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Lisa: Steve Jobs’ sabotage and Apple’s secret burial

last December, with a ledge Video crew, I found myself wandering a snowy mountain of garbage in Logan, Utah. Everyone we spoke to told us that Logan was a great place to visit any time except Dead of Winter. They also told us that the landfill was not the most pleasant place to explore at any other time of year. Ditch In The hit of winter really was a one-two punch – although the cold probably helped a little with the smell.

But in the landfill was a piece of a puzzle that had been bugging us for months: the fate of the Lisa, Apple’s most iconic failure.

In September 1989, according to a news article, Apple buried approximately 2,700 unsold Lisa computers at Logan. The Lisa was released in 1983, and was Apple’s first stab at a truly modern, graphically driven computer: it had a mouse, windows, icons, menus, and other things we expect from a “user-friendly” desktop. Let’s expect , It had those features a year before the Macintosh was released. This too was doomed.

Veteran tech journalist Steven Levy recently explained in an interview, “The Lisa was the first computer out there … that you didn’t have to struggle with a big computer manual or even hire a consultant to use.” “You can understand it out of the box and start using it.” But the Lisa famously had a $10,000 price tag and some hardware issues, and was overshadowed by the upcoming cheaper Mac. Even after being discounted, upgraded and rebranded as the Macintosh XL, it survived for two years and was phased out in 1985.

Burial in Logan was the ultimate humiliation for a computer that never had a fighting chance, and it piqued our interest. What happened to the Lisa between its closure in 1985 and its eventual demise in 1989? Why destroy Lisa’s last? and why did it all go in Utah, That article offered a handful of curious details – enough to inspire us to head over to Logan and find out what really happened 30 years ago.

yes of course we In fact Wanted to ditch Lisa. We’ve all heard of Atari burying famously bad video game adaptations. ET the extra-terrestrial In 1983. We saw some enterprising documentaries digging up cartridges with great fanfare and playing the infamous game right there at the dump. After formally saving it from decades of municipal waste we had a dream to own a piece of apple history to boot.

Logan Landfill, home of the last Lisa.

Unfortunately, standing atop Mount Lisa, it was clear that a revival was not in the cards. We received a mild warning from a bulldozer operator (specifically: “Stay out of my way and away from the garbage because I don’t want to see you die today”). We have a little chat with her and ask where Lisa might be. He pointed to the depths of the hill—1989, he said, was “the way down.” And even if we did find them, reports suggest that landfill workers crushed the computers with bulldozers before dumping them into the ground.

Where? Lisa was clearly too far out of our reach. So instead, we focused How And Why, Some people who knew of the incident still lived around Logan, although how much time has passed since 1989 is unknown since they were found. The reporter who wrote the original article is now an acclaimed romance novelist. The photo editor, another eyewitness to the burial, is a retired dairy farmer and cheesemaker. We interviewed both of them, whose story of finding old computers this way involves a tour of a cheese cave.

But the main character in our story of Last Lisa is a former computer salesman named Bob Cook. In the mid-’80s, Bob was an Apple reseller who saw a novel sales opportunity: used computers. The first generation of personal computers was becoming obsolete, and Bob went into business selling them at a discount. He made unique deals to pick up old, never-used inventory: first about 3,500 Apple III computers in 1985, and then the last 7,000 Lisas a year later. In the process, he helped invent a whole new niche in the computer business.

Bob Cook at home with documents from the Lisa era.
Photo by Becca Farsache / The Verge

“Computers were considered the leading edge, so nobody was thinking of selling the trailing edge of high technology,” he told us, laughing. Bob fills in a new segment of Lisa’s history. He wasn’t just trying to resell computers – he was trying to improve them. Bob took the leftover Lisas and applied all his experience with computers at the dawn of the industry. He estimates that he spent $200,000 on R&D, upgrading both the hardware and operating system to be more competitive with newer Mac models like the Plus at a fraction of the price. He did so much work that he felt a new nomenclature was appropriate.

“It was something different. That’s why we called it ‘Lisa Professional,'” he said.

But we set out on Bob’s journey knowing that it will not have a happy ending. What possessed Apple to change its mind about the deal and destroy the Lisa it was selling? We won’t spoil the answer here. But the story involves sabotage, mercenaries and the influence of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. It’s a remarkable story that helps explain how Apple became the historically profitable tech leviathan it is today. You can watch the full documentary today, embedded above or on our YouTube channel.

Photo by Becca Farsache / The Verge

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