The Apple Lisa computer first hit the streets in 1983 with a list price just shy of $10,000. It had a 5 MHz processor, 1MB of RAM, and a 5MB hard drive. It was also one of the first desktop computers to feature a graphical user interface and it pave the way for the much more popular (and affordable) Macintosh line of computers that launched the following year.
Now the Computer History Museum and Apple are working together to release the source code for the Apple Lisa computer in 2018, making a piece of computing history available to everyone 35 years after it first launched.
The code will include the core operating system and bundled apps including LisaWrite, LisaCalc, LisaDraw, LisaTerminal, and others. Museum curator Al Kossow notes that it’s possible some software, such as the American Heritage dictionary for the LisaWrite word processor might not be available, because Apple doesn’t necessarily have the rights to release that.
This isn’t the first time the Computer History Museum has been involved with preserving and releasing source code for an important operating system that paved the way for the desktop operating systems we use today. In 2014 the museum worked with Microsoft to release the source code for MS DOS 1.1 and 2.0, as well as the code for Word for Windows 1.1a.
Of course, while there are still some educational reasons you might want to poke around this old code, there’s not really all that much you’d probably want to use a 30+ year old operating system for today. Fortunately fans of free and open source software have plenty of other options: source code for GNU/Linux-based operating systems such as Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, Arch, Linux Mint, and Gentoo has been available for as long as those operating systems have been around.