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Apple Lisa: 40 Years Later, Now Open Source

A piece of tech history now open to the public.

Apple's Lisa computer was one of the most influential computing systems in the history of personal computers. It was one of the early systems that bought a graphical user interface (GUI) to the masses.

The concept of a GUI existed well before the launch of Lisa. Initially developed by Xerox PARC in the 1970s, it never caught on.

It was when Steve Jobs and a delegation from Apple Computer saw a demonstration of Smalltalk on the Alto system by Xerox that led him to think that all computers should work this way.

He was quite impressed with the potential of this way of interacting with a computer and wanted Apple to be at the forefront of this innovation.

This consequently led to the development and launch of Lisa.

But, when it launched, it didn't garner that many sales due to its high price and was considered a commercial failure.

What it succeeded in was that it paved the way for the Macintosh operating system which later took the computing world by storm.

It offered many innovations, with a good GUI being one of the main highlights.

Now, in a recent announcement.

After 40 years of Lisa's release, the Computer History Museum (CHM) has made the source code open.

Source Code Available to the Public

The CHM teased the release back in 2018, but it was subject to a review process.

The source code was sent to Apple for review, but there was not much news after that. Until now, that is.

The CHM is a long-established museum of computer history located in California, USA.

It turns out, the CHM had decided to hold back its release to align it perfectly with the computer's 40th birthday.

So, what does it contain?: The source code of the operating system as well as its suite of applications that include a word processor, spreadsheet, and charts.

Can you get access to it?: Yes!, to get access to the source code. One needs to fill out a form on the CHM's site and get the download link.

But there's a catch.

The code is freely available for you to see and use. But there's a software license agreement in place that you have to agree to before you can download the source code.

One of the terms that caught my eye was:

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.

This is Apple's Academic license that allows you to use the source code for "non-commercial, academic research, educational teaching, and personal study purposes only"

With that in mind, it is good to see code for older systems being made open (with some restrictions for its usage of course). Tinkerers who love retro computers will have a field day with this.

💬 What do you think? Should companies be more lenient with their old proprietary software and hardware products?

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