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GUI OS X Operating Systems Unix Apple

Looking Back At OS X's Origins 312

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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  • ars technica on os x (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2010 @12:34PM (#33637566)

    Check out Ars' run down too: []

  • NeXT. Thanks. (Score:3, Informative)

    by kwerle ( 39371 ) <> on Monday September 20, 2010 @12:44PM (#33637736) Homepage Journal

    Thank you, editors. []

  • by drerwk ( 695572 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @12:53PM (#33637886) Homepage

    Maybe it's just a rationalization 20 years later for why Apple didn't adopt color graphics earlier.

    Every Apple I've had, starting with the II+ has had color graphics.

  • by WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @12:55PM (#33637918) Homepage

    It was OPENSTEP 4.2 --- which Apple actually sold for a time, along w/ providing free Y2K patches and free upgrades to NeXTstep 3.3 or OPENSTEP 4.2 to license holders of earlier versions.

    Amusing rumour is that ``Yellow Box'' was so named because Bill Gates, when asked if he'd develop for NeXT stated, ``Develop for it? I'll piss on it.'' []

    As nice as Mac OS X is though, I'd still rather have NeXTstep:

      - Display PostScript
      - built-in PANTONE colour library
      - vertical, movable menu bar w/ tear off menus and pop-up menus
      - top-level Print, Hide, Quit and Services menu
      - TeX provided by default and supported by the nifty
      - inspector-provided sort options for Miller-column filebrowser view
      - re-sizeable Shelf which can store multiple file selections as a single icon
      - nifty apps which made use of Services and Display PostScript like, Altsys Virtuoso, &c.


  • Re:Finder (Score:3, Informative)

    by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @12:55PM (#33637924)

    Double click the resize knob at the bottom of the column, it will size itself to fit all file names in.

  • Oops. (Score:5, Informative)

    by drerwk ( 695572 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @12:56PM (#33637940) Homepage
    Sorry for self reply - my first Mac was a IIci; yes color was missing from the Mac between 1984 and '87.

    Wish I could delete my previsou. post
  • Mac OS X Internals (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2010 @12:58PM (#33637968)

    A good book on the guts and history of OS X. Amit Singh's Mac OS X Internals: A Systems Approach. (

  • Re:NeXT. Thanks. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2010 @01:06PM (#33638088)

    copy and pasted from Wikipedia.

    "Next, Inc. (later Next Computer, Inc. and Next Software, Inc. and stylized as NeXT) was an American computer company headquartered in Redwood City, California, that developed and manufactured a series of computer workstations intended for the higher education and business markets.

  • Re:90's OS (Score:4, Informative)

    by WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @01:07PM (#33638108) Homepage

    Then what would you say about an OS which:

      - was \textsc{unix}
      - supported the initial versions of http
      - was used to develop a graphical web browser and editor named[1]

    NeXTstep, available in 1989


    1 - _Weaving the Web_ by Sir Tim Berners-Lee --- []

  • Re:90's OS (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2010 @01:24PM (#33638412)

    MacOS wasn't an OS at all. (Note that MacOS is not Mac OS X. There's a space before "OS" and there's an "X". That makes it different.)

    There was no kernel. Upon boot, the Mac ROM (or its software equivalent as found by the bootloader) would hand off control of the system to "Finder". Finder handled all system tasks, but was a user-accessible application. Extensions (a.k.a. "those puzzle piece things") were in-memory patches to the Finder application.

    There was only a system API. Finder controlled the system through system libraries only. All processes done by "the OS" were actually performed by Finder. Finder had a GUI and the user could screw with it. This is all bad. Other applications used the same system API to handle their tasks as well. This lead to...

    Applications were also the OS. Yes, once an application was active, it was in control of all memory management, so-called "system" functions, and even the multitasking scheduler. An application shared processor time when it wanted to share processor time. If you wrote your app without using WaitNextEvent(), all other apps on the machine would stop, though it made it more difficult to retrieve user input if you did that.

