GEM and the Apple Lisa

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cheesey
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GEM and the Apple Lisa

Post by cheesey »

I thought people here might be interested in my last big(ish) project, even though it's not Acorn related.

The Apple Lisa differed from the Mac partly in that it was designed to be able to run multiple OSes. As far as I know four were released for it, being Lisa OS, MacWorks (which allows running the Macintosh System Software), and UniPlus and Xenix, both being UNIX variants.

There was at least one more OS ported to it, though, which never got an official release. When Digital Research were porting GEM/GEMDOS to the 68000, they used the Lisa as an example platform, and distributed the source code for the Lisa-specific bits of GEMDOS in their "porting kit". When GEM was open-sourced back in 2001ish, this porting kit was one of the things that was released. (Parenthetically, every so often one hears a garbled story that GEM is the descendant of the Lisa; this is where that story comes from.)

People have previously got the binaries in this kit running (it's basically a self-hosting development environment on a Lisa), but nobody as far as I know had been able to build them from source, and the hard disc driver didn't seem to work. But source code and a mostly functional build system for other versions of GEMDOS, which actually got released, were also open sourced, some much-better-at-this people in the Lisa community had built things like code to talk to the internal hard disk in the Lisa 2/10, and it turns out you can run the old Digital Research compiler suite (which is horrible) under EmuTOS under a modern Atari emulator.

I combined all of this lot (which sounds a lot easier than it was,given that I knew nothing about either the Lisa's hardware or the innards of GEMDOS at the start of the project) and now, probably for the first time since the '80s, GEMDOS for Lisa can be built from source again and can be installed on a hard disc. GEM runs on top of it just fine, and even though it's an early version, some early Atari software works adequately, if it's well behaved.

Here are some photos:
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61607306097__7766F697-9935-408B-AE43-5291AA4F2375.jpg
61541744882__10AB3BA3-8694-45E8-BCBE-C8D50509FC35.jpg
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jms2
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Re: GEM and the Apple Lisa

Post by jms2 »

Very impressive, its the first time I have seen the Lisa mentioned on here - they are very rare aren't they?

What is going on with the case? Is that strange marbled finish an intentional mod, or do they age like that?
cheesey
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Re: GEM and the Apple Lisa

Post by cheesey »

Moderately rare. The really rare ones are the first generation, the Lisa 1s, which had Apple's proprietary 5.25" floppy drive that didn't work very well. Nearly all of them got upgraded to Lisa 2s, with the 3.5" floppy drive. But it took me quite a while to find this one, so even the second revision are not exactly common.

The marbling—it is an intentional mod, was like that when I got it. It's really nicely done, actually; doesn't come across so well on camera but in person is startlingly detailed. The story I was told when I got it was that it was owned by Apple UK PR, and they were running a very classy press event of some kind, with two Lisas in use as registration/admin machines. They got one—this one—painted in marble effect by a professional artist, and the other painted in woodgrain. Nobody knows what happened to the woodgrain one, as far as I know. But that's very much a third-hand story at this point, so take with as much of a pinch of salt as you consider prudent :-).
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BigEd
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Re: GEM and the Apple Lisa

Post by BigEd »

Very interesting info! Thanks for posting.
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Bobbi
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Re: GEM and the Apple Lisa

Post by Bobbi »

Very cool, very unique 'custom' Lisa with a wonderful backstory :)
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jms2
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Re: GEM and the Apple Lisa

Post by jms2 »

That's certainly a cool story, and its nice to hear about some other quirky and unusual machines! Thanks for posting it.
sP1d3r
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Re: GEM and the Apple Lisa

Post by sP1d3r »

The 'Profile' icon refers to the companion hard disk unit I believe, is this how you were able to compile the source code?
I'd have thought that compiling using the (limited) amount of memory in an unexpanded system and floppy disks would be possible as an alternative, (twin disks?).
cheesey
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Re: GEM and the Apple Lisa

Post by cheesey »

The ProFile does refer to the hard disc, yes. My computer is a Lisa 2/10, though, which actually has an internal "Widget" hard disc (although mine has a solid state replacement, because I know where my skills end, and they definitely end before fixing a hard disc's moving parts). GEM doesn't care about the ProFile/Widget distinction, though, and just displays "ProFile" regardless of what drive is actually there.

I don't actually compile the code on Lisa; I use an Atari emulator running EmuTOS on my modern Mac to compile it, just because that way I get the quality of life improvements of modern emulators (e.g. a host filing system so I can use an editor I actually like). EmuTOS is close enough to old GEMDOS that it will still run the old and cranky Digital Research compiler suite, and produce output that works. (In fact, EmuTOS is partly based on the source code dump that I also used in this project.)

