What was your first computer? Apple? IBM PC? Earlier? Or, older? After a few years of banging around on a few computer systems before the PC era, I bought an Osborne 1. My choice was something of a tossup between the CP/M-based Osborne and an Apple IIe with a CP/M board and VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet.
Apple seemed more like a toy company back in the day so I took the Osborne instead. I was already into CP/M and the portable luggable came with SuperCalc, WordStar, dBase II and a dreadful little black and white display.
What’s not to like about dual floppy disks and built-in software?
At the time I was running a small advertising agency that was growing faster than my calculator and yellow legal pad’s ability to keep up with media budgets, so I learned to build ad budgets on a spreadsheet.
What a classy machine. CP/M was the DOS to learn, love, and loathe before PC-DOS, and who wouldn’t want a personal computer that looked like a sewing machine case?
Alas, those days are long gone. Once I saw Apple’s Lisa I knew where the future was headed. Point and click. For the rich. Lisa hit the market at $10,000 so I stuck with my Osborne, then moved to Lotus 1-2-3 on an IBM PC before taking on early adopter status with a Mac in early 1984.
The Mac, of course, was inspired by the Lisa, which, in turn, was inspired by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs visit to Xerox PARC and the infamous Star. Interestingly, the Osborne was inspired by the Xerox NoteTaker developed in 1976 by Alan Kay, who became an Apple Fellow a few years later.
Note the visual differences between the Osborne above, and Apple’s Lisa below.
What a difference a few years made, though it took until the mid-1990s for the PC industry to go all in on point and click.
This little journey into history was inspired by Luke Dormehl who pointed out that Apple launched the Lisa project in 1979. Uh huh. 39 years ago. The Mac launched in 1984, 34 years ago. The Mac still prospers but note, too, that more than 80-percent of today’s Macs are notebooks, not desktop PCs.
I’ve heard it said that the more things change, the more they remain the same but I apply that to humanity, not personal computers. The Mac’s original $2,495 price tag is worth more than $5,000 in 1984 dollars.
That should be good incentive to celebrate Lisa’s 39th anniversary with a new iMac Pro or souped up MacBook Pro.