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Build Your Own ‘Lisa’ With Original Apple Source Code

Apple Lisa computer at a museum.

In honor of Apple Lisa’s 40th birthday, the Computer History Museum is releasing the source code for the historic machine as part of its Art of Code project. The museum states that Lisa is “a milestone in computing history for its innovative use of a graphical user interface in a personal computer.”

In a separate blog post from the announcement, CHU hails Lisa as “Apple’s most influential failure” and cites Lisa’s mouse-driven GUI as the forerunner for more successful machines such as the Macintosh and speculates that without Lisa, there may have been no Windows operating system. The post goes on to detail the development, launch, and eventual commercial failure of the Lisa. It’s quite an interesting read for those interested in the history of technology.

The release of Lisa’s source code means you can use it on your own machines. However, that doesn’t mean you can do whatever you like with it. Apple’s license agreement for the code states that the source code is for “non-commercial, academic research, educational teaching, and personal study purposes only.”

According to the terms, you can:

  • Use, reproduce, compile and modify the Apple Software,
  • Run the Apple Software and your modifications of it on your hardware,
  • Copy and reference documentation that comes with the Apple Software.

However, you cannot:

  • Redistribute, publish, sublicense, sell, rent or transfer the Apple Software;
  • Publish benchmarking results about the Apple Software or your use of it;
  • Use the name, trademarks, service marks or logos of Apple to endorse or promote your modifications or other materials derived from the Apple Software.

It would be a fascinating project if you happen to have an old computer lying around to load this OS onto. However, you need to have some technical know-how to get it to work.

You can download the Lisa source code directly from the Computer History Museum’s website.

Source: Computer History Museum

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 »