But this is self-hosting, it will compile on a Lisa, if it has a hard disc. The code dump that enabled this to happen is actually the kit that Digital Research sent out to OEMs to help them port 68k GEMDOS to new hardware, but the whole development toolchain was hosted on a Lisa. I just don't do it because I'm lazy.

You are likely right that it could, in theory, be built on multiple floppies, but I haven't tried...
sP1d3r
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Re: GEM and the Apple Lisa

Post by sP1d3r »

:o do you mean that you have a non-working Profile disk drive, still?
That's interesting that you use an Atari OS to compile for a Lisa, I don't have a Lisa or know anything about them other than videos I've watched, the last one that I saw on eBay went for £40000, I seem to recall.
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scruss
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Re: GEM and the Apple Lisa

Post by scruss »

cheesey wrote:
Fri Nov 06, 2020 3:05 pm
… some early Atari software works adequately, if it's well behaved.
Wow, those are neat! I wonder how much of DR's GEMDOS 68K demoed on the Lisa helped Atari along?
cheesey
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Re: GEM and the Apple Lisa

Post by cheesey »

sP1d3r wrote:
Fri Nov 27, 2020 3:24 pm
:o do you mean that you have a non-working Profile disk drive, still?
I have two dead Widgets and one ProFile (which is external) with a dead PSU. I'm trying to work out what to do with the Widgets, as fixing them is well beyond my level. I'll probably donate them to someone who can fix them. I think the disc in the ProFile is probably OK. We'll see. PSUs are easier to fix than discs :-).
sP1d3r wrote:
Fri Nov 27, 2020 3:24 pm
That's interesting that you use an Atari OS to compile for a Lisa,
Well, GEMDOS and GEM had really quite a comprehensive hardware abstraction layer going on. They were designed to be portable. So, since Atari TOS is "really" GEMDOS+GEM, well-behaved GEMDOS binaries even aimed at non-Atari 68k platforms will run on it. The compiler suite Digital Research distributed is horrible but reasonably well-behaved, and in fact it's an earlier version of the first standard Atari C compiler (I believe, I don't know much about the Atari side of things). So it actually works really well under EmuTOS, and that means I can give the compilation a lot more processor cycles than I could on the Lisa itself.

This only applies to compiling stuff for GEMDOS on the Lisa, of course.
sP1d3r wrote:
Fri Nov 27, 2020 3:24 pm
I don't have a Lisa or know anything about them other than videos I've watched, the last one that I saw on eBay went for £40000, I seem to recall.
That sounds like it might have been a Lisa 1? They're seriously rare, largely because they were a bit of a pig and most people upgraded to the Lisa 2 when that became available; the Lisa 1 was so unreliable and the disc drives broke so often that the Lisa 2 was basically a necessity to get any actual work done. Mine is a Lisa 2/10, which are much more common than Lisa 1s, and I certainly didn't pay anywhere near £40,000 for this, though it was fairly expensive: the machine itself "mostly working" was a little over £1000, IIRC, and I've probably spent £300ish in parts/maintenance for it so far (though most of that was the solid-state hard drive replacement). It's by far the most I've spent on any computer, let alone an old one, in years, but I don't regret it at all. I really enjoy using it. :-)
cheesey
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Re: GEM and the Apple Lisa

Post by cheesey »

scruss wrote:
Fri Nov 27, 2020 3:56 pm
Wow, those are neat! I wonder how much of DR's GEMDOS 68K demoed on the Lisa helped Atari along?
The early Atari TOSes are very, very close to the version of GEMDOS that came as part of the porting kit, although they made significant enhancements to GEM. So, if it wasn't this porting kit Atari started with, it was something very very like it.
sP1d3r
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Re: GEM and the Apple Lisa

Post by sP1d3r »

I can see the difference between a Lisa 1 and a Lisa 2, I've attached a picture of a Lisa 1 with a Profile unit.
I think that early Mac computers have a port for second floppy so if that's the case one could be connected, there may be a second drive bay under the fascia also, possibly.

Repairing a Profile psu could be quite challenge and early MFM drives need to be sited level but it's typical to place Profiles on the angled casing, over time could cause problems for the drive.

I was recently thinking about getting an Amiga 500 accelerator and memory expansion/ide which also works on Atari 68000 computers with no modification, must be compatible 68K based protocols.
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Lisa 1 and Profile disk unit
Lisa 1 and Profile disk unit
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