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Looking Back At OS X's Origins 312

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-fail-at-history dept.
DJRumpy writes "Macworld Weekly has an interesting look at the history of OS X from its early origins in 1985 under NeXT and the Mach Kernel to Rhapsody, to its current iteration as OS X. An interesting, quick read if anyone is curious about the timeline from Apple's shaky '90s to their current position in the market. There's also an interesting link at the bottom talking about the difference between the original beta and the release product that we see today."
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Looking Back At OS X's Origins

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  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday September 20, 2010 @12:47PM (#33637790) Homepage Journal
    Is Steves war on color in the Operating System. Every single release of OS X has removed significant amounts of color from the operating system and applications. The latest iTunes is just another example of that, I absolutely hate it because I cannot quickly glance at the icons and figure out which one is which. Maybe it's just a rationalization 20 years later for why Apple didn't adopt color graphics earlier.
  • by joeflies (529536) on Monday September 20, 2010 @12:56PM (#33637934)
    could of used a screenshot or two of the historical operating systems. we all know what OS X looks like, but fewer of us have seen a living breathing Next cube
  • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Monday September 20, 2010 @01:04PM (#33638052)

    Steve Jobs was fanatical about WYSIWYG on the Mac. Since there were few color printers available in the 80's, it was common knowledge that Jobs felt that color display violated his WYSIWYG philosophy.

    The good old days when Desktop Publishing was the new technology...

  • by linebackn (131821) on Monday September 20, 2010 @01:09PM (#33638142)

    The last time I checked, there still was no way to kick around the really old original 68k versions of NeXTSTEP other than buying a NeXT machine and its optical media off of eBay. I wish somebody would write NeXT emulator that emulated the original 68k machines. The x86 version is interesting and all, but the 68k version is where it all started.

    I guess people only bother emulating platforms that have lots of games.

  • Re:90's OS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Monday September 20, 2010 @01:12PM (#33638194)

    was that the motorola chips were becoming dated, which Apple fixed in the Mid 90's with the power PC.

    ... the PowerPC chips were designed by Motorola, IBM fabbed them and eventually bought out the design when Motorola dumped it ... which also triggered Apple to jump to x86.

    NT before 2000 was hardly a 'useful' OS. It was Windows, but with an extremely limited set of available software since most things that worked in 95 or 3.x that weren't extremely simple wouldn't work right in NT, if at all. It was buggy, crashed often, even without any third party software or drivers. Not that OS 8/9 were better, and even Win2k was an absolutely shitty consumer OS, far more useful as a server than previous versions of NT. Also, XP came out in 2001, not 2000.

    I don't know where OSes are going, but iOS is a fad, this massive 'everything must be on the web' drive will go away, its not the first time its come and gone, even if you don't remember it.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday September 20, 2010 @01:17PM (#33638284) Homepage

    Actually, Apple used NeXT because they had to buy the worthless company for $400 million, bailing out Jobs' personal net worth, to get Jobs back.

    Apple's in-house OS, MacOS 8, made it to first developer release before Jobs killed it. This is not what Apple eventually released as "MacOS 8"; that was a warmed-over System 7. The real MacOS 8 was a completely new kernel, with protected memory and a CPU dispatcher, both of which the original MacOS lacked. (Deep down, the original MacOS was like DOS - no memory management, no CPU dispatching, no I/O concurrency, and way too many low-level hacks into the OS at the app level. It had to fit in 64K, remember.) The claim was that using the Next OS would allow getting to market within a year. In fact, it took over three years before the desktop MacOS X shipped.

    A real bottleneck was developing a "penalty box" in which old apps could run. The original "MacOS 8" didn't have that. Apple used to assume that they had enough control over their application developers to make them convert their apps to a new OS. But by 1997, the big application developers, especially Microsoft, weren't willing to jump through hoops for Apple. The PowerPC transition had driven away many developers; most of the engineering apps were never ported, because the PowerPC had a shorter FPU length than the M68000 or Intel x86 lines, there were major data compatibility problems. Jobs' real job at the time was to cut a deal with Microsoft to keep Office on the Mac.

  • by camperslo (704715) on Monday September 20, 2010 @01:38PM (#33638642)

    Other links might be of interest to the /. crowd too, like info on the hack that allowed Darwin or OS X (up to 10.4.x IIRC) to run on some older (PPC) hardware that didn't support it. It was an open-source utility called XPostFacto [macsales.com] With an Ultra-160 SCSI or ATA interface card for acceptable disk performance, an old 9600 worked surprisingly well. Having 12 RAM slots, a 9600 could hold up to 1.5 gig of RAM, which is pretty decent for something made in the 90s.

