How a junked Apple Lisa was souped up into a powerful computer

Saying John McLearan restored this Apple Lisa 2/10 is an understatement.  (Photo: John McLearan)
Saying John McLearan restored this Apple Lisa 2/10 is an understatement. (Photo: John McLearan)

David Pierini for Cult of Mac:

The Apple Lisa computer was a colossal failure. It was also the most important machine in personal computing history.

You can try to argue that last claim with John McLearan. He believes it. And he offers his restored Lisa 2/10 — loaded with modifications to make it a 21st-century workhorse — as proof that the computer’s reputation needs a considerable upgrade.

McLearan bought a $500 junker off eBay and restored it… McLearan added a custom hard drive emulator that works off two preprogrammed Compact Flash cards, the type of storage cards photographers use on DSLR cameras. His Lisa also runs fast. The original Lisa’s CPU ran at 5 MHz; McLearan’s CPU clocks in at 18 Mhz. The original Lisa 2/10 came configured with 1 MB of RAM; his packs 12 (and a SCSI startup disk).

MacDailyNews Take: John’s is the McLaren, er… McLearan of Apple Lisas!

12 Comments

    1. Hello,

      I actually have modified my Lisa to support modern day networking. She can even connect to my local FTP server. I also was able to get a web browser working. I setup a RSS reader so I can read news right from the Lisa. I also have a plethora of productivity software that I use on a daily basis on my Lisa. She’s insanely great!

    1. “No such thing as spare time, no such thing as free time, no such thing as down time. All you got is life time. Go.” – Henry Rollins.

      Having a hobby, even a time honored one such as restoring and upgrading old computers, or cars, or whatever, is a lot more rewarding than wasting your time telling others that they have too much free time on their hands.

      So what is it you spend your free time on CitizenX, or is it Oscar Hasten? We’d like to know what’s rewarding to you.

      I’m actually surprised by your comments since looking at your blog, you seem to be interesting in classic computing, i.e. “A show I helped with in 1984 called CompuKids.”

      As a systems engineer myself, I enjoy repairing and upgrading machines, especially old and strange ones from the Cambrian Explosion, if i you will, of the 1980s, especially since today all you’ve got are PCs and Macs (and Macs today are really just PCs with an aluminum and glass skin), and phones. Back then, there were literally hundreds of different kinds of computers, from the Apple II, Lisa, Mac, Atari 400/800/ST, etc., Amstrad, Commodore Pet, Vic20, C64, C128, Amigas, Sinclair ZX100, Spectrum, etc. to tons of super weird machines that I barely remember. Now, it’s a boring wasteland of intel machines, all alike. Even most chromebooks are just cut down Celeron machines.
      Don’t get me wrong, my main computer is an intel laptop. But these things lack the soul that the older quirky machines that didn’t make it had.

      So yes, even an old beat up Yugo has a lot more character than today’s boring Honda. Granted, that Honda is a lot better in every way, but the Yugo has it’s own style and character.

      Perhaps you’re just not aware of the historical relevance of the Lisa. If anything, you’ll find that the whole entire modern day computer revolution, including Windows and Microsoft Office was a direct copy from the Lisa. Take a look at Windows 1.0 and 2.0 and LOS. Some people who don’t know any better think it was the Xerox Alto or the Star, they’re not wrong, but those lack a lot of things the Lisa added.

      Cheers!

  1. Hello,

    This is my Lisa! I agree, I do have a whole lot of time on my hands. It turned from an occasional hobby to something I focused a good portion of my free time on. It’s very rewarding seeing these stories being published on my Lisa. I have put a lot of work into her.

  2. Hi,

    What OS does it run ? Lisa Office System, MacWorks? Since it also supports Xenix i had a look at NetBSD, but it did not support the Apple Lisa, i wonder if you maybe found some form of *nix that runs on Lisa or maybe build your own ?

    Did you coded the browser & rss clients yourself, are these up to modern websites ?

    1. Hello,

      With the X/ProFile hard disk emulator my Lisa can easily switch operating systems. I switch between the following operating systems:

      Lisa Office System 2.0 – 3.1
      macOS 1.0 – 7.5.5
      Xenix – Microsoft UNIX
      UniPlus – UNIX
      CP/M

      The browser, MacWeb, has stayed mostly unmodified. The only thing I did to it was modify it to filter all web traffic through my proxy which runs on the Raspberry Pi. The Lisa can visit just about any modern website. The proxy filters out all css scripts, javascript, images, etc and translates https requests to http (which MacWeb can understand). The RSS client is a little web app I wrote that works well with MacWeb. I also can access my email. It’s so cool!!

      I couldn’t have done it without the help from VintageMicros. They actually are manufacturing NEW Apple Lisa parts. It’s been great working with them on my Lisa project.

  3. Hi,

    Thats really awesome, man.

    I wish lived in your neighbourhood so i could come & have a look at it running a few of those OS’s & browsing tasks

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