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Apple’s Biggest Computer Failure Turns 40 Years Old Today

Apple Lisa computer at a museum.

Apple has a number of notable product failures, including the round mouse, eMate, Pippin, and Newton, among others. But, none as so famous as the one that bears the name of Steve Jobs’s first daughter, Lisa. If this computer line had succeeded, it would turn 40 years old today.

Apple began developing Lisa on July 30, 1979. The company officially stated that “Lisa” stood for “Locally Integrated Software Architecture.” However, it was a known secret that the computer was actually named after Steve Job’s daughter Lisa Nicole Brennan (later Lisa Nicole Brennan-Jobs). But, since Jobs denied paternity at the time, the acronym was invented to obfuscate the name’s origin. Jobs only admitted the truth to his biographer Walter Isaacson shortly before his death, stating, “Obviously it was named for my daughter.”

Lisa is notable among the early Apple computers as the first model to use a mouse and a graphical user interface. Steve Jobs was initially on the Lisa development team but was soon ousted due to strife within the company. He went on to head up the Macintosh development teach, which eventually showed up the Lisa in sales and went on to become the company’s flagship computer line.

For its part, Lisa was not a bad machine. Not only did it pioneer concepts like the mouse and GUI, but it also featured task-oriented workflow, a 5 MHz processor, and RAM expansion slots. However, it was very expensive. At launch, an Apple Lisa sold for $10,000—a hefty sum in 1983 that would translate to over $30,000 today. It also was plagued with software glitches and performance problems that Apple later remedied.

All told, Apple sunk 50 million dollars into Lisa’s development and marketing. And by the time the company discontinued the line in 1986, only 10,000 Lisas had reached customers. In a sad coda to the Lisa saga, the company purchased a landfill in Logan, Utah, to bury 10,000 unsold units in 1989.

Danny Chadwick Danny Chadwick
Danny has been a technology journalist since 2008. He served as senior writer, as well as multimedia and home improvement editor at Top Ten Reviews until 2019. Since then, he has been a freelance contributor to Lifewire and ghostwriter for Fit Small Business. His work has also appeared on Laptop Mag, Tom’s Guide, and business.com. Read Full Bio »