The Apple Lisa was a big deal, you can read all about it on the internet, I won’t go into a lot of depth here. It was Apple’s first foray into GUI, before there was a Macintosh. The original (“Lisa 1”) actually says “Lisa” on the front, and had two 5.25″ disk drives that used “Twiggy” disks. The Twiggy disks were unreliable, and so when the Lisa 2 came out, with a 3.5″ drive instead, Apple upgraded people’s Lisa 1s to Lisa 2s for free. As a result, very few Lisa 1s are left. The Lisa 2 later got a hardware revision (the “2/10”) and then a software revision which basically turned it into a Mac (at which point the machine itself was then called “Macintosh XL” instead of “Lisa 2/10”). Lisa 1s originally sold for $10,000, Lisa 2s for $4,000. They didn’t fly off the shelves, particularly once the much cheaper Macintosh was released. But in a move that’s just painful to think about, Apple took its remaining Lisa stock in 1989 and destroyed it (in order to get a tax write-off), crushing them and burying them in a landfill in Utah. So by now, Lisas are thin on the ground. They do appear on eBay, but very often in non-working condition or missing the keyboard, etc., and regardless of condition their auctions rarely end below $700. Plus, they are relatively heavy (and of course fragile) and so they are expensive to ship.

Not long ago, one of the people on eBay who pretty reliably has Lisa and Apple III equipment decided to clear his inventory of a bunch of non-working Lisa 2/10 (Mac XL) machines that he didn’t want to repair. They went up with a “buy it now” price, which meant that there was no auction frenzy to drive the price up, and there were 10 of them. He was careful to point out in the listing that they did not power up, and he did no further troubleshooting on them. They were complete inside, and they look good, they came with keyboards that were missing some keys and without a mouse. They weren’t cheap exactly, but they were fixed at a level I felt I could reach and well below what recent machines (even non-working ones) had gone for. So, after some internal debate, I decided that this was probably about the best I was going to do, if I were ever to be able to own one. And the fact that it was complete gave me hope that someday I might be able to restore it to working condition.

Fast forward about a week and a half:

Lisa box

Fast forward about 20 minutes:

Lisa unpacked

As promised, it looks nice and is missing some keys. One of the oddities about the Lisa is that it is unbelievably easy to disassemble. The front panel pops off by pressing a couple of tabs, and so I opened it up to investigate. One lonely 400k 3.5″ drive, but with a bonus disk inside (labeled “Mac 512 boot disk 400k”).

Lisa front open drive

Taking the guts out in the back is also very easy. The back panel folds down and pops off after just turning a couple of thumbscrews, and then the power supply and board “cage” slide out. I took it all out.

Lisa back open

I took out the power supply, and then plugged it in all by itself, just to reassure myself that it wouldn’t explode or catch fire or anything when plugged into the wall. It didn’t. It didn’t do anything.

Lisa power supply

The board cage just slides out. It contains four printed circuit boards arranged vertically, one being the main brain, one being devoted to I/O function, and two being RAM. They have nice little release levers to help get them in and out. I took them all out and then put them all back, thinking that maybe this would help ensure the contacts were being made properly. And because I could.

Lisa board cage out

Here is the only Lisa logo I’m aware of anywhere near this machine.

Lisa board lisa logo

Then I put it all back together, and then thought, well, I might as try it. I plugged it in.

Lisa back reassembled

A little series of chimes and then this:

Lisa powered on

It’s showing me that there’s an error on the I/O board. But it’s also showing me that this machine powers on, and the screen and speakers work. This was sold as a unit that would not power on, but now that it is on, I’ve leapt way ahead in the race to get this to work. When I let the seller know it had arrived and that it powered on, he was very surprised. It didn’t power on for him before he sent it.

Lisa power light

It may well not be trivial to get this the rest of the way. But the troubleshooting process can now begin.

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