LaserWriter   Apple hasn’t just made computers, phones, tablets and iPad cases. It used to make printers, too, and in many ways it was the LaserWriter, and not the Mac itself that really got Apple’s new computing platform up and running in 1985. The Mac was fine and fancy, cute and cool, but the LaserWriter was actually a useful, professional tool.

It was the first laser printer to run Adobe’s PostScript language that described all 13 of its fonts in outline form – allowing for arbitrary size, rotation and position, as well as mixtures of fonts and bitmaps on the same page.

The marriage of Mac and LaserWriter transformed desktop publishing, as it could be used to accurately proof professional print jobs and even handle small-run publishing itself. With its innovative LocalTalk networking connection the printer could be shared by multiple Macs. The LaserWriter ran a Motorola 68000 chip at 12MHz, and so was more powerful than the 8MHz Mac itself. But power and PostScript came at a price: $6,995 to be precise.

Until 1987 the LaserWriter was a creamy white compared to the less-bright beige of the Mac and other Apple products. But after that date it conformed to the new greyer Platinum colour scheme that was used across all Apple hardware. Over-excited at the launch of the eMate a few months earlier Apple added some translucent green parts to 1997’s LaserWriter 8500. This flagrant breach of the rules was punished by the 8500 being the last LaserWriter ever.

Leopard  Mac OS X 10.5 was named Leopard but actually changed its spots more than the other big cat versions of OS X. It sported 300 new features, including a redesigned Finder, Dock (now in 3D!) and menu bar, as well as Stacks, Spaces, Time Machine, Quick Look, Boot Camp, Front Row and Photo Booth.

Ominously for the Mac, Leopard was the first operating system actually delayed by the company focusing on the iPhone. It was supposed to debut at the end of 2006, but got shunted back to October 2007.

It was also the last OS X version to work on PowerPC Macs. The Leopard DVD came in a smaller box than previous OS X versions, and featured a whizzy lenticular cover, making the X float above a purple galaxy, as on the gloomy Leopard desktop wallpaper.

Lion   As King of the Jungle, the lion is surely the daddy of all the big cats. What on Earth is Apple going to call the ninth version of OS X – or is that a clue that Mac OS 11 is on the way?

Lion features 250 new features, including multitouch gestures, full-screen apps, Mission Control, the Mac App Store, Launchpad, Resume, Auto Save, Versions, AirDrop, and improvements to Mail. It is the first Mac OS version not to ship on a physical disk or disc, being available only as a download from the Mac App Store.

Lisa   Before the Mac there was 1983’s Lisa, Apple’s first stab at a computer graphical user interface. Indeed, it was the first commercially sold personal computer to have a GUI. The Mac is no Lisa 2.0 but the similarities are obvious.

It was the Lisa team, under Steve Jobs, that visited Xerox Parc in 1979 to see the innovative user interface research – and not the Mac team as legend has it.

“The Lisa project reportedly cost $50 million and used more than 200 person-years of effort,” said Byte magazine in 1983.

However, when Jobs was bounced from the Lisa team he determined that the Mac would be the bigger platform and he took his Xerox secrets to the smaller Mac team. The Lisa was as good as dead right then.

Steve Jobs’ daughter Lisa was born in 1978 – the same year Apple began work on the computer. Andy Hertzfeld of the original Apple team reports that both ‘Lisa’ and ‘Mac’ were just internal code names and were planned to be replaced with some marketing-led titles. When the name Lisa stuck they tried to make it into an acronym, with the clumsy result being ‘Local Integrated Software Architecture’. It was such a horribly crass mouthful that it was mocked as ‘Let’s Invent Some Acronym’ by beardy wags.

Apple branded the Lisa as ‘The Personal Computer That Works The Way You Do’, and in some ways the Lisa was more technically advanced than the Macintosh. For example, it featured Protected Memory, a feature the Mac wouldn’t gain until Lisa Jobs was an adult, with the arrival of Mac OS X in 2001.

But the $10,000 Lisa was a loser. It suffered the double indignity of being rebranded the Macintosh XL in 1985 (oh, the shame of it!) and then being mass dumped in a Utah landfill in 1989 as a tax write-off.

That’s harsh for what the then influential Byte magazine considered in 1983 more influential than the IBM PC: “The Lisa system is the most important development in computers in the last five years, easily outpacing IBM’s introduction of the Personal Computer in August 1981.”

It makes you wonder what the hell they did with all the unsold G4 Cubes…

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