Mac OS X's 20th Anniversary

A couple weeks ago the blogosphere celebrated Mac OS X’s (now macOS) 20th anniversary. It’s comical to reflect on the early days of Mac OS X. I installed Mac OS 10.0 (the first version was 10.0 and each year incremented by .1) on my Power Mac G3 400 (Blue & White) and immediately lost access to my modem. This was before we had DSL so my only connection to the Internet was through America Online. (Napster was extremely slow with a maximum speed of 5 kilobytes per second.)

Fortunately I could still access my printer through Classic mode. I had the fast, quiet Apple LaserWriter 4/600 PS which could only connect to a modern Mac using a $100 Ethernet to LocalTalk adapter. I would write in Microsoft Word in Mac OS X, and then open the same document in Classic mode to print. (Eventually Mac OS 10.1 was released and I was forced to purchase a new HP printer that had proper driver support.)

I vividly remember the first time Mac OS 10.0 launched. I clicked and held down on the top of a window, and dragged the mouse to move the window to a new location on the screen. The entire window moved with my mouse! In Classic Mac OS (8, 8.5, 9, etc.) only an outline of a window moved when you dragged it around. Seeing the entire window move was exhilarating. I’m sure this is difficult to imagine after so many years of being accustomed to this behavior. Think of the first time you saw spinning rims on a car. You brain halted and said “Wait that’s possible?” For me it was similar to the moment Steve Jobs swiped to unlock an iPhone the first time.

Podcasters have discussed how slow Mac OS 10.0 and 10.1 were, and I honestly do not remember this. I’m not disputing their statements, but perhaps I was distracted by the lickable (Steve Jobs famously said “We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them”) Aqua interface, and the anxiety from taking Introduction to Computer Science. (Remember CodeWarrior?) Apple and my G3 were still a big part of my personality, but I was just beginning my college career.

Here are some podcasts that I recommend listening to if you want to feel nostalgic about macOS:

My favorite story from this era comes from Imran Chaudhri, an Apple designer who worked closely with Steve Jobs, in the form of a couple Tweets:

in 1995, while interning at apple, i bought a NeXT cube for $150 at stanford surplus

while designing mac os X with steve, he liked to tell us how the NeXT was better

so i started bringing in my cube to win arguments by showing him that things weren’t as good as he remembered

this happened so often that it got to the point where if he walked in and saw the cube in the room, he’d just let it go

still the best $150 i’ve spent

happy 20 years mac os x!

I’m dying to add a NeXTcube to my collection.