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Lisa 2 or Macintosh XL owners?

LisaXL

Active member
Hi,

As a teenager, I was always fascinated by Lisa 2 and Macintosh XL. Although my first computer was an Apple IIe and followed by a Mac Plus. I never forget looking at Sun Remarketing's advertisement in wonder of how beautiful those machines are with the larger display. Is there anyone who owns or used to own those machines? How is the compatibility with Macintosh software? Does it emulate the sounds? Please share with me with your experience on them.

Thanks.
 

cheesestraws

Well-known member
I have a Lisa 2/10, which triple-boots Lisa O/S, MacWorks and GEM.

They're very interesting machines, coming from a very different thread of computer design from the Mac. The Mac is obviously, architecturally, the descendant of microcomputers, whereas the Lisa is in a lot of ways more like a very small minicomputer. The I/O and memory management hardware is more robust and featureful, and a lot of things that on the Mac would be done with software running on the CPU is done instead by firmware running on subsidiary processors. It is a very powerful and competent machine, and is grossly overengineered for the task they were actually trying to sell it for.

Mac software runs fairly well on them for two main reasons:
  • The Lisa was designed to run multiple OSes, unlike the Mac
  • The Macintosh System Software is remarkably hardware-agnostic in some very useful ways, unlike the Lisa operating system.
So, there's a helper called MacWorks which acts as a bootloader for the Macintosh System and which provides drivers for Lisa-specific things like ProFile hard discs.

One thing that cannot be worked around is the pixel aspect ratio. The Lisa has, as many computers did, rectangular pixels, and this means that run on a Lisa, Mac software looks stretched. The MacXL modification kit "fixed" this, but in doing so, it prevents you from running the Lisa O/S, or really anything except MacWorks.

Personally, I very rarely run Mac software on mine. There isn't a great deal of point for me; most of the software I want to run will run on newer, faster machines, and it's more interesting to run Lisa-specific software. The Lisa O/S is a historic GUI landmark; you can run an early version of GEM on it; and there are also UNIXes that will run on it. It's also quite a fun machine to write low-level code for.
 

LisaXL

Active member
I have a Lisa 2/10, which triple-boots Lisa O/S, MacWorks and GEM.

They're very interesting machines, coming from a very different thread of computer design from the Mac. The Mac is obviously, architecturally, the descendant of microcomputers, whereas the Lisa is in a lot of ways more like a very small minicomputer. The I/O and memory management hardware is more robust and featureful, and a lot of things that on the Mac would be done with software running on the CPU is done instead by firmware running on subsidiary processors. It is a very powerful and competent machine, and is grossly overengineered for the task they were actually trying to sell it for.

Hello Cheesestraws. Thank you so much for sharing your experence of Lisa 2. I have some more questions about it. I heard Mac OS is much faster than Lisa's operation system by removing the pre-emptive multitasking. Does the Macworks feel faster than Lisa OS? Are Lisa's programs responding slower than Mac programs? One last question. Does Lisa has its own digitized sound capability or it is just beeper? Thank you again.
 

LaPorta

Well-known member
I'd get a Mac XL myself if they weren't so darn expensive! Cheese, that's awesome that you have one!
 

cheesestraws

Well-known member
I heard Mac OS is much faster than Lisa's operation system by removing the pre-emptive multitasking.

MacOS feels faster than the Lisa Office System in operation. It's lower latency, certainly. That's another reason why the design of the machine and what they sold the machine to do didn't line up. That doesn't mean that the whole OS is faster, though, just the feel of snappiness.

Does Lisa has its own digitized sound capability or it is just beeper?

The Lisa only beeps, I think. IIRC some enthusiasts built a sound card for it a few years ago but it isn't compatible with MacWorks.

Cheese, that's awesome that you have one!

Yeah, I had a lot of luck in getting this one. I was looking for one I could afford for a long time.
 

ScutBoy

Well-known member
I have a couple of Lisa - one with original OS, and one with Macworks, and an organ donor.

I think Mac is a subjectively faster machine, since much of the low-level code is coming out of the ROM Toolboxes, vs everything needed to be loaded from disk for Lisa (or any other) OS.

Mac also didn't include some other features from Lisa like the application interoperability, document versioning, etc. While some parts of Mac OS were simpler, some were more advanced - a lot of things were in flux in the software design at this time, and I think the Mac team cribbed a lot from the Lisa team, but they were trying to hit different functionality, performance, and cost points.

There's a lot of good stuff at folklore.org about both Lisa and Mac beginnings written by the people who were there.
 
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