    Basically, MacOS was the equivalent of DOS, but with a GUI. It was long past its prime and was an amazing set of hacks, but it was as unstable as all hell and needed replacement badly. In fact, replacement would've been on a proper schedule had the "Pink" project been finished... in 1989.

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @01:25PM (#33638424)
    Actually, System 8 (Copland) had a ton of problems without including Jobs. The problem was, it was a disjointed effort where nothing was getting done. If anything blame Ellen Hancock for purchasing NeXT because when she was hired she basically said "screw this, it isn't ever going to get shipped" so they bailed out Jobs.

    Copland wasn't going anywhere so Apple decided to cut their losses.
  • by bonch ( 38532 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @02:36PM (#33639570)

    That pretty much sums it up right there. I know its probably meaningless for most people in the world, but when those who claim to be "in the know" start taking sides between Apple and MS on "innovation," they really need to just check that right there.

    You're buying into Bill Gates' bullshit. Apple didn't "steal" anything; they had an agreement with Xerox. Many of the guys who worked on the Mac were hired from Xerox.

    Several conventions originated at Apple, such as the "File Edit View Window Help" menu or the phrase "cut and paste." Lisa was already in development when Apple visited Xerox to see what they were working on, so while they were influenced by what they saw, it wasn't an inspiration to go in some whole new direction.

    Much of this is detailed at Herztfeld's site [], including sketches and screenshots of their GUI work.

  • by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @02:45PM (#33639738)

    Apple did not steal the GUI from Xerox []. They got to tour PARC with permission from Xerox's upper management and compensated Xerox with pre-IPO shares. What the Mac did with the ideas from PARC [] was very different from what Xerox did with the ideas out of PARC. This is also very different from Microsoft sending an employee to copy [] implementation details from Apple. Do go waving some out of context quote around without knowing the actual history of the situation.

  • by uglyduckling ( 103926 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @02:54PM (#33639902) Homepage
    See, the idea that Apple stole the GUI lock/stock from Xerox and then accused Microsoft of the same thing is a massive myth. Have you even looked at the Alto/Star GUI []? It used modal buttons along the bottom of windows; windows were tiled and could not overlap. Yes, the general concept of the GUI was developed at PARC, although that wasn't entirely original (see Douglas Englebart []'s 1960s demo. Apple made a huge contribution to modern GUIs. Check out the photographic record [] of the Lisa/Mac GUI development. Apple invented the pull-down menu whilst developing Lisa/Mac, they also invented the clipboard, and the idea of dragging and dropping files, to name just three things. All of these were totally copied by Microsoft, although they failed at it by replicating the menu bar at the top of every window, which some people like now, but was a total waste of screen space 25 years ago.
  • Re:90's OS (Score:3, Informative)

    by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @04:14PM (#33641154) Journal

    I don't think I would agree with your assertion.

    Absolutely agree that in the very early 90s Mac OS was superior to the DOS/win31 combo. Moving past them, don't forget that even Win95 had preemptive multitasking. Multitasking is--and was--a big deal. Remember hearing the disk grind and not being able to switch applications? Remember copying a file to the network or a disk and not being able to do anything but wait for it to finish?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2010 @04:50PM (#33641598)

    >>>I don't think I would go so far as call the Mac inferior.

    I would. And did. The only reason I switched to a Mac was because the better machines (Atari and Amiga) disappeared off the market. The Commodore Amiga could do all the desktop publishing a Mac could do

    In the sense that it could do it, sure. In the sense that it could do it as well, with as well developed an ecosystem for DTP? Not so much. Despite all the noise from Atari and Amiga advocates (and I used to be one!), the Mac really was flatly superior for DTP.

