The Apple Lisa was released in 1983 to a somewhat lackluster reception, certainly owing in part to it’s $9,995 price tag. And if that doesn’t sound expensive enough, this works out to be just over $26,000 in today’s dollars. It’s a staggering sum, especially considering the Macintosh would be released a year later for about a quarter of that price. The result is that only 10,000 of these computers would be sold before it was retired in 1986.
While generally considered a commercial failure, it did introduce a number of advanced technical features, and is, for better or worse, a part of computing history. One item that maybe wasn’t a deal breaker, but probably didn’t help, was its proprietary keyboard interface that appears suspiciously like a 1/4 inch audio jack.
As it turns out, the connector is indeed a 1/4 inch audio jack for all intents and purposes. Of course this means you can’t just plug in a standard keyboard, and actual Lisa keyboards are understandably rare/expensive, so ArcaneByte is selling the usb2lisa keyboard adapter to take care of this problem. This device features a USB-A input to a 1/4 inch audio output, and takes care of all the requisite signal translation without the need for an external power source.
Of course, you can make something yourself, using an actual 1/4 inch audio plug, an Arduino, and the LisaKeys project, outlined in the video below by AlexElectronics. Whichever way you decide to go, it’s neat to see that even such rare retro-hardware is still being supported in some form: