[SIGCIS-Members] Some responses re Lisa/Mac

Brian Berg brianberg at gmail.com
Thu Apr 27 14:52:50 PDT 2017

Don't lose sight of the fact that the only mass storage for the Mac was a
single floppy drive, so memory overlays could not be swapped out to a hard
disk.  So "everything was slow in 1984" is not at all accurate.

Brian Berg

On Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 2:43 PM, Brian Dear <brian at platohistory.org> wrote:

> The two machines emerged in very different eras, so it’s hard to compare
> them as they’re not very similar in any regard other than, in my opinion,
> uninteresting ones like them sharing Motorola CPUs.
> I viewed the Lisa as a special machine you used for a specific, but
> limited, set of applications. If you had to crank out a huge PERT chart, it
> was great. We used an attached dot-matrix printer, that would sit there and
> print out long fanfold pages of sections of the chart, that you would then
> carefully line up on a wall for a floor to ceiling layout of some big
> project we were working on. It could do word processing and other tasks,
> but I never considered the machine to be a general-purpose computer, mainly
> because it lacked a wide array of applications. Also, Lisas were standalone
> machines at least in our office; we did not network them to anything (not
> even sure it could do that). But for getting specific tasks done, it was a
> useful tool, though slow. But then everything was slow in 1984.
> As for NeXT, it had the benefit of years of Moore’s Law advances beyond
> the 1978-82 timeframe when the Lisa was designed. And in the 1980s, one
> year alone of Moore’s Law was a gigantic step forward. The result of all
> those advances in technological development were instantly obvious: the
> NeXTcube offered much more speed, storage capacity, and flexibility. Plus,
> unlike the Lisa, with NeXT, there was an active, enthusiastic third-party
> developer community (I too was a developer, having attended NeXT DevCamp in
> ‘91, and exhibited at NeXTWORLD at the Moscone Center in '93, including
> getting the chance to a beaming, proud Jobs who roamed the exhibit hall and
> met all the companies before the public was let in). I bought and used many
> NeXTSTEP apps, including the great Lotus Improv spreadsheet, graphics and
> other productivity apps from Stone Design and Omni Group (like OmniGraffle
> which I still use on a Mac), and countless others. The NeXTcube really was
> a great workstation: I could communicate with anything else on the LAN, as
> well as remotely connect to other services for telnet or ftp or gopher or
> web stuff. It had great sound and built-in music support. The quality of
> the grayscale display was superb. The magneto-optical removable disks were
> weird but handy and I still have them (and I still need to get data off of
> them!).
> - Brian
> On Apr 27, 2017, at 2:33 PM, Hansen Hsu <hansnhsu at gmail.com> wrote:
> Couldn’t have said it better myself. This is a popular quip among Apple
> people.
> Brian, given your personal experience using both Lisas and NeXTs, how
> would you compare the two?
> On Apr 27, 2017, at 12:31 PM, Brian Dear <brian at platohistory.org> wrote:
> One could argue that Hansen’s conclusion that “they stayed afloat long
> enough to get acquired by Apple for their technology” is a rather large
> understatement. NeXTSTEP’s DNA quickly permeated Apple’s Mac operating
> system to the degree that it essentially *became* the operating system (Mac
> OS X), which not only looked like NeXTSTEP (even down to the Dock on the
> desktop) but more importantly under the hood *was* for all intents and
> purposes NeXTSTEP with an upgraded Objective-C code base. Even today, any
> seasoned Mac or IOS developer is intimately familiar with a vast library of
> function calls that start with the letters NS.
> I have often quipped that in many ways, it was *NeXT* that acquired Apple,
> not the other way around, and to do so for a mere $400 million, was perhaps
> the best “acquisition" in history . . .
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