Mac Musings

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Brings Back Useful Features from Apple's 1983 Lisa

Dan Knight - 2011.06.07 - Tip Jar

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Thanks to any number of people attending the Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco yesterday and blogging from the keynote, anyone with an Internet connection could know what was being presented in almost real time.

One thought kept coming to my mind: Lisa lives!

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion

Lisa was Apple's first computer with a graphical user interface (GUI), and it debuted a year before the Mac. With a $10,000 price, it didn't set the world on fire, but it paved the way for Macintosh and had some innovative features that were left behind when the Mac, with far less RAM, no hard drive, and just one built-in floppy drive, displaced it.

Apple's Lisa, introduced in 1983
Lisa, introduced in 1983.

Perhaps the most missed feature was that you didn't have to save a file or remember your place. As you worked, Lisa took care of saving, and when you quit a file,quit an app, or turned off the computer, it marked your place, so the next time you launched that document, there you were.

That's back with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, which will be available in July for the remarkable price of $29. The feature is called Resume, and it's only going to be available with apps designed to take advantage of Lion.

Auto Save not only saves your documents as you work, as every auto save feature in the world does, it also allows you to revert to a previous version or open an earlier version, copy text or data, and paste it into the current version. You don't have to remember to save when you quit an app. Again, apps will have to be updated to take advantage of it.

The third part of this is Versions, which is like Time Machine for your document, making it easy to navigate however many saved versions Auto Save has archived. This goes way beyond anything Lisa had.

That's just three of 250 new features coming with Lion.

We used to complain about the $129 price of Mac OS X and the fact that Apple offered no discount to those upgrading from the previous version. The $199 five-user family pack helped for those with two or more Macs, but the cost of OS X remained an obstacle to the user base keeping current.

Kudos to Apple for keeping OS costs low since the release of OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard at $29 (or $49 for the five-user family pack) in August 2009. It not only makes it easier for Mac users to afford an up-to-date operating system (and with Lion, you'll be downloading it via the Mac App Store, so no running out to the store or waiting for a disc to come in the mail), but it gives Apple and Mac developers a much broader base of users with the latest OS. (Among visitors to Low End Mac, 69.6% are running Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard while less than 14% are running older versions of OS X on Intel-based Macs. In the world of Windows, on the other hand, the majority is still using Windows XP - far from current!)

iOS 5

While Macs have been around since 1984 and OS X since 2001, it's only four years since the first iOS device arrived, the original iPhone. Apple announced that 200 million iDevices have been sold, and they account for 40% of the entire mobile device market.

When it arrives later this year, iOS 5 will deliver 200 new features, but probably the most requested is the end of tethering. The world's most popular post-PC devices will no longer have to be connected to a computer for OS and updates. Updates will now be available "over the air"!

Some other new features:

  • Newsstand, like iBooks for magazines and newspapers.
  • Integrated Twitter, and you'll be able to tweet from apps as well. Address Book will also sync entries with Twitter IDs.
  • Reminders lets you create reminders that can be time-based - or location-based, such as "Remind me to call Bob when I get home."

iOS will be available sometime this fall and supports the iPhone 3GS, 3G iPod touch, and all iPads.

iCloud

First of all, iCloud will be free, just like Apple's original iTools (which became $99/year .mac and later $99/year MobileMe). Although you can't sign up today, you can sign up to be informed when it is available. 5 GB of free storage that integrates with Macs and iDevices.

Wireless backup to iCloud from your iDevice on a daily basis. And you'll be able to store and work with documents in the cloud. (Apple will have an iCloud API for developers.) Documents will be available on Macs, and Photo Stream will be accessible from Apple TV.

Lots of iCloud coolness, like buying a new iDevice and having it automatically download all of your App Store and iTunes Store purchases automatically. One less thing iOS users will need a computer for.

A Different Paradigm

I've been using personal computers since the Apple II+ era, and in all that time, whatever computer, operating system, and program I used asked me where to save my work.* Did I want to save to tape or 5.25" floppy on the Apple II, Commodore VIC-20, or Commodore 64? If I had more than one floppy drive, which one did I want to save to? In DOS and on the Mac, which directory (or, later, subdirectory) did I want to save to? When hard drives came along, did I want to save to it or to a floppy drive? When I began to partition my hard drives, which partition did I want to save to? And then came options like SyQuest drives, networked servers, USB flash drives, and Dropbox .

Apple began to do away with that kind of thinking when it introduced iTunes, which had its own defaults for where to save files and what directory structure to use. It was completely transparent to the end user, and programs like Mail and iPhoto use the same paradigm. You don't have to have a clue where on the hard drive or what kind of directory structure is being used.

On iOS devices, that's the norm, and it's one reason it can be challenging to add external storage to them. They aren't designed so the user has to use the folder/subfolder paradigm we've been using for at least 30 years.

Frankly, this is going to be wonderful for non-geek users, whether they always save their files to the same place or know how to use folders. The won't have to think about that any longer, and it looks like you'll even be able to sync files between Macs and iDevices using iCloud (and perhaps some other OS X 10.7 and iOS 5 features as well).

20th Anniversary Mac
Apple's 20th Anniversary Mac from 1997.

Once again, Apple is changing the face of personal computing, something it's been doing since the Apple I shipped in April 1976 - over 35 years ago. 

A sampling of Apple innovations include the first color computer (Apple II, 1977), the first affordable floppy controller (Disk II, 1979), the first commercial GUI (Lisa, 1983), first use of the 3.5" floppy (Macintosh 128K, 1984), first PC with built-in networking, first PC with SCSI (Mac Plus, 1986), first PC with a built-in CD-ROM (Performa 600, 1992), first PC with a flat panel display (20th Anniversary Mac, 1997), first computer to abandon legacy ports for USB (original iMac, 1998), first notebook designed for WiFi (original iBook, 1999), and the first PCs with Thunderbolt (the Early 2011 MacBook Pro family).

Apple's Macs, Mac OS, iPods, iPhones, iPad, and iOS have changed entire industries - and Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud are going to move it several steps further ahead of the competition.

* Okay, truth be told, I didn't have to specify where. There were defaults, but if I didn't specify where, I might never be able to find the file again, which led to programs that could scan your drive for file names - and later tools like Spotlight that would index the content of your files. Now if you create a document in Pages for Lion, it will handle all of those details.

Further Reading on Lisa

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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