple of memory for students of the early to mid-1980s. Its large library of software made the IIe the model of choice for many American schools, as students grew up playing educational games such as the Oregon Trail and Number Munchers.

Even after Apple (AAPL) launched the IIgs in 1986, demand for the IIe remained high until 1983 when the company finally retired the Apple II line in favor of the more modern Macintosh line.
Happy Birthday Lisa and IIe. If not for you, there likely would never have been an iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad or even someday and iTV. Your likenesses may be confined to storerooms and museum, but your memories will not be forgotten.