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Lisa OS Open-source?

liamur

Member
Years ago, I saw this post on Slashdot, and it stuck with me for no reason other than at the time I had never heard of the Lisa. It says that CHM was to release the source, probably 68k assembly, for Lisa OS---but there is no record of this on CHM's website, nor any evidence of source anywhere else. There is a little bit of other information, found via a quick search, is a r/VintageApple post from 9 months ago. Also, the Wikipedia page for the Lisa says:

"In 2018, the Computer History Museum announced it would be releasing the source code for Lisa OS, following a check by Apple to ensure this would not impact other intellectual property. For copyright reasons, this release did not include the American Heritage dictionary."

What happened? Was the American Heritage dictionary too integral to the system to allow for the release? Or did Apple just forget about it, in a manner reminiscent of AirPower?
 

cheesestraws

Well-known member
I love the idea of an entire software system being held together by a dictionary. It's horribly plausible.

I'm not familiar with the project to open source it personally, but from random snippets I've seen wandering around various Lisa-related places, I believe the effort is still quietly rumbling along. But I especially doubt it's anyone from Apple's actual priority so...
 

lisa2

Well-known member
While this made for a great press release for the CHM back in 2018, it never happened...:(

The referenced LisaList mailing list is pretty much dead as well.. this is why I started LisaList2.com
 

al kossow

Member
The code is NOT open source, it will have a click-through license for non-profit non-redistribution use only.
The notice of a code release was a press leak from the Lisa list, it was NEVER confirmed by CHM.
It will happen, I can't say when.

and PLEASE stop bothering the archivists trying to get it, they can't give it to you.

--end of line--
 

CC_333

Well-known member
Well, that settles that....

Now we must wait.

Hopefully at some point, a similar release could happen for early Macintosh SSW (like, say, System 1.0). Even with a fairly restrictive non-profit, non-redistribution license, it's MUCH better than nothing at all!

c
 

liamur

Member
The code is NOT open source, it will have a click-through license for non-profit non-redistribution use only.
The notice of a code release was a press leak from the Lisa list, it was NEVER confirmed by CHM.
It will happen, I can't say when.

and PLEASE stop bothering the archivists trying to get it, they can't give it to you.

--end of line--
A shame, really. It's not like Apple is going to profit from not releasing it. Likewise for source of System 1-6 and probably 7,8,9 as well.

How was it a press leak? Does that mean that Apple announced it but never organized it with CHM and ended up forgetting about it?
 

stepleton

Well-known member
A shame, really. It's not like Apple is going to profit from not releasing it.

I don't think this is so: it's likely cheaper for Apple not to bother at all. My guess is that if you take all the time that certain Apple folks have spent working out how to permit this* and multiplied it by their hourly salaries, it might cost in the four or five figures. I know it's not a lot compared to their market cap, but you'd still probably find it puzzling if Apple randomly bought some used car and parked it in a pasture to rot. Same cost to them, maybe similar benefit to them too.

Al has been known to be pretty keen on preservation. I think we can assume that he secured the best possible terms.

* It's probably a tricker thing to determine than we might think --- making sure you have the rights to release all the code. Here is a made-up situation: suppose some comment in the low-level OS code refers to a Motorola datasheet or applications note; now suppose that reference has some example code in it. Is the Apple code different enough that Apple has the right to release the code without the permission of Motorola Freescale NXP? The people who answer questions like that don't work cheap!
 
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cheesestraws

Well-known member
You have to remember that all software engineering is a collaborative, conversational discipline, not just between individuals, but between companies too. And this, along with the state of copyright law, means that old code is often in a very unclear position. Would it be deeply stupid for Apple to be sued by some smoking remnant of some defunct company for open sourcing something from the '80s without proper sign-off? Yup. Would it also be entirely possible? Yup.

You can probably infer from the above that I think this is a deeply ludicrous situation for a discipline that's essentially nothing more than a series of conversations to have found itself in, but it is the situation it is in, and there isn't really any getting around that.
 

NJRoadfan

Well-known member
Apple should hold copyright for all code in their OS outside of anything obviously licensed like the dictionary. Anything the in-house programmers wrote would be a "work for hire" that Apple gets copyright to. Patents are a thorny issue with computer programs, but even those would be long since expired.

I don't see LisaOS being like OS/2 (another OS that people want open sourced), which has extensive amounts of code that was licensed from Microsoft and other parties over the years. On the flip side, Microsoft did open source early versions of MS-DOS, an OS that someone else wrote that they bought.
 

stepleton

Well-known member
Whatever the case, Apple will still (at their expense) rely on their own staff to arrive at any determination about when and how they will release their own OS, and this is my point about saving money by doing nothing at all. Big companies simply do not share previously-restricted IP without several thousand dollars' worth of checking.

Again, Al and/or whoever else is working on this will have secured the best possible arrangement, you can count on it.
 

liamur

Member
Yeah, I hadn't considered IP and possible patent issues. Even if there aren't any in the ROM code, it would still require someone to search through the code...which, as stapleton said, is not cheap.

If IP is the issue, though, how did QuickDraw get released?
 

Crutch

Well-known member
What do you mean when you say QuickDraw was released?

MacPaint was of course released, but it probably helped a lot that it was entirely written by one guy (as was QuickDraw…).
 

demik

Well-known member
The original QuickDraw source code is available on the net (see here)

Color QuickDraw is not AFAIK.
 
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