Apple he is a pioneer. Thanks to the Computer History Museum, Lisa has become “open source”

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  • The Computer History Museum has released the source code for Lisa OS version 3.1 under an Apple Academic License Agreement as part of the Apple Lisa’s 40th birthday celebrations. The Pascal source code is available for download from the CHM website after filling out a form, with Apple’s permission.

Lisa Office System 3.1 was released in April 1984, during the early Mac era, and it was the Lisa equivalent of today’s operating systems such as macOS and Windows.

The entire source package is about 26MB in size and contains over 1,300 commented source files neatly organised into subfolders that denote code for the main Lisa OS, various included apps, and the Lisa Toolkit development system.

The Apple Lisa, which was released on January 19, 1983, remains an influential and significant machine in Apple’s history, pioneering the mouse-based graphical user interface (GUI) that made its way to the Macintosh a year later. Despite its innovations, the Lisa’s high price ($9,995 retail, or around $30,300 today) and lack of application support limited its viability as a platform. A year after its release, the similarly capable Macintosh significantly undercut it in price. Apple released a major revision of the Lisa hardware in 1984, but the platform was discontinued in 1985.

Researchers and educators will now be able to study how Apple developers implemented those historically significant features four decades ago, thanks to the release of the LisaOS source code. The Academic licence from Apple allows for the use and compilation of the source code for “non-commercial, academic research, educational teaching, and personal study purposes only.”

Although the Xerox Star was the first commercial computer to ship with a GUI, the Lisa OS defined important conventions that we still use in windowing OSes today, such as drag-and-drop icons, movable windows, the waste basket, the menu bar, pull-down menus, copy and paste shortcuts, control panels, overlapping windows, and even one-touch automatic system shutdown.

The Computer History Museum had previously hinted that the code would be released in 2018, but after some thought, they decided to postpone its release until the computer’s 40th birthday—the ideal gift to honour this important machine’s legacy.

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