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posted by janrinok on Saturday January 21, @09:53AM   Printer-friendly

Lisa OS 3.1's 1984 source Pascal code now available under a non-commercial license:

As part of the Apple Lisa's 40th birthday celebrations, the Computer History Museum has released the source code for Lisa OS version 3.1 under an Apple Academic License Agreement. With Apple's blessing, the Pascal source code is available for download from the CHM website after filling out a form.

Lisa Office System 3.1 dates back to April 1984, during the early Mac era, and it was the equivalent of operating systems like macOS and Windows today.

The entire source package is about 26MB and consists of over 1,300 commented source files, divided nicely into subfolders that denote code for the main Lisa OS, various included apps, and the Lisa Toolkit development system.

First released on January 19, 1983, the Apple Lisa remains an influential and important machine in Apple's history, pioneering the mouse-based graphical user interface (GUI) that made its way to the Macintosh a year later. Despite its innovations, the Lisa's high price ($9,995 retail, or about $30,300 today) and lack of application support held it back as a platform. A year after its release, the similarly capable Macintosh undercut it dramatically in price. Apple launched a major revision of the Lisa hardware in 1984, then discontinued the platform in 1985.

The Lisa was not the first commercial computer to ship with a GUI, as some have claimed in the past—that honor goes to the Xerox Star—but Lisa OS defined important conventions that we still use in windowing OSes today, such as drag-and-drop icons, movable windows, the waste basket, the menu bar, pull-down menus, copy and paste shortcuts, control panels, overlapping windows, and even one-touch automatic system shutdown.

With the LisaOS source release, researchers and educators will now be able to study how Apple developers implemented those historically important features four decades ago. Apple's Academic license permits using and compiling the source code for "non-commercial, academic research, educational teaching, and personal study purposes only."

The Computer History Museum had previously teased the release of the code in 2018, but after spending some time in review, they decided to hold back its release until the computer's 40th birthday—the perfect gift to honor this important machine's legacy.

More Info:
Inventing the Lisa user interface [open], Interactions, 1997 (DOI:

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

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  • (Score: 2) by turgid on Saturday January 21, @10:47AM (3 children)

    by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Saturday January 21, @10:47AM (#1287871) Journal

    It's 40 years old, written in Pascal and they will only let academics look at it?

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by canopic jug on Saturday January 21, @12:03PM (1 child)

      by canopic jug (3949) on Saturday January 21, @12:03PM (#1287877) Journal

      Indeed. The license is not at all open source, it is a look-but-don't-touch imitation and lacks the key provision about allowing redistribution (my bold formatting added for emphasis) as seen in the link from the Computer History Museum's page on the Lisa code:

      • Software Use Rights and Limitations.
        Subject to your compliance with these terms, Apple grants you a non-exclusive, non-transferable license under Apple's copyrights in the Apple Software to do the following for non-commercial, academic research, educational teaching, and personal study purposes only:
        • 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.

        You may not and you agree not to:

        • 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.


      In contrast, the Open Source Definition [] emphasizes free redistribution. Never the less although this nasty license is a step forward for something as important at the Lisa, junk sites like Arse Technica are just muddying the water about licensing in general and making it difficult for the software to acquire an actual open source license. A much better link that the Arse junk would have been to go to the source, the Computer History Museum's post entitled The Lisa: Apple's Most Influential Failure [] from the other day.

      Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
      • (Score: 3, Touché) by pdfernhout on Sunday January 22, @01:47AM

        by pdfernhout (5984) on Sunday January 22, @01:47AM (#1287988) Homepage

        From the license: "Scope of License. The Apple Software is only licensed (not sold) to you for the non-commercial purposes stated above and may not be used for any other purposes without Apple's prior written permission. Apple and Apple's licensors retain ownership of the Apple Software and reserve all rights not expressly granted to you. If you create modifications of the Apple Software, you hereby grant to Apple a non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable, assignable, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, publicly display, distribute, make, have made, import and sell your modifications."

        So once you download the software, could Apple, as a worst-case possibility, in theory claim a royalty-free license to anything you create for the rest of your life as a "modification" of the software?

        The biggest challenge of the 21st century: the irony of technologies of abundance used by scarcity-minded people.
    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 21, @06:50PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 21, @06:50PM (#1287935)

      You can fetch it, they are not really checking. Still it's probably of limited usage. Waiting for them to "open" System/MacOS.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by canopic jug on Saturday January 21, @12:15PM (1 child)

    by canopic jug (3949) on Saturday January 21, @12:15PM (#1287880) Journal

    ToastyTech, home of the GUI time line [], has three pages of screen shots concerning the Lisa.

    Only the third one is linked to from the summary / article.

    The Computer History Museum has two articles which the Arse post appears based upon: Happy 40th Birthday Lisa! [] and The Lisa: Apple's Most Influential Failure []. Both are well worth reading.

    Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.