Kevin Costner advertises the Apple Lisa

January 27th, 2020 9:58 AM
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Many film celebrities get their start with television commercials. Before Rain Man and Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman hawked for Volkswagen.

Ant Man Paul Rudd shilled the Super Nintendo.

And before he heard a voice whisper "If you build it, he will come", Kevin Costner advertised the Apple Lisa.

I've seen practically every Apple II commercial with their everyday families and dramatic voiceovers. Many are clever and memorable, but I don't know of any that feature the era's contemporary or nascent stars.

I suppose an early Apple Computer Inc. didn't have the budget to afford recognizable talent. The Apple II was released in 1977, with Apple's IPO happening 3.5 years later, on December 12, 1980. By the time the Apple Lisa debuted in January 1983, the company was comfortably profitable with more of a marketing budget.

Or maybe it's just the unpredictable vagaries of Hollywood. By the time Kevin Costner was advertising the Lisa, he'd been in only a half-dozen movies, none of them blockbuster films or starring roles such as "Frat Boy No. 1" in Ron Howard's Night Shift. Who knew that this commercial actor would grow up to be in The Postman, Waterworld, Tin Cup, and Man of Steel?

What a missed opportunity for him to have returned to his roots and make a cameo in any of the many Steve Jobs films!

(Hat tip to Cody Combs)

Lisa operating system source code

January 8th, 2018 8:52 AM
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Last week, I wrote about Robert Taylor and Charles Thacker, whose work at Xerox PARC inspired such Apple innovations as the graphic-user interface (GUI) and the mouse. Soon, we'll get to see under the hood of how Apple introduced those technologies with the Apple Lisa.

Just as the Computer History Museum did five years ago when it released the source code for Apple DOS, the CHM will now be distributing the source code for the Apple Lisa's operating system. Museum curator Al Kossow made the announcement on Google Groups, writing, "the sources to the OS and applications were recovered… and they are with Apple for review. After that's done, CHM will do an @CHM blog post about the historical significance of the software and the code that is cleared for release by Apple will be made available in 2018."

Apple Lisa

I'm curious where the source code was "recovered" from. Did the CHM collaborate with Apple to retrieve the code from an archaic floppy disk, much as Tony Diaz and Jason Scott helped Jordan Mechner recover the Prince of Persia source code? Or did some third party, perhaps a former Apple employee, bequeath the code to the CHM?

Regardless of the source, the importance of this release cannot be understated. Rhett Jones at Gizmodo reported, "Lisa was a cutting-edge machine and one of the first to offer consumers a GUI, mouse, and file system, but it was prohibitively expensive and didn’t catch on." To see the origin of these features is to look back at the ancestors of computing staples that are still with us today.

Further, such releases are extremely rare, as Apple is known to be possessive of their intellectual property. In this case Apple has little incentive to make such a release, whether or not there is historical value or modern applications for the Lisa operating system.

Whatever the origin or motivation of both this release and that of Apple DOS before it, the precedents continue to be set, with many implications for the Apple II community. Who knows what other classic software we'll see released from Apple Inc. next?

(Hat tip to Christopher Baugh via Paul Wilson)