HOME › Forums › Open Discussion › The rest of the story – The Lisa Computer
- This topic has 7 replies, 1 voice, and was last updated 13 years, 11 months ago by Unknown,Unknown.
In another message on this board I was describing a call with Steve Jobs (of Apple). Writing that message made me remember one other Jobs-related incident early in Sierra’s history.
This one is from over 25 years ago – so I’ll tell the story as I remember it, which may or may not be factual. My hope is that other Sierra employees who were around at the time, and remember the story will add to this with a bit more detail.
Early in Sierra’s history, we published a couple of compilers; a Basic Compiler, called Expeditor, and a Assembler for the Apple II called Lisa. My background prior to Sierra had been in compiler development, so I always had a strong interest in them – which is part of why we did SCI and AGI.
In around 1985, Apple contacted us, and wanted to buy the name Lisa for a new computer they were coming out with. This was around the time of the Apple IIGS. They were VERY insistent that they had to have the name. We negotiated and finally sold it to them for around $100,000 (I think) and a bunch of pre-release Lisa computers.
There were two stories floating around Sierra about why Apple wanted the name so bad. One was that Lisa was a girl friend of Steves. The other was that she was a daughter from some earlier relationship. I think that I knew which of these stories, if either, was true at the time, but have long since forgotten.
I don’t know what we renamed our assembler to, or even if we continued to market it. I do know that the Lisa was a disaster. The ones we received were never used. They were buggy, and didn’t have any software. I’m not even 100% certain the Lisa was ever sold commercially.
As I said, excuse my bad memory, and my apologies if I have forgotten most of this story.
Interesting! I’d always heard that the Lisa was named after his daughter.
Lisa was the name of his first daughter.
While it was a commercial flop it gave birth to the Macintosh which was a scaled down Lisa in some ways.
Funny you should mention this, because Al and I found a “Lisa” newspaper cartoon from 1983. We threw it away though, otherwise it would have been appropriate to post it right now!
Any remembrance why you chose the name Lisa for your compiler? Did Jobs have a some compilers named DJ or Chris? =)
Was it an acronym?
“Any remembrance why you chose the name Lisa for your compiler? Did Jobs have a some compilers named DJ or Chris? =) Was it an acronym?”
My memory is starting to come back on this….
The assembler was written by Randy Hyde, and was already on the market before Sierra picked it up. I used it to write a game (I think Thexder) and liked it, so I called to ask if we could publish it. My recollection is that it was already called Lisa, and that it was called that because it was named after Randy’s wife — but, this was 25 years ago, so, who knows?
I don’t remember why we stopped publishing it. I think I always wanted to move the company in serious directions, but ultimately, our product direction was always set by our customers, not me. We tended to do more of what worked, and less of what didn’t. The games worked, the compilers didn’t.
I’m sorry for posting to an outdated thread, not to mention making this post longer than it needs to be, but I only recently came across this site. (Yeah, I know: some fan -I- am, not knowing about it until now!) Please do let me know if I’m doing something wrong!
While this isn’t exactly 100% relevant to the Lisa computer, I was curious about the Basic Compiler. I know Apple was your “baby,” but did you ever make a Basic Compiler for IBM PC? I remember using the first one, but I didn’t check the author. (Yes, Captain Hook was alive and well even in THOSE days! Except it was more nepotism… er, I mean, family legacy, programmer’s heritage, father and son, and all that…)
I wasn’t sure if I should make a new thread in this forum for this, but I would like to join you in reminiscing about how technology really flew back then. Sure, it’s flying now like a bat out of hell, but back then the industry was like a pig-monkey, the very first one. I remember that shiny new Tandy 1000 and the RGB monitor. Space Quest 2 and Thexder were the first Sierra games we bought, right when they just came out, and boy was that incredible. Before we knew it, hard drives were getting bigger, OSes were magically replicated but with different company names (::cough:: Microsoft), and CPU speed was measured in MegaHertz. Double-digits, too!
I think the absolutely best line that could sum up that historical era was written into Space Quest 6, in the doctor’s lab on Delta Burksilon. When you look at the computer, Gary Owens narrates, “Gee, dad! It’s a…” followed by an exquisitely long parody of the latest computer model names. (I think the best at that time was a 486 DX4. Or maybe I’m just saying that because I had one at the time.)
Anyway, it’s so good to interact with people who remember those days, and even better to be able to communicate with the Williamses and the other members of the Sierra family. I am honored!
I working for you Ken back then, I believe the complier was named for his wife. I know that we did not sell the complier very long after I started there, but I think we did use internally for a while.