The Mercury News Weekend
Apple's Lisa computer gets 40th birthday party at Computer History Museum
Lisa Brennan-Jobs sends a surprise video message to pay tribute to her digital namesake
The Computer History Museum in Mountain View threw a 40th birthday party Tuesday night for Apple's Lisa computer, a gathering that drew a few dozen former Apple employees who worked on the project — as well as a surprise video cameo by Lisa Brennan-Jobs.
“We all know the Lisa computer is named the Locally Integrated Software Architecture computer, so it's such a crazy coincidence that we share a name,” said Brennan-Jobs, who lives in New York. The “backronym” was created to cloud the connection to Steve Jobs' daughter, though Jobs conceded to biographer Walter Isaacson that it was named after her.
Now don't beat yourself up if you don't remember the Lisa. With a $10,000 price tag, the computer was overpriced for home use and was undercut by the much cheaper IBM PC. Within a year, it was eclipsed by its flashier younger brother, the Macintosh, and officially was discontinued in 1986. Though
everyone remembers the famous “1984” Mac commercial, the Lisa had a spot featuring a then-unknown Kevin Costner that was shown at the birthday party.
The irony of the Lisa's failure — the Computer History Museum calls it “Apple's most important flop” — is that it had many features, including a Windows-based graphical user interface, a mouse and WYSIWYG typefaces that later showed up in the Mac and are still present in today's computers. “A lot of folks don't realize like 30% of the code in the Macintosh came from Lisa,” said Bruce Daniels, the software manager for
the Lisa who also worked on the Mac.
The Computer History Museum has its own connections to the Lisa as well. Dan'l Lewin, CHM's president and CEO, was the marketing manager for the Lisa division back in the early 1980s. And on the Lisa's birthday, Jan. 19, the museum made the computer's source code available on its website.
ART AND ABOUT >> The monthly South First Fridays art walk returns this week, kicking off its 17th year in downtown San Jose with galleries along South First
Street open late. On top of the offerings at venues like Anno Domini, MACLA and the ICA, visitors also can get a sneak preview of Opera San Jose's upcoming production of Verdi's “Falstaff” at the California Theatre. The lobby of the theater will be open starting at 5:30 p.m., with a selfie station, hot cocoa and hot cider and a giant chessboard. Artists from the production will perform at 5:45, 6:45 and 7:45 p.m.
The show, which features Black American opera singers Darren Drone and Chanáe Curtis in lead roles, opens Feb. 11 at the California Theatre. Get tickets and schedule details at operasj.org.
And while you're out, head over to the San Jose Museum of Art where Mosaic America is presenting “Black/Pacific: The Geography of Freedom,” a performance by Rightstarter. That's a creative initiative featuring writer musician PC Muñoz, rapper/electronic musician DEM ONE and vocal percussionist Bryan Dyer. The museum will be open free to public from 6 to 9 p.m., with the Rightstarter performance at 7 p.m., followed by an 8:30 solo performance by Muñoz.
INAUGURAL NOTES >> San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan's inaugural address Wednesday night received a lot of applause from the crowd at the Center for the Performing Arts. It also drew high praise from former Mayor Tom McEnery, who called it “one of the most powerful speeches given in San Jose — ever.”
The event hit all the cultural touchstones in San Jose, from folklÓrico and lion dancing to highschool jazz musicians and police bagpipers. But two highlights were the students of St. Timothy's Christian Preschool leading everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance, and Mahan's own children — Nina and Luke — hanging out on stage at his feet and waving to the crowd as he took the oath of office.
After nearly 90 minutes of taking photos and greeting people after the speech, Mahan stopped in at an inauguration party at the Silicon Valley Capital Club. The festivities, attended by about 150 of San Jose's movers and shakers, was a fundraiser for the nonprofit Downtown Streets Team.