  • Re:90's OS (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2010 @01:44PM (#33638716)

    I'm firmly in Apple's lap today, and have been using Macs at work and elsewhere for many years, but I couldn't stand the original Mac OS.

    On a technological level, I also think it was far behind the competition in terms of memory protection, cooperative multitasking, etc.

    And from a user level, that meant bunk. With the exception of some of the brain-dead System 7.5 patches, the classic Mac OS was indistinguishable from OS/2 or WinNT as far as multitasking and stability went.

    A Windows admin, having read something in a tech magazine, once bragged to my father while demonstrating the fancy new multitasking and multithreading capabilities in Windows. Old Dad, not being technical in the least, promptly demonstrated the exact same thing on his Mac. The Windows admin went away with his proverbial tail between his legs.

    Neither Dad nor the Windows admin could tell the difference.

  • by sznupi (719324) on Monday September 20, 2010 @01:47PM (#33638782) Homepage

    I actually would like to see "make everything greyscale" button and keyboard shortcut in taskbar/etc.; too often colors screams at the eyes for no good reason.

    Maybe that's just because of how I usually used C64 - on a small B&W Soviet TV. It actually made things better IMHO; 16 levels of grey looks quite a bit more refined than 16 colors. Hundreds levels of grey does tend to look that way too, when compared with poor choice of colors (there's one moment when Blue Luna looks fine - when it displays OS shutdown menu, which makes rest of the screen greyscale)

  • Re:90's OS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mlts (1038732) * on Monday September 20, 2010 @01:54PM (#33638910)

    I'd disagree. The two best UIs from the early '90s were from NeXTStep and IRIX [1]. NeXTStep was very usable, although a bit funky to get used to with the command bar and such. However, it was one of the few workstation OSes that was also a very well thought out OS for daily desktop use. Hardware wise, the NeXT was expensive, but the cube was well made, and the printer did a decent 400 DPI, which was great for its time.

    Come the mid 90s, Windows 95 was actually a decent improvement, but the NeXT dock is still one of the UI concepts that is still common even now.

    [1]: Technically, the IRIX 4Dwm window manager. For eye candy, it couldn't be beaten at the time (and this was before CDE came out, and waaay before the KDE/GNOME initatives.)

  • Re:Finder (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2010 @01:54PM (#33638916)

    When you need to do it every time you select a new directory, it gets old real quick. There should be an auto-resize option.

  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Monday September 20, 2010 @01:55PM (#33638928) Homepage Journal

    You may hate Steve for this, but if it avoids a system looking like Microsoft Windows' Default

    What? I hate the OS X look because it reminds me of that. But it is worse, with its scrollbars and progress bars that look like toothpaste, and window buttons so small they make me feel like I'm 82, half blind, and have arthritis trying to click them.

    The user interface achieved perfection with the OS/2, Windows 95 look and feel.

  • Re:our motto... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lev13than (581686) on Monday September 20, 2010 @02:20PM (#33639336) Homepage

    Apple in the early 90s was a terrible company with shitty, slow, bug-ridden products (maybe I'm biased - I owned a Performa 5200) and terrible customer service. It certainly didn't help that their share price was less than a loaf bread.

    To understand how they got from 1996 to where they are today you need to remember that, flow of funds aside, it was actually NeXT that acquired Apple. Apple didn't pick up an operating system - NeXT acquired a hardware distribution channel.

  • Re:Oops. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday September 20, 2010 @02:26PM (#33639430) Journal

    >>>Kinda sad the Apple IIgs had a Mac style GUI in color before the Mac did.

    Kinda sad the lowly 8 bit Commodore had a color GUI before the 32-bit Mac did. The GEOS was black-and-white by default, but could be customized to any 16 color combo.

    1985 - Atari ST / Commodore Amiga released with 32 and 4000 colors
    1986 - C64 got GUI
    1986 - Apple IIgs had 16 color GUI and an improved 6502 with 16 bits (65816)

    I didn't see my first color Mac until my school installed a 68040 Quadra. 1994. Prior to that all I ever saw were the single piece Macs with tiny screens. It made me yearn for my hi-res Amiga, but that was not allowed by the professors.