    The Amiga was especially poorly suited to it, due to horrible support for high resolution high refresh rate monochrome monitors. Yes, monochrome. There was quite a long time during the late 80s / early 90s when high res high refresh color was prohibitively expensive, and therefore the popular choice for serious DTP was a 21" mono CRT running at 1280x960, which made it practical to view 2 pages side by side in a WSIWYG DTP program. (Also, a lot of the demand for the quick turnaround time of DTP came out of newspapers, in an era where 90% of newsprint was B&W, so there wasn't a lot of demand for color in early DTP.)

    The Amiga's built-in video hardware was built around NTSC/PAL format video signals (ie TV resolution) and thus fundamentally couldn't handle high resolution office/DTP productivity video formats. That wouldn't have been too much of a problem if it weren't for the fact that the Amiga's OS was a thin, rudimentary layer that most application developers bypassed to hit the hardware directly, creating a massive problem where lots of software didn't work right (or at all) with 3rd party video cards. By contrast, Apple's hardware/software ecosystem had very few problems with running on any video card, especially once it got past the first 2 or 3 years (when there weren't any options other than the tiny all-in-1 Macs).

    Even Atari's ST series had better support for a 21" two page display, once they released the Mega ST line, and as a result of that and better support work in the OS, Atari had more luck in the DTP market than Amiga. But it's kind of telling when Atari, king of barely supporting their OS at all, did a better job of supporting 3rd party DTP companies than Commodore did.

    PLUS produce movies (Aladdin) and TV shows (B5, seaquest, space A&B, etc) besides.

    Remember that NTSC-based video system? Yeah, that'd be why companies interested in doing video work on personal computers chose Amiga early on. Not only did it have a sophisticated (for 1985) video system, a lot of the signals were (IIRC) available at the expansion slot, meaning that the guys who did the Video Toaster could hook into it and do lots of neat tricks.

    But as is often the case, being first only gets you so far, and Commodore's mismanagement of both software and hardware development torpedoed any chance the early success in that niche would continue.

    Really, so much of it came down to software. Apple didn't do a perfect job with the Mac System (as it was called then) in the early 80s, in part due to the severe memory limits of the original Mac, but they did so much more than Atari or Commodore that it was inevitable they would win. They had a home-grown OS which could grow with the hardware, and provided good and compelling abstractions for 3rd party software developers to use when writing Macintosh applications. This meant that most Mac application software didn't try to bang the hardware, and could easily migrate to newer and more capable Macs and Mac operating systems. Atari and Commodore just sort of threw together operating systems from other parties' IP (Atari more so than Commodore) and never gave their operating systems enough TLC to compete with what Apple was doing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2010 @06:47PM (#33642928)

    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.

    As others have pointed out, Jobs didn't kill Copland (the OS you're referring to). Apple's pre-Jobs executive team of Gil Amelio and Ellen Hancock did. As of about the time when that developer release was "released" (only to device driver developers because it was too dysfunctional for anybody working at a higher level, and actually too dysfunctional even to do device driver development on, but they had missed so many deadlines there was a lot of pressure to release something), Amelio and Hancock were convinced that Copland was going nowhere fast, would require a ground-up rewrite to meet specifications, and that the software development management at Apple was too broken to accomplish that rewrite. On top of which, Apple was in sorry shape financially and had a huge 3rd party developer confidence crisis to manage (it wasn't only insiders who knew that Apple's organization was a mess; a lot of Apple's current obsession with secrecy dates from those days when internal Apple political wars were routinely fought out in the press through deliberate leaks). So, they decided to cancel Copland and seek an outside OS for the next generation MacOS through merger or acquisition, because if they didn't have a credible OS story quick developers were going to bolt. The winner of that search was eventually NeXT.

    And you know, they weren't wrong. If you'd ever tried to install and run that Copland developer release, you'd know why.

    (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.)

    It most certainly did have memory management. There were system calls for allocation and deallocation, and by making applications use handles (double indirect pointers) for allocated memory instead of raw pointers, the OS could even move allocated blocks around behind the application's back in order to defragment free space. Better yet, it could even temporarily unload some types of allocated memory resources not currently in use to make room for other things. A clumsy-yet-ingenious workaround for the lack of a MMU, in other words.

