One of my favorite quotes has always been: “Failure is an event, not a life.”

But I got the quote wrong:  The real quote is “Failure is an event, never a person.” ~William D. Brown, Welcome Stress!

Thomas Edison proved it.  So did Steve Jobs.

Both were leading examples of American Exceptionalism.

Not every product Apple brought to market was a rousing success.

Most of us know the Apple II along with its variants, the II+, IIe, IIc and IIgs.

And then came the Apple III.

Yes, the Apple III was introduced as the first business computer from Jobs and company to compete with the IBM PC in the business marketplace.

Unfortunately, it was problem laden in both hardware and software.   It was their first dismal failure.

But that failure led to major improvements in the still (at the time) viable Apple II series.

Enter the Lisa.

The company had been developing a new idea for almost a year.

But the basic concept came from a Steve Jobs visit to the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) to take a gander at their newest product, the Xerox Star.

There’s a story that I’ll tell someday that compares the Star to the original Xerox copier.

The visit sent waves through the Lisa development team spurring the development of the resulting product, a commercial business oriented computer using a graphical operating system with keyboard and a newfangled device called a mouse.

The true innovation of the Lisa was the operating system, advanced enough to compete in features with today’s Windows 7 and Mac OS/x.

With a price that started at $10,000 it put the new but unproven machine outside the realm of affordability.  

I actually owned a pair of Lisa 2’s which I converted to Macintosh XLs.

While the Macintosh project was in development while the Lisa was also being developed, there’s no doubt that the Lisa charted the path for its smaller, less expensive cousin.

One occupied my desk at Channel 10 while the other sat at home running a Mac based bulletin board.

The one on my desk became the darling of Channel 10 since I was using it for Computer Aided Design (before the advent of today’s CAD software) to design and manage the renovation of the broadcast facility.

– at a quarter of the cost of the CAD workstations purchased by every other TV station in the Post-Newsweek group.

Then came the Newton. (I had one of those, too.)

While Jobs didn’t create the Newton, he killed the project.

But the failures of Apple under Steve Jobs’ leadership themselves changed the landscape.

The Lisa along with its advanced operating system spawned the Macintosh and Windows and ultimately protected memory and cooperative multitasking.

The Newton spawned the Palm Pilot and its various workalikes.

And ultimately, the smartphone.

There was even a prototype Newton tablet computer that never made it to market.

But then, in a roundabout way it ultimately spawned the iPad.

The test for Apple without Steve Jobs won’t only be the successful products, but what the failures ultimately become and whether the company can continue making lemonade out of lemons.