  • BeOS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bob Hearn (61879) on Monday September 20, 2010 @02:31PM (#33639498) Homepage

    Left out of that history is the branch that almost happened: for quite a while the smart money was that Apple would buy Be, Inc. and use BeOS [wikipedia.org] as the basis for their future OSes. More than a few developers (myself included [wikipedia.org]) based their business models on this happening.

  • OSX important for me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by geoffrobinson (109879) on Monday September 20, 2010 @03:24PM (#33640380) Homepage

    All I really wanted was an Unix I didn't have to meddle with. So I wasn't interested in Linux (at the time). I just wanted to move away from Windows. That left OSX as the default option for me, and I've been very pleased.

  • by david_thornley (598059) on Monday September 20, 2010 @03:25PM (#33640390)

    Apple adopted color graphics way early. They weren't on the early Macs.

    One problem was that color monitors of the time were typically bad. I tried using IBM EGA graphics once, and couldn't stand to use the screen longer than about five minutes. I have friends who used their Apple IIs with monochrome monitors.

    Jobs wanted high quality in the Mac displays, and was perfectly willing to sacrifice color to do so.

  • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Monday September 20, 2010 @03:43PM (#33640674)

    Bad philosophy considering many of us were printing color documents using computers like Atari or Amiga or Commodore. The inability to do color on 80s Macs made them look inferior.

    While I agree that the Mac's inability to do color was a sorely missed feature. I don't think I would go so far as call the Mac inferior. I would say that the Mac was targeted toward the "serious" desktop publishing crowd. Especially since there was better publishing software on the Mac. While the Atari ST and the Amiga were targeted toward games.

    I speak as an owner of an Atari ST which I considered an upgrade from my Atari 800. I also worked at a computer store that sold both the Atari ST and the Commodore Amiga.

    I think your assertion about printing color documents during the 80's a slight exaggeration, but only because the technology was primitive. Both the Atari ST and Amiga were most definitely capable, but I wouldn't count color dot-matrix printers or thermal transfer printers of the time something to take too seriously. Of course you could always go to a typesetter, but the prices weren't as economical as today.

    Also I think Apple took IBM more seriously than the assorted home computers and as long as the average office had B/W printing, Jobs felt justified in his thinking.

  • Mac Plus to iMac (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Monday September 20, 2010 @04:12PM (#33641112)

    The first Mac I ever played with was a Mac Plus, circa 1986. When I found myself in the market for a computer of my own shortly afterwards I looked at a Mac, but didn't end up buying one. Silly me. My girlfriend at the time needed to buy a computer for her company, and when she saw how blown away I was by an Amiga, she figured if I was impressed by it it had to be good, and that's what she bought. I played with a NeXT cube and was impressed by it, but couldn't begin to even think about buying one. I sent my resume to NeXT and got a nice letter back, but no interview.

    Fast-forward to 1995 and I'm doing Mac development, System 7, in the transition from 68k to Power PC. My development box was a Quadra 650 with a PowerPC daughter board, so I could boot and run it either way. Our first PowerPC compiler didn't support fat binaries, but I had no difficulty figuring out how to use ResEdit to paste in CODE resources from 68k executables to make my own fat binaries. I had fun tracking down some memory management issues, the usual crash when switching back to your app in MultiFinder. Am I showing my age or what?

    A couple of years ago I saw a Mac Mini in a store, thought it was cute (always a good reason to buy a computer!), played with it a bit, was impressed, and bought one. After a couple of years I bought an iMac, which is my current home computer. At work I have all the Linux and Solaris boxes I want, plus an XP box to read email on, but the computer I spend my own money on at home is a Mac.

    ...laura, long time Mac enthusiast and fangirl

  • Re:90's OS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy@gmailFREEBSD.com minus bsd> on Monday September 20, 2010 @04:43PM (#33641516)

    With the exception of some of the brain-dead System 7.5 patches, the classic Mac OS was indistinguishable from OS/2 or WinNT as far as multitasking and stability went.

    No it wasn't, not even close. You could bring a Mac to a dead halt simply by holding open a menu, and you'd be lucky to get a few days out of it without a bomb screen.

    NT - and even OS/2 - would happily do things like burn CDs (at a blistering 4x) and play games simultaneously, with other stuff like a browser and email client ticking away in the background. The mere *idea* of doing that on MacOS is laughable.

    Not to mention taking full advantage of higher-end machines with large amounts of RAM and multiple CPUs (though OS/2 wasn't particularly good at that either).

    Neither Dad nor the Windows admin could tell the difference.