    It was actually the relative sophistication of what they did in the 1980s which came back to bite them. A lot of it was a horrible fit to preemptive multitasking and MMU-based memory management.

    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.

    Oh, what a load of garbage. The engineering apps were ported early, and enthusiastically. The lack of 80-bit FP was no barrier because few applications truly depended on it (*), and the performance leap from 68K was extreme.

    * - Have you noticed that these days x86 is slowly but surely migrating away from 80-bit FP too? It's only supported in x87, and the modern preferred way to do FP on x86 is through SSE (it's not just for vectors). SSE doesn't support 80-bit FP formats, only 64-bit. Also, you seem to be under the delusion that this creates a _data_ compatibility problem. It doesn't. 80-bit IEEE mode for both 68K and x86 was internal-only. When you load and store doubles, they're read and written in the 64-bit format. There is no valid in-memory 80-bit format. The 80-bit extended precision is only maintained so long as values stay inside processor registers. Soon as you write to memory, it gets rounded to 64-bit. So all that really happens is that some algorithms see less precision during calculation chains involving intermediate values which aren't written to memory.

    Jobs' real job at the time was to cut a deal with Microsoft to keep Office on the Mac.

    More trollish garbage...

  • Re:our motto... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Stupendoussteve ( 891822 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @07:19PM (#33643260)

    Ah this again.

    Apple had over a billion in the bank when Microsoft paid them off.

    Paid them off because Microsoft and Intel were caught stealing Quicktime code. Shortly afterwards Apple was able to spend billions they didn't have while not touching their balance, somehow. Then Microsoft publicly paid them the $150 million. Apple was not that close to dead, at that point. It's made for some great stories though.

    The (annotated) story [], if you're actually interested.

  • Re:our motto... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Stupendoussteve ( 891822 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:56PM (#33644188)

    Uh, he didn't. The company was close to bankruptcy when he took the reigns, and much of this happened after the announcement that Microsoft would put in $150 million. They also paid a farther, undisclosed sum which had quite a bit to do with legal battles, both patent infringement and stolen code.

    Despite losing $850 million the year before, over a billion dollars in 1997--of which around 600 million was related to buying NeXT, and suffering a billion dollar drop in revenues between 1997-1998, Apple mysteriously managed to maintain its investments and actually accumulated cash.

    It wasn't until 1998 that Apple began selling off its shares in ARM, and those sales took place over several years. Prior to that, how did Apple manage to spend nearly two billion dollars more than it earned across two years, lose 14% of its income, and still manage to sit on the same $1.2 billion in cash without pawning anything?

  • Re:90's OS (Score:3, Informative)

    by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <> on Monday September 20, 2010 @11:48PM (#33645376)

    That depends on what you mean the competition. It was quite comparable to the Windows 95/98 OSes technically, but was technically far inferior to NT.

    Windows 3.1 would be a much more accurate comparison. Co-operative multitasking, no memory protection, static disk cache, etc. Windows 9x was essentially a generation ahead of MacOS, NT another generation again.

  • Re:Finder (Score:3, Informative)

    by Graff ( 532189 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @08:19AM (#33647870)

    The one thing that can't be done with keyboard and that drives me insane is switching to the non-default option in Yes/No boxes. Neither arrow keys, nor Tab works.

    System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Keyboard Shortcuts, at the bottom you'll see Full Keyboard Access, select All Controls

    You can also hit control-F7 to toggle it without going into System Preferences.

    Now tab to the button you want to activate (click) and hit the space bar to activate the button. You can also shift-tab to move backwards in the tab order, which helps because usually the rightmost button is the default active one.

    Some other shortcuts:
    • command-period or the esc key usually activates the "Cancel" button
    • command-d is the "Don't Save" button in file dialogs
    • many times if you hold down the command key then after a second each button will be labeled with its keyboard combination.

    There is a nice summary of various Mac keyboard shortcuts here:
    Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts []

Only God can make random selections.