In the beginning: The making of the Mac

Luck may have played as big a role as planning in the creation of the first Apple Macintosh

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The result was a computer that looked little like the original plans. When the Lisa shipped, it included a built-in display, a keyboard and a one-button mouse. The Lisa operating system featured not just a GUI that responded to mouse input, but several innovations that would go on to become standard features in Mac OS, Windows and other modern operating systems: files represented by icons, pull-down menus, and drag-and-drop functionality. It also pioneered Apple's QuickDraw screen-drawing technology.

Lisa also shipped with a suite of productivity applications that included spreadsheet, drawing, word processing, graphing, project management and terminal-emulation programs -- and a file manager. This was an important inclusion, as the Lisa was incompatible with any other software on the market (including the Mac when it was released).

Despite pioneering many technologies, the Lisa never developed a significant following, largely because of its $9,995 price tag. Other factors in its failure were its incompatibility with other systems, its somewhat finicky floppy drives and rumors that Apple was working on a less-expensive "baby Lisa."

Apple did drop the price to $6,995 later in 1983, and the Lisa 2 was priced at $3,495 when it shipped in 1984. Still, Lisa sales failed to take off. Eventually, Apple converted its stock of Lisas so they would work with the Mac OS and sold the remaining units as the Mac XL. A conversion kit was also sold to existing Lisa owners. When the Lisa was finally discontinued in 1989, Apple literally buried the product, interring all unsold Lisas in a landfill in Logan, Utah.

The original Mac concept

Despite the fact that the Mac would go on to be a revolutionary product, it had humble beginnings. Commissioned in 1979, the Mac was conceived as a low-cost personal computer intended for the average consumer, with a price tag of around $500. The Mac project was initially considered a research product, one that didn't have the high profile of either the Apple III or the Lisa. Jef Raskin, at the time Apple's director of publications and new product review, was chosen to oversee it.

The somewhat obscure nature of the Mac project was one of the factors that led to its radical reimagining by Steve Jobs. After the failure of the Apple III, the Apple board had reservations about allowing Jobs to manage another high-profile project. When Jobs asked to take over the Mac project, the board allowed him to do so, feeling that the relatively unknown project wasn't critical to Apple's wellbeing.

Under Jobs, the Mac went from being a low-cost computer with a traditional text-based interface to being a less-expensive version of the Lisa. But duplicating the work happening on the Lisa wasn't the only goal Jobs had in mind. He envisioned the Mac as expanding on the Lisa's advances.

The result was a resolution by Jobs and his Mac team not only to make a "baby Lisa" but also to turn the Mac into a product that could advance the computing industry as much as or more than the Apple II had done -- or, as Jobs has been quoted as saying, to "put a dent in the universe."

The Lisa and Mac teams actually worked simultaneously on similar technologies for some time, and a rivalry between the two groups developed. The Mac team fancied themselves as pirates -- going so far as a to fly a pirate flag outside their workspace -- as opposed to the more corporate-oriented Lisa team. During the race to get both products to market, Jobs made a $5,000 bet with Lisa project manager John Couch that the Mac team would win. In the end, the Lisa made it to market first, but the Mac developed a much larger following -- and a much longer lifespan.

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