    He couldn't have been trying very hard then. It was trivial to demonstrate how much MacOS's co-operative multitasking sucked, all you needed to do was start something reasonably large compressing with StuffIT and do something else while that was happening (or the aforementioned click-and-hold to keep a menu open).

  • Re:Finder (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Graff (532189) on Monday September 20, 2010 @04:57PM (#33641672)

    No, the worst part of Finder is not being able to navigate it with just the keyboard. Why in the world is the "return" key mapped to "rename file/folder"?

    Because it's not Windows. Ever since the original Macintosh (before Windows came along) the return key renamed a file. It was Windows that changed the meaning of the return key. To open a file under Mac OS you use command-o. That's "o" as in "open".

    Why would anyone assume that return means open? If anything return would mean close, after all it ends a line when you are typing. You learned that return equals open because that's how Windows defined the action, not because it's an intrinsic meaning. Under the Mac OS Finder return means "toggle editing the name", another defined action which at least makes a little sense since return ends the editing just like return on a typewriter ends the current line.

    It makes more sense to have to use a key combo rather than a single key to perform an action which will likely bring you from the Finder to another program. That way it's harder to accidentally hit a key and have 50 windows open up because you had the contents of an entire folder selected. If you hit return with a bunch of selected items in the Mac Finder then nothing happens. It's a ton better than having to deal with the mess of open windows you'll get in Windows.

    You're used to hitting return to open something because you are used to Windows, take some time with Mac OS and you'll find that opening a file with command-o is just as natural as using return. It's all what you are used to.

    Also, you can completely operate the Finder using only the keyboard. In fact, you can operate nearly every aspect of a Mac using only the keyboard. Much of it can be done using keyboard shortcuts built-in to the Finder, however if you want to use some menus, controls, and such using only the keyboard you may have to use the "Universal Access" System Preference Panel to enable some additional keyboard and mouse navigation. If you want to see the keyboard navigation shortcuts then just go to the "Keyboard" System Preference Panel, there's tons of useful shortcuts in there.

  • Re:Finder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Graff (532189) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @09:06AM (#33648380)

    The logical jump from "end current line" to "edit selected item's name" is far too large to call it "[making] a little sense", larger still than the aforementioned "execute" -> "open" one which also has the benefit of being an analogy to another kind of computer rather than a whole different (and very much dead and forgotten) class of machines.

    At the time of the Macintosh introduction the typewriter was hardly dead and forgotten, in fact it was still the primary document creation tool for the majority of people and one on which they had been trained their entire lives. Keyboard entry on computers was still a newfangled thing that few people had experience with. For these people the return key meant "end/begin a line to type on", not "execute a sequence of commands". Remember that the intention of the Macintosh and its GUI was to introduce these people to computing through metaphors with common, familiar objects such as files, folders, desktops, and even typewriters! Most of the actions of the GUI were designed with this in mind and, for better or worse, the edit toggling was one of these design choices.

    The logical jump is that return ends the editing. Once you make that jump there's a second logical jump that since return ends the editing maybe it should toggle the editing and thus put both starting the edit and ending the edit on one key rather than two. In Windows I believe it's the F2 key to edit the name and the enter key to end the editing, in Mac OS the return key does both. That's one less shortcut to have to remember, plus it frees up one of the limited number of F-keys for some other shortcut.

    In a command-line environment it makes sense that you should be able to execute a statement with a single key press. You took the time to set up the statement and it's part of a larger sequence so (hopefully) you've put some thought into hitting return. Plus, for the most part, you'll remain in the same window after the execution and not suffer a contextual switch.

    In a graphical environment you generally don't want a single keypress to execute (open) a file since it's probably going to switch your context and you may have many items selected, causing a large number of context switches and clutter. Under a GUI the execute action should be a more complicated action, like a keyboard chord, so that it is most likely a purposeful action, not an accidental one.

    There's also the difference in user expertise, someone using the command-line is most likely a more advanced user than the average GUI user. Immediate execution with a single keypress makes more sense on the command-line than in the GUI because it's a more advanced way of using the computer and an expert should know exactly what effect that keypress will have before they perform it. A GUI user should have more safety nets than a command-line user and keyboard chords protect the GUI user from accidentally executing something.

    In the end it's not a major distinction, both schools of thought have their reasons and merits. Your choice of OS dictates which one you're going to have to get used to.

Life would be so much easier if we could just look at the source code. -- Dave Olson

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